In baseball you have one batter “up”, one “on deck”, and one batter “in the hole”. This year, Blaze is my horse “on deck”.
As I wrote in my post Horse Poor – 99% of the time a man has too many horses, and 1% he doesn’t have enough. In that same post I wrote about a new horse in the string – the “Copper” buckskin.
And I have written about the advice many years ago from Harry Yeager: “You can’t camp on one horse; You never know when you’ll need another horse; You always need to keep another horse hard”.
That post was written five years ago. The Copper is now a solid, broke, cowhorse that nearly anyone can ride and get the job done. My top horse, Thunder – AKA “The Kentucky Colt” – is now 17 years old. And I have a new horse on deck: Blaze – AKA “The Medicare Colt” – because I intend to be riding him in my Medicare days.
Very few people appreciate the “handle” of which a finely-tuned cowhorse is capable: the ability to negotiate any sort of terrain, the ability to blast out after a bunch-quitter and then shut down to turn her, to rope a calf and hold him, to stretch out a cow to be doctored, to sort cattle in the pasture or in the corral, to open and shut corral gates or wire gates, to heel calves to the fire….
Even fewer people realize what it takes to make that horse – and what it takes to maintain that handle. And too few people recognize that you must always have a horse in the pipeline to replace one that is injured or who is just too old.
Even at seventeen, Thunder is still my “go-to” horse when the going is tough. If I go out after it, the “Kentucky Colt” will bring it home – one way or another. I ride the Copper to tune him up in between the various riders who need a quality horse when they visit the ranch - but my focus now is getting the Blaze trained up to take over.
I am now riding the Blaze whenever the job allows a not-so-broke horse - and Thunder when I have a tough job and need the handle of a well-broke horse. With each succeeding ride, the Blaze becomes more responsive – he moves out nicely through the sage, turns easily to handle cattle in the pasture, and I was opening gates on him yesterday. By fall I hope to use him to do some corral sorting.
This “on deck” horse is a beautiful horse, and a willing horse, and he has lots of personality and lots of potential – but he is still green. He doesn’t yet understand the job, and he must be continually guided.
Perhaps in another year he will have sufficient experience to work cows like the Kentucky Colt - with no conscious effort on the part of the rider, whirling and spinning to the music of the West, each of us enjoying the cowboy dance.