Still playing catch up here from spending all of last summer mule packing in the Eastern Sierra, but I wanted to put pen to paper, as they say, or maybe fingers to keys to keep it with the times. Nevertheless, this is a written account of the story that some of you might be following through our social media accounts (which we love the support!).
Now that I have willing partners in this journey.... I’m throwing a wrench in the works. Up until this point, I’ve been able to climb on them, but only by laying down on their backs like they are a sofa.
Sitting up puts me above their heads and, not surprisingly, resembles a mountain lion pouncing on them and going for the back of the skull with jaws wide open. Of course I’m not actually doing that, but we have to keep in mind that these animals are prey animals and that instinct is extremely hard-wired into them. This is why groundwork and building that trust and common language is so important before even considering climbing on them. If the time wasn’t spent on the ground getting to know each other, it would be a little like an arranged marriage; sure, after time, you might figure out that you actually like this person that your parents have decided you are going spend the rest of your life with, but at first, its going to be a very rough ride….
Gary was the first one. We went through all of the steps we had been doing up to that point, re-affirming our trust, and then I went for it. Gary handled it like the good boy he was, until I reached back and touched his butt to praise how well he was doing. When I reached back and he felt that strange touch, he spun and took off causing my Australian saddle to slip, leaving me with a mouth full of dust and looking at the bottom side of my stirrups in a way that only Dave Stamey can describe….
“At a hack stable or brandin' pen
Any place you might find some bow legged men
Ask any old hand
He's bound to say he's got the answer
To the bronc ballet
If your pony breaks in two
There are certain things a fellah' needs to do
If you follow his advice right down to the letter
Your buck off average is bound to get better
Only problem is, you can't find two in a thousand of em' that'l tell you the same thing
There're those who'll tell ya it's in your seat
And the way a fellow holds his feet
You gota sit back a little and drop your heels
Try it one time son see how it feels
Others say the thing to do
Is jerk him sideways a time or two
Pull his head around to the left or the right
And break his momentum, he'll give up the fight
Oh yeah, don't forget to stay loose
Others say to rake some fur
Get agressive use your spurs
Just jab them gut hooks into his side
And bust him into a run it's easier to ride
Probably won't go through a fence
Stay relaxed now don't get tense
And if he happens to run you underneath a tree
Remember decapitation is preferable to a buck off, 'cus that can be embarrassing
Don't worry pard, I bet they can sew that ear back on
Some call it shameful to grab the horn
Others say there is no scorn
For those of us that have to go pullin' leather
Because stayin' aboard is always better
Problem is it happens way too fast
Ain't got a chance to grab your slack
Gives a grunt and he leaves the ground
N' farts you off n' drags you around
Hard to catch your breath when that happens
Thing is the guys that tell you this stuff
They kind of like it when things get rough
They say they don't want you to break your neck
But they do enjoy watchin' a good wreck
They been bucked off themselves a time or two
Ain't about to make it any easier for you
And the secret they're keepin to themselves of course
The best way to handle a snorty horse
Is to let some other idiot ride him“
When I saw my stirrups slapping together above my saddle horn, I knew then that it all went wrong. This ballet of ours resulted in my boot splitting in two (and put in motion the solution for our footwear while on the trail, which I'll talk about later, but a whisper in the ear... Nicks Boots).
Now unfortunately, I’m the idiot that Dave Stamey speaks about, and if I’m the idiot then that’s just fine with me. So after a quick dust off and a shot of whiskey to calm the nerves, I tighten my cinch and climb back on to finish our ride on a good note, which we did of course.
You see, the problem with the saddle I can fix, and my bruises will heal. But having that memory and to know what it feels like to climb on the back of a Mustang - the symbol of the American West that is borderless and free. To connect with that animal’s spirit and feel it's heart beating under my legs…that makes all of this worth it. All the pain, the dust, and worries go away and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Author: Trent Peterson