Lightning Struck

WHILE LISTENING TO most lightning stories, I used to just nod my head and feign amazement, hoping the teller would not notice me slipping on my hip boots against the manure as he was spinning his yarn. The typical tale always seemed a little too far-fetched to believe.

There was the one about the rancher and his son who were struck in their pickup. The lightning totally burned out all the wiring and destroyed the radio. The rancher was supposedly too shook up to get out of the truck, although he did manage to make his son walk home for another vehicle.

Even better was the one about the rancher’s wife who was artificially inseminating a cow when a bolt of lightning hit the back of the pens, sending a big ball of electricity toward her. As the story goes, she managed to deposit the semen and open the head catch just as the electric ball blew the cow out of the chute. What is really amazing is that the cow actually got pregnant from that breeding!

Well, now I have my own story. I was working a ranch which was located next to a national monument and had been joking around with the park ranger about lightning. It seemed that every time you turned on the radio, you heard advice to golfers about what to do on the course if a thunderstorm came up. “DO NOT STAND IN THE LAKE WITH YOUR FIVE-IRON POINTING AT

I was griping to the ranger about the fact that they were always giving free advice to these golfers, who could take sanctuary in the safety of the clubhouse, but none of it was useful to a cowboy on his horse miles from the nearest semblance of a building or other protection. The old ranger good-naturedly heard out my complaint and gave me a piece of advice: “Stay away from any tall trees, squat down, and stay on the balls of your feet so that you make the smallest target and you have the least amount of grounding possible.”

A couple of weeks later, I was able to put his words of wisdom to use. I was out fixing fence about three miles from the house when a thunderstorm suddenly came over the mountains. I got away from the fence, hobbled my horse, walked away from him, and squatted on the balls of my feet. Of course, resting on the balls of your feet is not the most relaxing posture, and my
spurs kept sinking into the rapidly developing mud. I almost took them off to reduce my grounding but decided to be daring and leave them on, keeping them out of the muck for as long as I could. After about twenty minutes, the storm passed over, and I let it get a good distance away before I returned to the fence. I was feeling safe, since lightning always leads the storm
rather than striking after the storm has passed. Well, almost always.

As I finished splicing a piece of wire, I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye and discovered that when
you see the lightning but don’t hear it, you are way too close. The next thing I knew, I was ten feet away from
the fence and kinda had the shakes. OK, I was more like a fish out of water, and I couldn’t feel my legs from the knees down. On one of my flops, I noticed my horse was also convulsing strangely and couldn’t seem to get up. When I would flop over to where I could see him, I noticed we were moving closer to each other. Then I glimpsed my boots flying up, and even though I couldn’t feel them, I could see they were still attached to my feet. Finally, my horse jumped up and fell down. I don’t really know if he jumped over me or if I rolled under him, but the result was that we swapped sides so that he was closer to the fence than I was. The next time he got up, he gave a jump that left him with his right feet on the east side of the fence and his left feet on the west. That kind of got him going, and he headed for the house at Mach 9, leaving the fence in worse shape than it had been before I fixed it. I figured that he would stop at the closed wire gate a mile down the road and I’d be able to ride him home from there, if I could ever get up.

All in all, I was in a precarious predicament. Since I lived alone, no one would know if I didn’t make it back. My only contact with the outside world was a radio phone which was often non-functional for a week at a time, so that if I didn’t call anyone or answer the phone, no one would have thought much about it. My horse was long gone before I managed to get up and start my
trek home. With three miles to walk, I hoped someone would drive by and pick me up. Then I started laughing.

Unless they knew me, they would have sped past, spraying me with mud. I was foaming at the mouth as if I had rabies and shaking as if I were a short-circuited robot, while I dragged one leg and hunched over worse than Quasimodo. Who in their right mind was going to pick up a mess like that?

When I got within sight of the house, I looked to the sky and muttered, “That whuth a puthy baad shot.”

The radio phone worked when I called my boss to let him know I’d been hit by lighting. His first response was “You’re not going to the doctor are you?”

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The Water Trough

I RAN A SMALL rental operation for my uncle between my first and second seasons at the national park. It was a small operation only open weekends. On Friday night I would take my girlfriend Becky and my friend Slim along to gather the horses out of their two-hundred acre pasture into the quarter-acre catch pen. We would camp out all weekend as we needed to catch the twenty horses at daylight Saturday morning, saddle them, and lead them two miles down the road to where the “stables” were located.

This was a truly high class operation of the lowest degree. While we had the permit to operate within the
bounds of the park, we were not allowed to build any facilities. This meant we operated out of the back of
the truck, and the horses were picketed to ropes between the trees from the time we opened on Saturday morning until we closed Sunday night. We needed to check on the horses at night, which was the
reason we camped all weekend and one of the two reasons Slim’s mother let him stay out all weekend.
The other reason is that she thought I would be a good influence on Slim and keep him out of trouble. The only problem with this theory was that Becky and I liked to go dancing, and there was a dance every Saturday night only sixty miles away. Unknown to Slim’s mother, that is where we headed after taking
care of the horses on Saturday night. We would check on the horses when we returned around three in the morning. Becky and I would remain fairly sober, but Slim was another story. He had managed
to obtain a fake ID and was heartbroken if there was any alcohol left unconsumed at the end of the night.

To help stay awake, I would stop at a water trough which marked the halfway point of the trip home and dunk my head in the cold spring water. Slim would usually wake at this point. However, one night he was much too inebriated to notice and didn’t wake until I stopped to unlock the gate. He sat up and asked, “Are we at the water trough yet?”

One Friday night a friend of Becky’s got married, and the three of us went to the reception. It was an
Italian wedding, and the food and homemade wine were more than plentiful. Slim was only interested in the wine and floated from bottle to bottle like a hummingbird. The next morning he wasn’t hung over
a bit; he was still drunk.

A few of the, horses were hard to catch and we would rope them from horseback, but for some reason that morning I decided to let my youngness and dumbness show a little more than usual. I was walking out to catch one of the dependable horses when a pony ran by me. I tossed out a hoolihand and dropped to the ground before the rope came tight.

It was kind of like a new carnival ride as the rope came tight with a jerk and I was dragged across the ground for a few yards before the pony stopped. Slim thought that looked like great fun, so when one of the full-sized horses ran by, he pitched a hoolihand, but his style was slightly different than mine.

His loop was real pretty as it settled over the horse’s neck, and Slim dropped his extra coils just right, but
he forgot to drop to the ground. Still standing there when the horse hit the end of the rope, Slim became
instantly airborne. His legs were whirling like a windmill in a hurricane, and his arms were pointed straight over his head like a high diver completing a swan dive as he refused to let go of the rope until just prior to his one-point landing, which jammed his hat down over his eyes.

Laughter is one of those uncontrollable reflexes which your mind can do nothing about, and the sight of Slim flying through the air set off my laughing reflex. The next thing Slim did had me literally rolling on the
ground and Becky torn between thumping on me or helping Slim.

He rolled over, pulled his hat from his eyes, stood up, and looked at his shoulder. “Ya know what?” he
asked. “I think I broke my shoulder. Ya know what else?” he continued “I think I’m gonna pass out,” which
he promptly did, falling on his face for a second time.

As we got him into the truck and drove to town, I kept chuckling at the sight of him flying through the air. Once at the emergency room, I called his mother and explained the situation. When she walked into the room, he grinned at me and asked, “Are we at the water trough yet?” We couldn’t help but laugh, and to this day his mother doesn’t know the water trough.

This story is an excerpt from my book Cowboy Romance (of horsesweat & hornflies) available on Amazon.

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Brandy The Christmas Dog

THERE ARE cow dogs, and then there are cow dogs, and Brandy was one of the latter. She could work either end of a cow, nipping the heels of a slow-moving steer or grabbing the ear of a wild runaway. She had helped me gather four hundred steers out of a five-section pasture in one day and pen cattle into corrals with gates only on the outside corners. If I needed to count cattle through a gate, all I had to do was start the herd, then simply sit back and count as she pushed the rest through on her own.

When I moved into town to train horses, she would follow me everywhere I went. If I left her home when I went out in a friend’s vehicle, she would be waiting in the back of my truck when I returned. On the rare occasions when I took my truck somewhere and left her home, she would always be waiting for me faithfully at the door when I returned.

Then, two days before Thanksgiving, a couple of friends stopped by to take me out to dinner. During dinner a fierce wind roared in out of the north, destroying everything which wasn’t nailed down. I returned home to find a small metal shed torn apart and pieces of the barn roof missing, as was Brandy. The wind was blowing too hard to call her, so I looked in the barn and around the farm. For the first time in the six years I’d had her, she was gone.

Over the next two weeks I searched daily. My dogs come to my whistle better than to their names, so I whistled as I rode searching for her along the river and down unfamiliar side roads. Every time I saw a Blue Heeler from a distance, I would have to get a closer look. After two weeks, I had to concede to myself that my faithful companion of the last six years was gone. I could only speculate on what had happened. The wind and blowing tin must have terrified her so badly that she ran away, but then what? I knew she had not been killed by a car because I would have found her body, unless she had managed to crawl into the brush to die. She had not been taken to any of the local veterinarians or to any animal shelter. I would never know the final resting place of my faithful companion.

The night before Christmas Eve, I went to a party with my friend Rachel, and when we returned, there was a message on her answering machine for me. It was my landlady, who lived next door to me. I was thrilled to hear, “Bob there are a bunch of dogs on the porch, and I think one of them is Brandy!”

I jumped in my truck and drove straight home. There I was greeted by none other than Brandy herself, squirming on her side, thumping her tail, and literally grinning from ear to ear. It was as if the other dogs had brought her home for Christmas, for, like Santa, they were nowhere around. I wish dogs could talk so that she could have let me know what had happened to her. She couldn’t use one back leg and was a virtual skeleton from having to fend for herself while being hurt.

The next day at work, she was in her usual place, seated in the middle of the arena watching me ride. I guess miracles do happen around Christmas time, don’t they?

This story is an excerpt from my book Cowboy Romance (Of horseweat and hornflies) available on Amazon

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There Ain’t a Horse That Can’t be Rode (But don’t bet on no Rodeo)

In my younger daze . . . er days, I once worked for an outfit with a “semi-absent” owner. He’d show up to get in the way for a few weeks during the summer, and other than branding and shipping, he would hardly show up at all. Still he figured he needed an extra horse for himself, and it had to be a big horse as Floyd stood 6 foot 5 inches tall. He also had one other requirement…it had to be cheap.

It just so happened that at the time I was married. My wife’s sister-in law had complained to her that her horse was bucking her off. Seems she was having a hard time selling her because the mare was bucking everybody off. We found this a little hard to believe as my wife had started the mare before we met, and I had ridden her a few times. Plumb gentle mare. We attributed it to the fact that her sister-in-law was a tiny woman who was half afraid of horses. The in-laws, who were coming to visit, agreed to haul the mare to Montana from Nevada for $500, and the ranch bought her.

Now we knew she was big, but she had grown even more in the year since we had last seen her. She was so big that the vet ran her across his scales just to see how big. 1,800 pounds of horse, which hadn’t seen a saddle in six months. That’s why she was named Sherman, after the tank.

The first ride ended before it began, with a crash and burn. No sooner did my off foot hit the oxbow than Sherman’s head came up, her butt went down, and she imitated a space shuttle lift off, complete with roll. Now like any good blue heeler will do, both of mine noticed Sherman was misbehaving and started doing their best to get her lined out. They did a pretty good job of it too. Between trying to get shuck of me and fighting the dogs, she failed to see the ditch. When we both got up, she just
stood there like a good broke horse should and let me get back on her and stepped out aspretty as you please.

Now Sherman wasn’t your average bronc. She didn’t have any particular pattern to things. One time she might buck when you
first stepped aboard. She might do it in the middle of the day or wait until the end of the day. She also had a neat trick of being able to strip a bridle, complete with brow band and throat latch, right off her head between jumps.

The first time I discovered this peculiar talent, I was fixing fence and had her hobbled. She decided to go home, broke a set of heavy leather hobbles, and said “adios.” As I had left all of the gates open, she had no problem. However the ensuing walk that included wading waist-deep through spring run off had me slightly agitated. When I got to the house, she was standing in front of it with the (now ex) wife who was checking to see if the horse was hurt before worrying about me. (One of the reasons she is now ex)

I climbed aboard and asked the mare to step out. When she refused to move a single foot, I took my cow equalizer off the horn. This was a piece of braided nylon rope with a loop on one end for a handle and a knot on the other to help dissuade snotty cows from coming over the top of their calves while I was doctoring them. I gave old Sherman a whomp on the rump, and she went down the driveway in her space shuttle routine. About halfway down the drive, I started gathering up all of the slack that had suddenly appeared in the reins only to discover the bridle was no longer on her head. While I was wondering what was going to happen next, she suddenly went down than she had gone up. We had covered the hundred-fifty yards of driveway, and she had bucked off the loading ramp and was headed for the barn. Figuring I was not going to clear the top of the door with the upper half of my body, I hastily made a CED (calculated emergency dismount) and bounced into the
end of the barn. When I led her out to get back on, closing the door in the process, she hadn’t a concern in the world and behaved like a lady the rest of the day.

A few weeks later I had a couple of hundred heifers to move, and Floyd told me to get Yote to help me. Yote was good help and fun to be around. There was no telling what he would do. In fact, he had gotten stuck with the moniker of “Yote” by seeing how close he could get to a coyote with his snowmobile. He got close enough that the dog jumped on with him.

We were about halfway down the mountain with the heifers when one decided to make a run back up. Rather than send the dogs after her, I decided to give Sherman a workout. Just as the heifer turned, Sherman bogged her head, and the rodeo was on. By
this time she was pretty well legged-up and decided to put on an aerobic bucking session.

When she finally stopped, I had lost not only my hat, but also my rope, a spur, and one boot. Yote came riding up with eyes as big as platters.

“I counted to forty-five and quit!” he exclaimed. “She covered another two hundred yards after that,” adding, “Don’t you ever get bucked off?”

Well, the next weekend was the big local Podunk rodeo, and I had entered up in saddle bronc. Yote knew I couldn’t get bucked off in a mere ten seconds as he had seen me ride. Ever eager to make a few bucks, he took the first twenty-dollar bet he could find that would give him odds on me winning.

Meanwhile, back of the chutes, I was trying on a borrowed saddle. I didn’t bother telling anyone that I had ridden bulls
for two years so there were plenty of pointers. The bronc I drew kept lying down, and everyone was hollering at me to get off her (which I was already doing. It would be nearly impossible to be as dumb as I look.) After the bronc went down the fourth time, I came up with plan “B”. Rather than sit down on the bronc, I was going to get my feet in the stirrups standing on the fence and drop down as I called for the gate.

I had my left foot in the stirrup and on the gate. My hack rein was in my right hand and my right stirrup was in my left hand. If this were not enough of a position to be in, someone had to ask me a dang fool question, “Are you OK?” Well I wasn’t bleeding and hadn’t even been bruised yet so I answered, “Yeah.”

Right answer . . . Wrong time. Someone opened the gate. Next thing I knew, I was looking into the eyes of the left-hand judge,
holding his pencil poised on his scorecard. Seemed like a right friendly sort of fellow as I went by, but I would have rather been looking at the front end of my saddle, so I could have followed it a little better.

They said I looked really good coming out of the chute. Got my marks and went to spurring, but that I looked lost (which I was). I finally hit bottom at the end of the fourth jump and had a little trouble getting up.

This time it was the announcer who asked the fool question, “Are you OK?”
Some how I hadn’t lost my sense of humor, and I replied, “As soon as you make all of these people quit spinning around, I will be.”
It was a fine picture on the front page of the local paper. My hat was a foot off the ground, hack rein still in my hand, left foot still in the stirrup with my head buried in the dirt.

There are two lessons to this story: First, don’t answer any questions to the positive when it’s your turn to ride, and
you’re not ready; second, don’t bet on any rodeo.

This story is an excerpt from my book A Million to One Odds (Times Five) Available on Amazon

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Teaching Manners (The cowboy way)

Now this story somehow missed being in any of my books, even though it is truly a classic. I was once a riding double stand in in a western movie that became pretty popular. One of the stars had a bunch of their own money in the production which was running way over budget and just as far behind in the schedule. In my tradition of changing the names to protect the guilty I and the fact he was in no way shape or form a cowboy, I’ll call him Duchess.
The further behind production and over budget the movie became the grouchier he was getting. Even though he had a gopher to attend his every whim he started just pointing at people on the crew and telling them to go do something for him or bring him something. They would all complain behind his back, but not say anything to his face. I kept giving them a bad time for not standing up to him and they kept telling me “Your turn is coming,” which it did.
On the morning of question a bunch of us were waiting for things to happen when Duchess came up and told me “Go get me a bagel!”

I looked at him as seriously as I could and asked “Whats a bagel?” After he described it I said “Oh, its like a stale doughnut!” and proceeded to walk off in the opposite direction of where they kept the food (which was in back of the cabin we were standing in front of.)
I proceeded to walk off in another (wrong) direction and he gave me directions…I proceeded to walk off in yet another wrong direction and he became ballistic!

“WHERE IN THE &)((&(*&!!!!!! ARE YOU GOING???? JUST HOW F&%*$$##)!!!NG STUPID ARE YOU????”

I turned around and just grinned at him. He turned redder than a light in front of a house of ill-repute and got his own bagel. The rest of riding doubles waited til he was around the corner before they started laughing, but they were rolling on the ground doing it. After that he quit telling people what to do and even began asking his gopher politely.

Remember, if you like these stories, most of them are in my books on Amazon.

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The only problem I really had was my two legger. He had absolutely no sense of timing, balance feel or focus. As a result I had no clue as to what he wanted. This was especially true when he wanted me to stop as he kept leaning forward telling me to go faster. He also kept leaning to the side and falling off.

Then one day he and his wife decided to go to a clinic on speed control and stopping. What a mess. He couldn’t get me to go into a trot without falling off, let alone go into a lope and stop. At the end of the clinic they talked to No Legs about taking lessons on a family plan.

A few days later they loaded the kids and all of us horses into the trailer and headed over to No Legs for their first lesson. He already had Storms saddled and warmed up. Just a few minutes into this first lesson he stopped everything and had my two legger take my saddle and bridal off, put my halter on and get on me bareback.

Needless to say my two legger didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. No Legs told him that he needed to develop balance to stay on top, and that he needed to be able to feel what I was doing in order to do that.

As No Legs led me off at a walk, he told my two legger to close his eyes and tell him when my right front foot was leaving the ground. At first he did let my two legger hold onto my mane for security. After several weeks of lessons (and practicing at home) my two legger could finally feel what my feet were doing at a walk. Next we practiced at a trot. By the time my two legger could feel where my feet were at a trot, he also had the balance to stay in the middle of me without falling forward or sliding off the side of me.

Next we started working on getting my two legger to balance himself in a way that actually communicated to me what he was wanting me to do. No Legs really concentrated on teaching my two legger to to get me to relax and give to pressure which was something I hadn’t really learned.

The whole goal to these lessons were to get the family, especially my two legger, confident enough in their riding so that they could take us on camping trips into the desert. After several months of twice a week lessons, No Legs began meeting us in the desert to conduct the lessons in the environment they wanted to ride in.

On the last ride we took with No Legs my two legger was confident enough in himself and me that he put the reins on my neck so he could light a cigarette. We were just coming to the bottom of a fairly steep hill at the time. I stumbled and dropped my head then started trotting off. The reins had dropped over my head, but my two legger had gained enough balance and focus that he didn’t panic. He simply said “whoa, reached down, grabbed both sides of my breast collar, and pulled up on it. Since we had been working together on the giving to pressure, and he remained balanced, I simply stopped.

Since then we have spent many enjoyable weekends exploring the desert, and he hasn’t fallen off since.

This story is out of my newest book From The Horse’s Mouth (walking a mile in your horse’s shoes). It would make a great Christmas gift for the aspiring horsemen on your gift list. It is available on Amazon.

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Single Horse Rolllover

IT ALL STARTED one bright and sunny morning. Everyone else was happy with the fact that they had just made it through Friday the thirteenth without a hitch, but I was nervous. Being the sort who is usually two bucks short and a day late, Saturday the fourteenth can be a real skull-knocker for me, and I mean that in the most literal sense available to one’s imagination.

The plan for the day was to haul the portable panels and a new chute down to Coyote Gulch pasture. We would set them up so the bull and steer calves could get preconditioned. Then we would gather the three hundred- twenty pairs of cattle into the one permanent corral to hold them for the night so that we could get a good early start the next morning.

Things started out smoothly, but then Lester had a flat on his truck and didn’t have a spare. At least the truck happened to be sitting where we would need it the next day to work the hydraulics on the chute. He jacked it up, took off the tire, and left it up on the jack.

We began putting up the panels. None of us had set things up here before as the ranch had just been bought by the father-and-son team of Orville and Wilbur Spendercrash. We were nearly finished when it dawned on us that this corral design would definitely crash when actually used, so we decided to circumvent Orville’s plan and go to plan B. Orville and Wilbur showed up right on time just before we were finished. Surprisingly enough, they approved of plan B and were anxious to get horseback.

As Plan B was not quite completed, Vern, the manager, decided to stay back with Lester to finish up. JR and RJ went to the west end while I had the honor of taking Orville and Wilbur to the east end. Orville and Wilbur are right at home in a business office. On a horse, neither would ever be accused of being Hopalong Cassidy or the Lone Ranger, but they enjoyed the romance of playing cowboy and rounding up cattle. I headed us off at a trot, not because the pasture was that large, but because it was getting late. About a hundred yards out, Wilbur’s horse stepped in a hole and crashed to the ground, cushioned only by Wilbur’s
leg. Wilbur was sore but still wanted to ride, so I went back and caught his horse. . I chided Wilbur a little and asked how he was enjoying the romance.

We got started again, and I told him how my family jokes that my brother rolls cars and I roll horses. Also, just in case he ever got hung up, I told him to roll over on his belly so that his foot would be able to come out of the stirrup. This is a trick I learned while being rapidly dragged across the desert by a mule. By the time I figured out the trick, the mule had covered a quarter mile with a quarter of his tracks on me.

When we were nearly to the end of the pasture, I looked over the situation and decided which way we would go with the herd. Orville could stay with the cattle, and rather than go along the fence, he was to bend the them north so that we could pick up some strays that were around the hill and then head back toward the fence and on in. As I started kicking a couple of pairs off of the top, I noticed that RJ had come down our way and was kicking the strays I had seen over the hill down to Orville, which meant we could take the easy route along the fence. But, as I said, Orville was little green, and as Wilbur and I came up the draw with the other cattle, he got the lead started by pushing RJ’s cattle back to where they had just come from. Back they went at a quick trot with the rest of the bunch following.

Since I had seen RJ head back up-country I knew there was no one at the point, so I loped to turn the herd toward the pens. There were only about 150 pairs, so it didn’t take much effort to get them lined out again. All we had to do was go through
a short valley and take the south exit to the fence. I had to drop back and keep an eye on the drag as Orville has this real neat trick of spreading the drag out rather than lining it out. He accomplishes this by riding alongside the cows while hollering and waving at them. They kind of slow down to watch him go by and then start wandering off. I wanted to make sure they didn’t wander off too far.

About the time I was going back up to make sure the drag had a lead to follow, two old swingbags headed out back to the southeast where we had picked them up like the king of all grizzlies was hot on their trail. Now, I may have been new to this ranch, but when they bought this herd, I sort of came with the deal, so I knew from experience that the rest of the bunch would
soon be following these two crowbaits. I rode across through the cattle and loped on up to turn them back, hoping that either Orville or Wilbur would get the idea and turn them back towards the fence instead of letting
them go back up the hill. Alas, they were too busy enjoying the romance of watching me bring the two old witches back to pay attention attention to the lead, which had headed up the north trail rather than down the south one. It was no big deal, however, as I loped over and headed them west over the hill toward a trail which would drop down to the pens.

At the top of the hill I was able to relax a little, as RJ had returned. Since the drag was a little wadded up and spread out, thanks to Orville’s talent, I thought I’d go show him how to string them out. Loping back, I was nearly there when ol’ Sorrely stepped into a badger hole. Thinking, “Oh well, here we go again,” I dropped my left stirrup and started to bail off of the right side. Then he hit a second hole and fell onto my right foot, jamming it into and pinning it in the stirrup. While catching my balance, I thought, “Oh, donkey dung,” as I felt my left foot go back into the stirrup. As his back end came off of the ground, I flung myself forward, and things got real dark for a second as he went over me.

This wasn’t really a slow-motion wreck, but I wasn’t panicked yet. My parents gave me a name in which the initials spell REK, this was far from my first, and ol’ Sorreley was a pretty gentle old puke who usually stops on voice command… usually. This time he started running and kicking, which is also about the time I thought my duck was plucked and this was my last

Rather than see my life flush before my eyes, I brought my arms up around my head so as not to hurt Sorreley’s feet when he kicked it. I tried to kick my off foot free at the top of each bounce. Finally he kicked me high enough to free my foot, but I couldn’t seem to get rolled over onto my stomach. I uncovered my head to look up and see that not only was my foot still in my stirrup, but my spur was hung in the cinch. Now I considered panicking a little, but still tried rolling over. Finally, after what seemed to be about three lifetimes, my spur came off, I got rolled over, and my foot popped right out of the stirrup.

As I rolled on the ground moaning obscenities that would have embarrassed Satan himself, I heard the thunder of horses approaching at a dead run. Orville and Wilbur to the rescue, or at least the wake. They were wanting me to lie still, but I was too smart for that, I had to get up. Chewing them out, I insisted that I would live and that they should get back to the cattle
and get the ^><|?}* herd gathered up before it got dark!

Orville went to help RJ while Wilbur helped me find my hat. He claimed the lucky horseshoe he kept in his pocket would find my spur, and he was right. About the time he found it, Vern came riding up leading Sorrely and asked how to get around some cows which were heading back up the hill. Rather than tell him where to get around them, I volunteered to go get them myself. I
managed to get them back down the hill but also regretted having volunteered as being horseback wasn’t quite as comfortable as usual.

I worked at the chute the next day and rode the morning after that before my head softened up enough to let me go to the doctor. I found out that I hadn’t broken anything. Shortly after taking my first dose of painkillers, I came to the conclusion that Nancy Reagan was wrong, and drugs are your friends. I also need to admit that after this upside down ride, the worst feeling in the word is a stumbling horse…
This story is from my Book Cowboy Romance (Of horsesweat & hornflies) available with my other books on Amazon.

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Introduction to “From The Horse’s Mouth (Walking a mile in your horse’s shoes)”

Everyone is always looking for that “magic bullet” to take care of all of the problems they have with their horses. The problem is, there is no silver bullet. After working with thousands of horses over the decades, three things have become clear.

First every horse is an individual, and second, every horse is a product of its past. Third, two horses can have a nearly identical past, yet hold opposite lessons from it. The best analogy I can come up with to describe this is two children raised by an alcoholic parent. One may grow up to repeat the life of it’s alcoholic parent, getting drunk, beating the kids and kicking the dog, while the other grows up to abhor alcohol and cannot raise a hand to their child under any circumstance.

This individuality makes working with each horse unique. Developing a relationship with horses is much like developing relationships with people. One may be willing, open, and easy to work with. The next may be like dealing a past full of abuse who is suspicious, angry and looking for an opportunity to lash out. Yet another may have a past of injuries which cause problems due to pain or vision loss which cause adverse reactions to what we are asking of it.

This brings to light the difficulty of describing just how to relate to your horse(s). Bill and Tom Dorrance started a revolution in training horses by using methods which allow your horses to relate to you in a way which they can understand. However many people have a hard time understanding the philosophy, and also the mechanics behind things like timing, balance, and feel. Then are is also the misconceptions we naturally believe. First, we must realize that we are NOT
teaching the horse to do things. Keep a horse penned up in a stall with no exercise for a couple of weeks and turn it out in the arena. Chances are it is going to run hard, stop hard, and roll back over it’s hindquarters and run off again. It will run in circles, changing direction and leads on its own. Watch horses in a pasture, they may back up a couple of
steps, or even step sideways a couple of steps to give another horse higher on the pecking order a little more space. Horses that are in a pasture with cattle will chase them around or even get one in a pasture corner and just hold them there (like a cutting horse) just for fun. This brings us to the realization that (rather than teaching the horse) we are learning how to communicate to the horse when we want to do something so that the horse will do it. Secondly we must realize that every time we are handling a horse, we are training it. We are either doing things in a manner which allows the horse to communicate easier, and be more willing, or; doing things which keeps the horse at the level it is at, or;
we are doing things to make our horses resent us and become less willing to be our partner.

Between the vast differences between horses and their issues, and the vast differences people have in learning, writing a how to book on relating to, and training horses would seem to be a futile effort. It would be much simpler if the horses could just tell us with their own voice.

The goal of From The Horse’s Mouth is to let the reader walk a mile (or two) in the horseshoes of of their equine friends. Let them walk in the shoes of horses to learn why the problem lies not in the horse, but in their own deafness to what the horse may be telling them.

From The Horse’s Mouth will be available in November from AmazonCover of From The Horse's Mouth

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Front cover of *From the Horse's Mouth^When I first met No Legs, I was working in a dude string. He would show up once a week and replace the shoes on those of us who needed it. He liked me right off the bat because I was not only gentle to shoe, but because I would never lean on him while he was shoeing me.
After I had been there a few months a couple of two leggers showed up looking for a horse. Being I was a dark bay with blanket as white as new fallen snow, with sorrel spots I stuck out like a diamond in a coal mine. After a few text rides they bought me and took me home.
Things went really well for a few months. The two legger who rode me was an FBI agent so he would sometimes be gone for a few weeks between rides. This was a heck of a lot easier than working in that dude string. I didn’t want to wind up back there so I took really good care of him.
Then one windy spring day he decided to saddle me up and go for a ride with his wife. We were almost home when a big blue tarp came out of a dry irrigation ditch. It wrapped around my legs and part of it flew over the top of me. It was then I sensed my two legger was afraid. He was also swinging his arms back and forth trying to get the tarp off his head. As a result, he puled me off balance and I stepped off the edge of the ditch. After rolling several times I was at the bottom of the ditch while my two legger was lying half way up the ditch. Being a little spooked about the whole thing (especially as my two legger was hollering and screaming at me) I ran home.
He didn’t try riding me for a few days. When he started to get on me, I sensed that he was nervous about something. Every time we rode past anything that might blow in the air or might move if I stepped on it, he would tense up. I didn’t know why he was so tense and nervous, but if he was, then I needed to be on the lookout as well! Within a few weeks he was so nervous I was ready to jump out of my skin every time he took me for a ride. Then came the day when I actually did step on a stick. He was so scared his whole body jumped in the saddle. Of course his fear went through me so I jumped as well
with my two legger falling to the ground.
This time I just stood there, but rather than get on me, he led me home. The next day I was loaded into the trailer. To my surprise, rather than being returned to the dude string, to taken to a sale barn, I was unloaded at a training stables. Adding to my surprise, No Legs came out to get me.
As soon as my two legger left, No Legs saddled me up and took me to the arena. I didn’t sense any fear from him so I just stood perfectly still when he got on my back. He walked me a bit, then started trotting me. It was nice to be able to relax for a change rather than being tensed up and wondering what my two legger was so afraid of.
After a couple of times around the arena, He called out to a two legger to get a towel and throw it to him as we went by. No Legs was still relaxed so I had no reason to be afraid as the towel was thrown to him. I kept going straight as he swung the towel around my head, and even drug it across the top of my head. Next he took me out for a ride on the trails and even along a road. I never took a wrong step. It was such a relief to not be constantly worrying about why my rider was filled with so much fear.
That evening my two legger showed up with his saddle. He was telling No Legs how surprised he was that he was able to “fix” me in such short order.
My two legger was nervous as he saddle me up. As he started to mount me, he was so scared he was shaking, so I was fidgety as well and stepped away from him.
At that time No Legs suggested that he ride me first. No Legs didn’t get his moniker from being long legged. The stirrups were set about six inches too long for him so he was wallering around all over the place trying to get his leg over the top of the saddle. Of course he wasn’t worried about anything so I just stood there perfectly still.
Once on top of me he told my two legger to throw me the towel he had placed on the fence. My two legger immediately refused, claiming he didn’t want to get No Legs “bucked off.” After arguing about it for a couple of minutes, he called out the two legger who had thrown him the towel that morning. No Legs started trotting in circles and playing towel catch with the two legger.
After No Legs explained to my two legger that I was acting the way I was because HE was being afraid he began thinking about it. No Legs got him on top of me and started playing towel catch. Within a few minutes my two legger was relaxed, and so was I.
It had been impossible for me to relax when My two legger was so worried about me spooking. I had no idea what he was worried about, but as soon as he quit worrying and started relaxing, it was sure nice to be able to be able to relax and enjoy the trails again!

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My start in life was great. My owners imprinted me at birth. By the time I was four months old I was getting my feet trimmed, wormed and vaccinated with no problem. I enjoyed being around people and doing things with them. Then at three years old I was sent out to be started under saddle.
The person to saddle me the first time was nice, but, as they say, “young and dumb.” As I was gentle, they just threw the saddle on me and cinched it up tight without preparing me for the pressure. When I started to walk out the pressure from the cinch startled me and I began to buck, and eventually fell over backwards. I felt something in my withers but did not have any way to tell anyone about it. After ten days of cinching me up tight and having me buck, this young two legger told my owner that I was “too rank to ride.”
My owner took me to No Legs and explained the situation as she saw it. He started out slow, doing his ground work and thought I was a pretty responsive and willing horse. He even put a rope around my girth and had me leading by that rope. When he saddled me, he didn’t cinch it too tight, and I was comfortable enough to work without pain.
Then came the day for my first ride under him. We walked around the round corral a few times in each direction with no problem. Then we started trotting. I was a little uncomfortable, but not too bad.
Then a sack blew up against the side of the round corral and I started to shy away from it. That is when the pain hit, and I started to buck, and buck hard! After several wild trips around the pen I lost my balance and fell on my belly and laid there. After a couple of minutes of sitting on me and waiting for me to get up, No Legs stepped off of me. With his weight off of me, I stood up.
Now he put together the fact that my bucking started when the sack had blown up against the round corral. He had now way of knowing that it wasn’t the sack that made me start bucking, but the pain in my withers from flinching at the sack. All he could think was that I needed more sacking out.
He not only sacked me out in the round corral, but tied garbage bags and tin cans on my saddle and ponied me for hours in the desert off of Storms. Every once in awhile I would feel the pinch and go to bucking. It just didn’t make any sense to either No Legs or my two legger. After several weeks I wasn’t bucking quite as hard. In fact I learned to just stop when it hurt. That was a new problem to solve, but No Legs figured I was safe enough to ride.
Now while No Legs was trying to get me safe to ride, my two legger was researching trying to find a reason for my behavior. After all, I was a gentle horse who liked two leggers. There had to be a reason for what I was doing.
Then came the day of our defining wreck. We were heading across the desert at a trot when suddenly I stopped and picked my head up to look at some mustangs in the desert. No Legs just sat there still, expecting me to start bucking, but hoping I’d relax. Instead I threw myself down on my side. The first thing to hit was his shoulder, then his head. After sliding on top of him a couple of feet I got up and ran home.
Luckily one of the neighbors happened to see the wreck and drove over to give No Legs a ride home. When he caught me, he noticed my eyes were bulging out like that two legger Rodney Dangerfield. He had never seen that in a horse, and it was his first clue I had something physically wrong. I was making progress and learning, there just was no telling when the pain would strike, forcing me to buck or throw myself down.
About the time No Legs was completing the last week of his contract to ride me, my two legger discovered I probably had a pinched nerve in my withers from the first time I went over backwards. After taking me home, I was given two chiropractic/acupuncture treatments and my problem was solved. I was given to a young female two legger who loves to endurance ride. Three months after being given my treatments I finished the Tevis cup in the top twenty. If anyone would have been able to properly diagnose me at the start, both No Legs and myself would have had an easier time of things.

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