This cool little tale comes from a self-professed "Mugwump Lurker (Ha! Sounds a bit like True Confessions, or a certain support group intro)."
Over the years I have worked with a wide variety of horses who did a variety of different things, as trainer, breeder, groom, hauler, and general horseaholic. I now have one perpetually green broke gelding who is a good sport about whatever it is that I decide to do, when and if I get a few minutes to spend with him.
The Red Mare
The red mare could hear cattle calling behind the end of the arena and excitement ran in little shivers up her neck.
Her rider picked up on her mood and asked her to move along a little faster. They both gloried in the smooth slide of muscles over her frame. At the end of the arena they sat and slid and rested a moment then picked up on some small circles, changing leads and direction now and then.
After several minutes he stopped her and they turned to jog to the other end of the arena.
With the typical clang of gates and panels that never have enough oil, the cattle began to file into the arena through the gate. A couple of them bolted down the fence, tails in a corkscrew, sure that freedom wasn’t far away. The mare eagerly dove at a yellow cow trying to find her way down the fence. She slid deep and the cow rolled back down the arena wall.
The cowboy asked her to stand off to the left side - they had the third draw and turn back work would have to do for now.
The mare pinned her ears and shook her bit.
“Hey, quit” came the gruff response accompanied by a boot heel to reinforce his point. She humped her back and hopped to one side to let him know that she wanted to get on with this. The fretting wait was beginning to show in a light sheen along her neck and flanks.
A lean bay colt was beginning his move into the herd. His rider took a shallow cut. The yellow cow was in the back of the herd, threatening to bolt and scatter her neighbors if he dared come near. His cut took three blackies off of the front. Two rolled quiet and easy back into the herd leaving their partner looking for a way back around the bay.
The contest didn’t last long. The colt’s excitement caught him in a late stop. The cow ducked under his tail and bolted back into the herd. His rider stopped him hard and backed him up.
The red mare snorted her disgust and pawed hard at the arena floor. The cowboy growled and popped her with a boot heel again. The red mare froze and stared. The yellow cow was on the move again. The next rider had taken his colt deeper and the yellow cow moved up, crowding the others standing between her and the edge of the herd.
He lifted his hand and shook the rein lightly against her neck. A spasm rippled just below her skin. She shook her head to quell the sensation and moved smoothly into the herd. The yellow cow balled and lowered her head, glaring.
The red mare wanted that cow and tried to drift deeper into the herd. A spur ran gently along her side, feeling like fire to her, asking her to take the baldy and the blackie off of the left side.
She forgot about the yellow cow and almost casually followed the baldy a little further away from the group. His hand came down.
She loved this game. The cow bolted hard right. The mare rolled smoothly over her hocks and went with it. The baldy stopped and the mare buried her hocks to keep the cow just slightly ahead where she could watch her to see what she would do next.
The cow gave a halfhearted hop to the right and then bolted off to the left. The mare, exuberant with the turn, gave chase and the cow turned again. The baldy, in frustration, stopped and stared.
He lifted his hand. Damn thought the mare as she backed a few steps and walked away from the cow.
The yellow cow lowed again.
The cowboy rode into the herd again. The yellow cow was in the little group that formed off to his right. He’d been watching that cow. She rolled an eye at him. He let the mare stand for a minute to decide. This cow was a rebel, she’d be the winning cut or make an absolute fool of them.
“Aw hell” the cow was coming out with the group. “Well, guess shes gonna be it.” The red mare snorted and he could feel the energy under the saddle. If anyone had enough horse … he put his hand down.
The mare came out of the herd almost on her toes. She knew that she had to settle and focus.
The cow was a little larger than the blackies and the baldys; a strong blocky cow.
Who bolted hard.
The mare’s excitement had almost left her as distracted as the bay colt had been. She had to get down hard and fast. The cow rolled back hard again. The mare stopped with her belly low to the ground, hocks way up underneath herself to get back the other way. Sand came up and hit the rider’s boots. A grin broke out on his face.
The cow faced off with the mare and they danced, heads down, feet churning deep into the arena as each worked to get the edge on the other. Punky cow smell filled the mare’s nostrils, and she curled her lips back over her teeth .
The cow stopped. The mare stayed low and waited. Sure enough, the cow turned back again.
Once more the mare swept back over her hocks. The cow’s next run was longer, tired.
The cowboy sat up straighter and lifted his hand. His heart beat out of his chest, his smile nearly eclipsing his vision.
The turn backs, the stockmen, and the audience all erupted into whistles and cheers.
The mare shook her head again. Sweaty, breathing only a little hard, and exultant. She loped quietly back to her left side spot. Happy.