The very large windows in my house give me a vantage point. I can really just watch the world go by, and by some standards that might be judged as a big waste of time.
One day last week I watched our now retired Betsy mare do her darndest to rearrange a particular small area of her pasture so she could roll in comfort. She pawed the snow and underlying grass in a circle, spinning and turning until she thought she had it about right. She used her right front hoof for this. Then she carefully lay down in this circle and rolled and rolled.
She can easily roll from side to side and after she has done this five or six times, she stretches out flat and rubs her head and ears in this hard, cold ground. Sometimes she lies there for a while and often gets back up, shakes herself from head to toe, and goes back to her big lake of hay. Happy horse antics at its best, I’d say, and she does this almost every day.
Because I really grew up with horses, I already know all of the “roll” steps listed above. My mother warned me early on to watch any horse, whether I happened to be riding my own horse or following a string of dudes out on a trail ride. I regularly brought up the rear on these expeditions, which meant I got to pick up the knocked off hat, return the dropped rein (tying the reins together is a no-no here) or checking a loosened cinch so the dude and the saddle didn’t end up on the ground.
If I saw one of the many horses in this dude string stop, sort of tuck himself all together, and suddenly pay no attention to anything but his immediate surroundings, like under his feet, that meant he was going to roll, and his rider better either jerk him up or jump off now! The rider has very little warning if the horse happens to stumble and fall. That’s a good way to get one’s leg broken.
Nancy was one of my favorite horses and I rode her in all sorts of calamities and situations. She became so dependable that I out-grew her and she was used for special guests who did not know how to ride and were basically afraid of horses.
Because she was so dependable, I chose her as the perfect horse for our guest, Dr. Mayo’s personal secretary who had never been on a working dude ranch, much less ridden a horse (much to my surprise.)
The pleasant lady traveled with her niece, and after lunch here one day they decided to become cowgirls and asked to take a short trail ride. I was asked to ride with them and I selected a short, not very hilly trail with one creek crossing for our foray. Nancy had to be the perfect horse for this trip, and I horse whispered into her furry ear that she better treat our honored guest with respect.
All went well for a while. Then we came to that creek crossing. Nancy obviously had figured her naive rider out, so the moment we got into the middle of the creek Nancy stopped, started her fold-up like horses do, and almost laid down right there in the water with her rider, aghast, horrified, and grabbing on to anything she could find: Nancy’s mane, the saddlehorn, then me who had managed to jump off my horse and stop her in her horseshoe tracks.
The moment I got Nancy and her rider on solid ground, Nancy shook herself from head to toe, and the only thing her lady rider wanted was off. I surely understood why, and I had some choice words for Nancy when I finally got her back to the corral.
Turns out our guests had quite a story to tell, and I learned from other Mayo Clinic friends that their guest/dude ranch stay was the highlight of their trip. I didn’t bother to share that with Nancy, however.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.