In A Sow’s Ear |

In A Sow’s Ear

Apparently “hidden hazards” lurk everywhere ready to attack, especially your head. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the answer to skulking perils ” wear a helmet. The more ways an activity can be construed to need protection, the more helmets of clever styles and sizes can be sold to worried parents and those prone to see catastrophe whenever and wherever anyone is having fun. SPSC ” Clever Ploys to Shaft the Consumer.

CPSC doesn’t know about a particular summer-time activity offered to ranch youths in my neighborhood. It’s a competition involving 2-year old colts and gutsy young horse trainers. This year the ages of the contenders ranged from 15 to 24 – three contenders in the “novice” class and four in the “professional” class. Novices used broke trail horses. The pros were assigned unbroke colts, but had six weeks longer to train their steeds.

Contestants earned points on how well they showed off their horses at a walk, trot, gallop, and figure eight. Pretty tame stuff, huh? Wait. Things became more challenging.

Visualize a short stack of two mattresses flat on the ground with a horse backed up to them. The rider had to stand on the bareback horse’s rump and jump off onto said mattresses. The horse had to remain steady. No demerits to the jumper if he or she fell like a dropped blob. And no extra points if the leaper landed in a graceful two-point standing position and bowed. (But applause was welcome).

The equine decathlon continued. Seated on his or her bareback horse, the contestant poked a loaded pistol at the sky and pulled the trigger. Throughout each challenge, the rider’s two-year old steed had to remain under control, calm and steady no matter what.

More points accrued to the contestant who could saddle and bridle with the speed of light. Short folks having tall horses amazed and amused the crowd by exhibiting clever strategies to overcome shortness. One vertically challenged competitor had trained her mare to stand rock-still while she hoisted the saddle straight up over her head as if doing a bench press. When the off stirrup doubled up under the saddle, she didn’t run around the long way to pull it free; no, she ducked under the horse’s belly, lifted the saddle-edge a smidge, yanked forth the trapped stirrup, then scooted back under the belly.

Each competitor had to rope and drag a log 50 feet. They had to demonstrate picking up all four equine feet and prop the hoof between the knees as though shoeing the critter.

Finally the freestyle event ” the one that brought home the winning bacon! In total, absolute, fine-tuned secrecy, each contestant had devised a unique demonstration of how well he or she had trained his or her horse. One had taught her mount to climb three steps and pose with hind feet on the ground and front feet on the top step.

Another entrant stood upright atop his horse while three friends crouched beneath ” one between the front legs, one under the belly, the third between the hind legs.

The winning demonstration made the audience gasp. The young woman stood on her mount’s croup, built a large loop and dropped it encircling herself and horse in the center of the ring. Then the gasoline-soaked rope circle was set on fire! The rider, still standing atop the rump, lifted her hat and made a sweeping bow to the audience. Her horse flicked one ear once, otherwise remained as motionless as a windless day.

CPSC recommends: Always wear the right helmet. Prevent injury from falling off equipment. Have a layer of shock-absorbing surface material on the ground. Watch out for loose ropes.

The ranch horse-training competitors wore cowboys hats; nobody fell off his or her steed; all swung lariats like champs; a dusty corral and two mattresses served as “shock-absorbing surfaces.” Not a single CPSC helmet could be found. Someway, somehow everyone survived.


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