Tales from the O-NO Ranch: Kid horse
by “Mad” Jack Hanks
It won’t be long now until some of you readers will cave in to your children’s desires to buy a horse this spring or early summer. If you have room for a horse or two and have the type of kids that will take proper care of them and won’t lose interest, I think you should let them have the horse. Also, let me advise you to proceed with caution when makin’ such a purchase … especially if you are first time horse owners.
A cute or pretty horse standin’ in a pen that comes over to nuzzle you when you approach it for the first time, does not always mean a gentle, good-minded, unspoiled horse by any means. Most horses, like most folks, like attention and relish a good head or back scratchin’ (horses, not people). However, I do admit I would like to have my head and my back scratched more often.
When our kids were small growing up on the ranch, I wanted them to be mounted on good safe horses so I could go about my business around cattle without havin’ to be by their side constantly to insure their safety. In all the years from the time they were able to ride (from about age 3 on up) I can only recall four horses that I really felt comfortable with them being mounted on.
Ole Chalk was a wonderful pony that loved those kids and never under any circumstance made any effort to spook, pitch, kick, bite or run off when things went haywire. Things have a way of goin’ haywire when yer workin’ with cattle when you least expect it.
Our daughter was about to outgrow ole Chalk and needed a bigger horse when she was about 12 as she was a long-legged gal by then.
Andy, our son, had been given the use of Flax, one of the ranch horses who was of the same disposition as Chalk ” with one exception. On rare occasion, he would unload you by buckin’ a little. Just enough to put you down as gently as he could and still let you know that it was he who was really in charge. That’s the nature of most ranch horses that I’ve ever been around.
I started my search for a new horse for Sunni, our daughter. I tried a half dozen horses and decided that they were all broncs in one way or another and I didn’t want her on them. I found a little dun horse that had no ranch experience, but seemed to have a kind eye and a gentle nature. I rode him myself for a couple of days and then let Sunni take over under my close supervision. The horse was called Bandit and he seemed to handle himself pretty well as long as there was another rider nearby.
It was my rule that any horse ” kid horse or not ” be able to do ranch work and be used as a ranch horse. I took ole Bandit out one day to an 800 acre wheat field to see how he would do all by himself and I also wanted to start swingin’ a rope off of him as he would be expected to rope cattle in the near future.
He didn’t like being away from the other horses and started to act a little bit like a spoiled brat. I put him in a lope and we made a circle around that wheat field, which happened to be wet and a little boggy. He was purty well spent by the time we made a complete circle. I took down my rope and began to swing it a little by his side and over his head. He wanted to shy away, but just didn’t have the gas to do so. I slowed him down to a walk, let him catch his breath and kept swinging the rope. He quickly learned that the rope wasn’t gonna hurt him and he began to relax.
Over the next couple of weeks I would rope a steer in the pasture to doctor him and havin’ another cowboy with me to either pick up the heels or rope the head and let me heel, ole Bandit was workin’ okay. I was pleased with his progress until I was in the pasture by myself one day and had to rope a calf that had a bad eye. I got off ole Bandit, tied the reins around his neck holding the rope straight from the saddle horn down to the calf. If he spooked and tried to run off, the weight of the calf on the rope would force him to face the calf.
I went down the rope, tied the calf down and started back to get my medicine bag when Bandit pulled a run-a-way. I jumped down on top of the calf to add as much weight as I could so draggin’ the calf to death would be difficult for Bandit.
Even with his head pulled around, Bandit managed to drag me and the calf about 50 yards. That’s all I needed to know about Bandit. He was gone the next week and we found a really great horse for Sunni a couple of weeks later. She kept that horse until she was in high school and lost interest (for a while) in horses and turned her attention to boys and cars.
If you are not familiar with horses and really want one, find someone who will help to advise you on your purchase. It may save you lots of money and it may save your children’s life!
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll C. ya.