In the life of a workin ranch horse, a particular day don’t make much difference to a horse, except for a particular day when you don’t have to work, and those are memorable days unto themselves. Most ranch work days blend one into the other.
The dark before dawn brings your hay. Dawn brings headlights and rumbly trucks, sometimes towin empty stock trailers if you got someplace else to go. There’s the smell of diesel, and coffee, and cigarettes, and people talkin low amongst themselves, and the sound of horses chompin down breakfast as fast as they can, with no time to get into any squabblin over who gets to eat where. Ears may get pinned and looks may get exchanged, but mostly we save the bickerin for later, and we’re usually too busy or tired to grumble over it later, anyhow.
Then there’s a cowboy and your halter, or your bridle if he ain’t got time, and a thick pad and saddle tossed upon your back. Your cinch may get pulled tight and fast if your cowboy’s distracted or in a hurry. I never liked that part, but I knew it wasn’t personal.
Soon everybody’s off to work, people, and horses, and often cattle dogs, too, sometimes til long after dark again dependin on the day’s job. After that, it’s saddles and bridles off, a good long roll in the dirt and maybe some swipes at ya with a bucket o’ water and a sponge if the day’s been real gritty and sweaty, then more hay, then darkness, then quiet.
Hay, dawn, diesel, saddle, work, dark, roll, dinner, blessed quiet… It’s got a nice rhythm to it, to be honest.
The work’s honest, too, though it’s often long and hard, but a ranch horse ain’t afraid of hard work. And it’s what a ranch horse knows. When I was a ranch horse, which was from the day I was born until I was what I’m told is called “in my late teens,” I didn’t know about different kinds of horses, like ranch horses, or prancey horses, or County Island pet horses. I didn’t even know I was a “ranch” horse. I was just a horse, like every horse I ever met and every horse that came before him. Far as I knew, everyhorse everywhere was born and worked and died on a ranch, doin an honest day’s work. Why would the world be any different than that?
And then one mornin, when I was in my teens, and maybe slowin down a bit on the job, on account of I had some of the ringbone a horse gets when he’s lived a life of hard work over hard ground, and some of what’s called the arthritis in my bones, me and a bunch of the other older coots got fit for horseshoes, which we didn’t ordinarily wear in the cold time of winter, which is the time it was. Only they only had one size horseshoes but a bunch of different size horses, so in my own example, my hooves got trimmed down to fit the shoe, rather than the shoe bein found to fit the foot, which seemed funny to me, but what did I really know about horse shoes, anyway, much less in the middle of the cold time?
They shaved us, too, which also seemed strange and pointless to me in the middle of winter, when my own palomino haircoat was so full and fluffy as to challenge the strongest set of clipper blades. They started clipperin my back legs before they done gave up on that part-way up, and left the rest of me fuzzy. And then they shaved off my forelock, as was their way to keep the burrs out, and shaved me a proper long bridlepath, also to keep away the burrs and make bridlin easier. It was like we was gettin ready for spring work, but spring was still a long ways off.
And we got loaded into a stock trailer but without no saddles nor bridles, and therefore apparently not about to go do any day’s work, and off we went, to parts a horse like me had likely never even dreamed about.
It was the dawn of a particularly different sort of day.