I always was a good ranch horse who did whatever was asked of me, which is how a horse is supposed to do his job. When I left the ranch and was newly arrived on the County Island and its nearby territories, that didn’t change. Even when the job didn’t seem to make sense.
When I first arrived here, and before I met the bucket gal, there was a ranch gal who started workin me to see what I knew how to do. I wrote about it here, thusly, and it went a bit as follows:
They started workin us, tryin to figure out what we knew (I dunno why they didn’t already know) … At the lope, they seemed unnecessarily preoccupied with which leg I led off with and in which direction, and I didn’t know why the hell it mattered, but they wanted to be able to say I could “take both my leads.” It was all peculiar.
So, I got trained up to be a ranch horse who could take both of his leads when ya asked me.
For those horses that ain’t acquainted yet with takin leads, that’s when a horse is lopin along in a tiny pen not even as big as a cow feed lot that’s called an arena, and a person leans a horse’s shoulder so hard into the fenceline that he damn near falls over and ain’t got no choice but to catch his balance with his inside front foot and strike off with that foot. Most of the times when I was workin, leads didn’t make a difference as far as anybody was concerned. But they wanted me to learn how to catch myself while fallin over, and so I learned to take my leads before I landed on the fence. On the ranch I always led off my my left front foot, but I learned how to fall onto my right one, too, even though it felt real funny and unbalanced.
Then the bucket gal came along and turned me into a horse that knows his leads, which I learned is entirely different than a horse that takes his leads by bein made to fall into a fence.
A horse that knows his leads don’t need to fall into the fence at all. He can pick up his leads even if there ain’t a fence in sight for miles. Here’s how it works, how I learned it, and why every horse ought to commit it to memory. Also, I let my horse-buddy Coors Light provide some of the more advanced leads information herein, on account of he was a bonafide leads prancing champion in his youth. So what he contributed thusly may not be accurate.
The first time the bucket gal told me there was more than one lead I could take, and without fallin over, we was trottin to the left inside our own lil corral’s prancing arena, and she was movin her inside leg around and tappin me, and makin a kiss-kiss sound at the same time. I was accustomed to fully ignorin a person that wiggles about in the saddle. Sometimes cowboy’s got to stretch their own legs. It makes no difference to a horse. So I picked up my usual left lead, which I like to take no matter which way we’re goin. She made a enormous fuss over me for that. Then we trotted. She did it again. Inside leg wiggle. Kiss-kiss. I loped like I always did and got praised to the high heavens. It was real nice, but not necessary.
We changed directions over to my right side. Instead of makin me trot faster and faster til my legs damned near run off from me, and then throwin my shoulder into the fence, she again wiggled around her inside leg and went kiss-kiss. So I struck off with my same left leg – which was thusly the outside leg at the time. We went back to a trot. She did it again with more intent. Thump and a wiggle on the inside, kiss-kiss. So I offered to strike off into a lope on my inside foot since she didn’t throw my shoulder out or nothin. Off we loped, and she patted my neck and scratched my withers and told me I was the best boy in the whole entire world. It again seemed excessive, but I liked it. It helps the learnin process if you’re a horse who pays close attention to humans to start with. If ya really lean into tryin to learn what they’re sayin in their crude people-manner, a lot of stuff starts to make more sense.
I learned that day to get pets when I picked up my inside hoof first. And ya know what? Lopin to the right got easier, too, without bein throwed off balance and into the fence. The bucket gal let me lope straight. It was always harder for me than the other direction, but it got a whole lot easier and more comfortable once I knew my leads instead of bein made to take ‘em or leave ‘em. Once I gave it more thought, I realized it woulda been real helpful and comfortable back at the ranch, too, not that us horses is ever prone to ponderin pointless what-ifs. Soon I learned kiss-kiss meant inside leg no matter what, and she didn’t even have to wiggle her legs about no more. We was copacetic.
Here’s where things get shady.
Coors Light claims sometimes horses also get praised to the high heavens when they take the wrong lead. Which their riders ask them for, on purpose. And then there’s skippin and leapin about and bein entirely disrespectful at the lope, which he calls flyin changes and “tempe” changes, I guess on account of doin so’s likely to give your rider a bad tempe-r for sure.
All I know is I sure had better balance lopin about on the proper leads once I was properly educated. They seemed like a real good idea, after all. I hope the idea catches on and spreads like the kinda wildfire that helps the range instead of burnin it clean out. So a good horse should always try his best to pay attention and learn, even when his rider may not seem to make a lick of sense. If I can get more horses to follow my lead on this common-sense stuff, my time on the County Island will have been spent well, in addition to the rest of the good time I’m havin here.