One of the first and most useful tricks a young ranch horse learns when he’s broke to ride is how to take a big breath and fill his belly up with air so the cowboys can’t pull the cinch too tight around his middle part. The cinch is kinda the belt, or the riggin as the old-timers call it, what keeps the saddle, and the cowboy, sittin on top of the horse, instead of slidin off to one side or the other, or worse, slidin down into the dirt and fallin hard on his dignity, meanwhile the horse is buckin and gallopin away laughin.
The cinch is also the part of this whole horse-tack deal that annoys the horse the most, secondary sometimes to the bit in his mouth, that is. Most of us old ranch horses, self included, grow to be what’s called “cinchy,” which means we don’t much care for the act of bein cinched up. On the other hand, the people got an expression where they say, “It’s a cinch,” whereby they mean to say somethin is easy. And gettin around havin your cinch pulled too tight surely is cinchy for a horse to accomplish. See, if you expand your belly big enough, then after the cowboy climbs up in the saddle, you can exhale in a real slow, casual manner so he’ll be none the wiser, and then the cinch stays loose and it won’t bother you none all day, no matter how many hours you’re out workin and bein ridden.
But a horse has got to strike a balance. That is, he’s got to stay in perfect balance beneath his rider, be that rider a cowboy on the ranch or, in my case now, a danged bucket gal, ‘cause if that rider does perform an involuntary dismount and an up-close cactus inspection due to a cinch that suddenly shifts and sends the saddle slippin sideways, once your rider catches up to you from runnin off without ‘em, you’ll likely be bothered in a whole nuther way. Ya see, with the ability to blow up your belly comes great responsibility. And I am nothin if not a responsible horse. And it’s frankly too much effort to run off, so you should always stay put if your rider takes a tumble due to a spontaneously separatin cinch, and act like you got no idea what just happened or why.
Which is why the other day, while I most assuredly did not remind the bucket gal that she forgot to tighten my cinch at all (her mind musta been all mixed up with some of that multi-taskin the County Island people persist in doin), I also made sure to act like everything was business as usual and to stand perfectly still, in a perfect balance, for her while she used the fence to climb up on, and step over into the stirrup, to settle down into the saddle on my back. I didn’t have to blow up my belly with air at all that day. She just plumb forgot.
And we got mostly all the way around the County Island before she somehow came to see the cinch flappin loose below my belly. You see, that day, I’d been done in by my own shadow cast on the road, along with the shadow of a danglin cinch strap that was not supposed to be danglin if it’d done been done up properly.
It’s impossible for a critter even as smart as a horse to foresee every circumstance. But when the circumstance arises, I mean to say when the opportunity stands right up in front of you and waves a carrot at you to get your attention, we horses got to take advantage, but responsibly, like I did. And if we’re smart and quiet about it, well, then stealin away with a slack cinch is most definitely cinchy. Unless there’s shadows. A smart horse never trusts those anyway, and always gives ‘em a second look. Those things can’t be good, the way they’re always followin after a horse.