Bein asked to step up onto a bank as tall as my own knees ain’t generally too much to ask of me — unless I’m asked durin the real hot time, where a horse can actually feel the air hangin heavy in his nostrils, and heavy in his hind hawks and his stiffles and his other sundry horse-parts that’s all been used hard and well for his whole life. On those days, these days, if there’s another way around that don’t mean bendin my knees and flexin my back legs, I’ll politely decline the invitation to jump up, and suggest a less bothersome bypass, instead. Havin good ranch manners means always layin out your best, most reasonable alternative instead of sayin flat-out no to your rider. Most times, they go for it.
But back in the day, there wasn’t a bank, arroyo, ledge or likely even a cliff I couldn’t leap. And when I first came to live upon the County Island, I also learned how horses leap pointless things called oxers,which sounds like I’m sayin oxes, but I ain’t. That’d be a silly and also reckless thing for a horse to leap over on purpose, mostly on account of the horns.
I watched a lot of “jumpin lessons,” as they’re called, in the time I spent at the boardin stable ranch with Original Coors, when I was new here. And because County Island horses only got maybe one or two hours of questionable “work” to do in a day (those bein my “ironical horse ears,” as usual) and the rest of the day to loaf around, me and Coors would find ourselves havin daily “turnout time” so we could “relax” and “play” in the jumpin arena when nobody was jumpin nor “workin” in it.
Coors was buckin and leapin about in the arena, and barrelin full-Ayrab-horse-steam-ahead with his tail stuck straight up like a flag and weavin in and out between all the oxer jumps and plain wood pole jumps. I was right behind him, buckin and leapin even harder, ‘cause I learned quick how much fun it is to have time and energy for fun when you ain’t got ranch work to tend to every day. And the bucket gal and a couple of her amigas was watchin us and enjoyin our shenanigans. I learned fast it’s fun to have what’s called an appreciative audience.
I was runnin between the jumps with my head between my knees, goin full-on palomino rodeo buckin stock style, when I raised my head and found myself starin down the line of a big ol’ oxer as tall as my shoulder. I broke to a walk, walked right on up to it, sat down with my ol’ hawks touchin the ground, surveyed how tall the second rail was compared to the first rail, and cleared the whole thing with a big ol’ toss of my head.
I meant to take off buckin with my head between my knees again, but damned if my back legs didn’t buckle a bit, so instead I made off at a stiff but swaggerin trot.
“Did you see that?”
“Did he just do that?”
“Ohmygod, I can’t believe it! WHISKEY!”
Aw yeah. That was all me.
I never did it again, of course, on account of I ain’t a stupid old horse.
Which is why, on occasion, I may still strongly suggest how climbin up a steep incline could be a bad idea for my hawks and my stiffles, but after we traverse our way around it, I may incline myself to crow-hop over a small creosote bush because it was there, and dance a li’l jig that makes the bucket gal giggle and danged near fall off if she ain’t payin attention, which she should be. Because ya got to flaunt it if ya still got it, even if what ya got ain’t the same as what ya had before. Ya still got most of it, and a good horse should always make the most of whatever he’s got and show his appreciation for how entirely good it is.