When you ride out with the big horses, you got two choices: You can go big, or you can go home.
My dam always told me bigger ain’t better. I didn’t listen much, as a growin colt, seein as how my main job as a young ‘un was to grow bigger and become a real big, bad-ass ranch horse. Pardon my french. But in the end, a horse is only as big as the job he gets done. I spent a whole lotta time gettin the job done before I came to live on the County Island. And a horse only needs to be so big to get the job done. If he’s too big, how can he duck under brush and tree branches to flush out stray cattle, or quail-birds if his rider is aimin to bag a few of those? If he’s too big, his rider can’t reach down real good from the saddle to open and close the gates at fence lines, neither. So then, there’s big, and then there’s big enough. There’s also BIG. This is about the time I rode out with some BIG horses, who’re also kind of a big deal.
I met the horse police before, sure, such as this one time, but I guess I never cared to get real up close and personal with ‘em until that day, to realize the BIGNESS of their whole, entire, earth-quakin, trail-dustin size. Horse police, so it turns out, is GIANTS among regular horses, in ability but also real obviously in size. This is especially true if they got draft bloodlines in ‘em, which makes ‘em grow even bigger than big. They got hooves as big as a weaned colt’s head. Nostrils wider than a wide rattlesnake hole in the dirt you’d best not step in by accident with your own big-enough hooves. They certainly ain’t too big to get their police work done, ‘cause roundin up and ropin bad people has got to be real hard and call for extra horse power.
And each one of ‘em kicks up enough dirt to make their own haboobs, which is a real funny way County Island people say dust storms. I reckon makin haboobs also helps ‘em somehow when they’re stormin around and roundin up bad guys and such. Maybe makes ‘em easier to rope and tie when they can’t see to make a break for it on account of the cloud of dust.
So this one time — since I couldn’t go big, bein fully growed into my own proper ranch size, and since also I couldn’t go home, on account of bein saddled up by the bucket gal and it bein the lowest of low-class for a saddled horse to spin ‘n run for home (and also, home was nowhere nearby, as I came to the ride in the rollin white horse-box) — it turned out there was a third choice, if you’re me. You can go big, go home — or do it my way.
In a horse’s life, there’s always at least two trails he can take: chief among ‘em bein the fast trail, and the slow trail. Lots of horses like the fast trail best. The fast trail’s best for the fast part, if it ain’t obvious. If you walk faster, trot faster, lope faster, run faster, or plain cover more ground faster, you get done faster, which means you get back to your feed bag faster, get unsaddled and get put away to rest. But fast horses also get made to go farther, sometimes miles upon miles farther. When you’re a big horse, such as the big horse police, I suppose coverin more ground in less time comes natural. I suppose maybe they even like it that way. It’s likely just how they walk, with big, ground-eatin strides that cause ‘em to faster and farther than regular horses.
I ain’t one of them big, fast horses.
Horses like me is best suited to the slow trail. If you’re slow enough, eventually, your rider will realize there ain’t no way in County Island hell you’re ever gonna catch up to the horse police as you ride around your loop trail. I was so far behind ‘em, despite my own best measured and careful walkin abilities, I wasn’t even eatin trail dust no more. Their trail dust was half a mile ahead. I figured I’d rode that loop before. There was nothin on it of particular interest to a horse up ahead to hurry up and get to. No grass to speak of in these parts, and also no creek water to drink. There was a stock tank that’s sometimes full, but we was headed the wrong way for a stock tank break to splash and drink. I also knew there was never any cattle about, so they surely didn’t need my services for gatherin stock.
Benefits of the slow trail can be enumerated by a horse, thusly.
First, it’s shorter. Once your rider, in this case my own bucket gal, decides you ain’t never catchin up, she’ll decide to forgo the whole pointless loop, and rein ya in another direction, namely the direction from which the horse police will eventually come back with their poundin, thunderous hoof dust storm. Instead of bein rode the whole loop, you only get rode maybe half of it. Three quarters at most. Yeah, us horses know how to measure trails in quarters. We measure what matters.
On the slow trail, there’s a lot less risk of inhalin trail dust. Thus, it’s healthier for a horse.
When the loop’s long and pointless, why bother ridin all of it? We met back up with the horse police on their own way back as they came one way around the loop, and we came the other, and then we turned for home to ride back with ‘em. I confirmed with Officer Moose, I believe it was (for he was big and brown as what I’ve had mooses described to me as by horses that’ve seen mooses) that I didn’t miss no action at all, not police work nor cattle work, around the bend. Plus I ain’t real sure I need to see no action anymore anyways, at my own wise and advanced age. Been there, done that, got the ranch brands to prove it. Leave to whole loop to the bigger, faster, younger horses.
And I only coughed trail dust for a short spell, ‘til they was stridin way past us again back to the feed bags attached to all our rollin white horse-boxes.
I still don’t know why I got rode with the horse police at all, since they didn’t seem to require any civilian horse service, not even from a retired officer of the ranch like me. I guess it was meant to be for fun.
Think of it this way. We’re all headin down the same trail, amigos, even if we’re real big deal horse police, who really ARE a BIG, important deal in ALL the big, important ways. It don’t matter none who gets there first or who gets there last, if there ain’t no point related to bein first or last. A trail ain’t a competition. Well, unless it is, but we ain’t talkin about trail competitions. Take your time, go slow enough to keep your own self comfortable but fast enough to appease your rider, and try always to enjoy the ride.