Baumgarten: It just isn’t the same
It’s been at least six months since I saddled up the old horse and took him for a ride. Doc, a solid chestnut gelding, has been the herding horse at the Baumgarten ranch for years. He can get a little high-strung, but he always seems to know which way the cattle are going, swiftly reacting to my rein and going after them.
But he’s not the only horse on the farmstead. We have a Palomino Dad calls Lady. I haven’t ridden her yet, mostly because she came to the farm while I was away. We have two other horses — Red and Whitey.
The two never seem to run out of gas, though they need to be fed every now and then. I’ve seen them both hit 30 mph, and they are able to cut cattle off quickly. If they get separated from each other, they don’t whine like Doc and Lady.
However, they don’t trail as smoothly through our rugged pastures. Whitey is older and has a swayed back. Even her saddle is shot. She likes to also turn to the right, so I have to keep a tight rein on her.
Red is pretty young, but he doesn’t seem to know what the cattle will do. He often runs too far ahead, forcing me to turn in a circle — a very wide circle. I have to be the one to know where the cattle are going so Red knows how to react. I hope he learns what to do as he gets older.
I have to be careful with both. They don’t like quick dips, trenches or washouts. I have to slow down and give them time to cross or risk getting bucked off.
These two are closer to the ground, meaning the landing won’t hurt as much if I do fall. But the cattle don’t seem to respect or trust them. As soon as they hear them neighing — and it’s loud — they scatter in different directions. Doc never makes a noise like that when trailing.
To tell you the truth, I don’t trust Red or Whitey either. I’m sure they will fall on top of me if I fall off. That makes me almost be too cautious, and that can cost some time.
I can see why farmers want horsepower like Red and Whitey. They are easy and quick to saddle, you can hop on and go, and they are faster.
But using a four-wheeler to trail cattle just isn’t the same as saddling up that horse and letting the wind blow through your hair. There is something, almost a bond, between a horse and his passenger. I prefer a warm body over a heap of metal on four rubber circles.
And I’m sure Doc is just itching to get out and run, even if he does snort at me a few times.
Baumgarten is the assistant editor of The Dickinson Press. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her past posts on her blog at baumsaway.areavoices.com.