Monday, October 6, 2008

Riding With the Cowboys

I received this email this morning from Cowboy Les' wife, MG.
Hey girl,
I understand that you need to change your name to Annie Oakley instead of Calamity Jane.
Les just couldn’t stop bragging on you when he got home yesterday.
I’m really proud of you.
Have a great day.

And I am proud of me. I had a blast last night at the roping arena. Les and I had plans to trail ride around my place Sunday afternoon. Obedience training with Kenzie got cancelled, so I told him, "No need to haul up here. I'll be at the arena later this evening." I figured if I could lope my horse out in an open field, I can lope him in front of the cowboys.

When I arrived, we tacked up, and Les and I (Les on Sugar) went into the arena to warm up before penning the steers. I walked, I jogged, and I loped, nice big fast circles. Romeo was ready for action, with a nasty uncomfortable almost gallop around the lower half of the arena. Speedie little twit. I loped and loped until I was satisfied I had his attention with turns and stops. We penned up the steers, albeit a bit difficult because they weren't in the mood to be penned, and I was pushing too hard to start.

As we finished up penning, another one of the ropers arrived. Les said to me, "Go show R how to warm up that horse there." As R was bringing his three horses into the arena, I got to loping again. I caught his eye, and saw him staring from the far end of the arena. I felt myself relax a little, and, instead of bouncing like a nut, I was moving in my hips, with my horse, instead of against him. I didn't even glance to see if I had the lead, I just kept going. I got him pointed towards the out-gate, and gently said, "Whoa", and he stopped on his rear. He got a nice pat & scratch, and we walked to the roping boxes. R said to me, "Good to see you've got your finger out of your butt & you're actually going to ride that horse now. You can move the steers by yourself maybe instead of us all having to help you every time." All I could so was smile. Les was glowing, and I could tell it was a smile of "Look at that horse I trained", and "Look at that rider I'm getting confidence into."

Later in the evening, Mr W was teasing me to "ride my horse for him like I do for Les." After pushing a pen of steers back to the chute, Les said to me, "Go show Mr W how you ride that horse now." And I did.. I calmly trotted a little bit out of the little alleyway, asked him to walk, and went right into a correct-lead lope down the arena. I loped about five big, slow, circles, my toosh in the saddle, loose rein, and felt completely calm about the whole thing. I caught Mr W staring, dead square in the center of the arena, almost with a disbelief look on his face. I asked Romeo to "Whoa" (which I got without issue or complaint), and trotted over to Mr W. He said to me, "Well look at that! Let me tell you now, if you ever want to impress somebody with your riding, you just lope circles, girl. Those cowboys will be after you, if you'll just keep loping circles. You were completely stuck in that saddle, and you weren't flopping around one bit. That looked great!" Mr W is one of those older hands, that, will give you his opinion at every opportunity, will tease if he thinks it'll build up confidence, but will always be your biggest cheerleader if you just try.

So in a few hours, I went from being the wallflower rider that the cowboys protected and helped out, to the cowgirl that pushed steers independantly, and was genuinely respected. They trust me now... R even said, "You need to start tracking cows on him. He's ready, and so are you." That's the phrase that leads to "I need help moving some cows today, and I'd like your help." Around these parts, that's cowboy-speak for, "I trust your riding ability, and I think you're a helpful hand." For a cowgirl, that's not easy to earn. I'll take it however I can get it.

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