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2001/05/15

Horse's Business by Ralph Galeano They know what they're doin' but most of the time we confuse them by giving orders when we could save ourselves the trouble and let them pick and choose their own way without us interfering. Watch those cutting horses sometime. The rider picks the cow to cut and then drops the reins and holds on. The horse does the rest without any outside help from the person on his back. He knows what to do and goes to work. I never worried whether my horse was in the right lead or not when we were chasing cows. I figured it was his job to know what legs to use first when he was running or loping. We always got there okay so he must have made his legs go where they were supposed to at the right time. My horse never has trouble getting in the right lead when he's running in the pasture. In fact, he was always in the correct lead until I went to a clinic and learned a little about lead changes. I began cueing him with leg and rein pressure to force him into the right lead. With my new knowledge and expert guidance, he most always took off on the wrong lead. I went to another clinic and suffered humiliation and abuse when the instructor yelled, "What are you doing?" He started slapping his hand on top of his hat like he couldn't believe what he was seeing when he watched me try to teach my horse how to make flying lead changes. Mortified by his affront to my horsemanship, I pulled my mount into a hard stop and glared at him. Jack, the instructor, shook his head and yelled, "Keep riding, lope that horse in circles until I tell you to turn the other way and don't do anything but rein him the opposite direction." Jack just didn't understand that you need to be moving the horse one way with your legs and the other way with your reins all the while looking the opposite direction so the horse could read your mind. Doubtful, I loped around the arena and waited for Jack to tell me when to change direction. I came through the center of the arena and he yelled, "Turn!" I moved the reins the opposite direction and Bingo! The horse made a smooth lead change without me making him do any body contortions or head twisting. He did it on his own without my help. Jack was right! I decided right then and there that from now on it was the horse's business what legs he was going to use first. Ride through heavy woods or brush on the only trail wide enough for a horse to pass and then try to find it again on your way back later in the day. Bushes and trees all seem to look alike when you return. Missing the trail can mean tough going trying to break through the brush to get back in open country. I found out it's a lot easier to let my horse show me the trail back and save myself the trouble of searching. The horse will tell you when you get there. All you have to do is trust him. Horses aren't the only critters that are stubborn and hard-headed. I rode back and forth along heavy willows trying to find the trail l used earlier in the day that led around a high mountain swamp. My horse kept stopping and balking at a certain spot. With sawdust for brains, it didn't dawn on me that he was trying to tell me something. I kept hunting. Everything looked alike and I couldn't find that trail. Sonny stopped in the same spot again and nickered. It was a funny nicker and I wondered what that meant in horse talk. While I was wondering he stepped through the willows and, lo and behold, we were on the trail home. I still wonder about that nicker. It sounded insulting. Give em' some credit and stay out of their way. Slack the reins and let them pick their own way across those bad spots. They know the best way to work all four legs at the same time. Maybe with four legs it might be easier to cross a bog a different way than a two-legged critter would choose. I would guess that horses know a lot more about horses than humans do. Have you ever noticed how a horse can find the only hole in a fence to escape through, or stand and nuzzle a gate latch until he finally gets it open? They know exactly what they're doing, but when we open that same gate and want them to move through it, one or more of those expert gate pickers will always hang up between the open gate and the fence and act bewildered and in mortal danger. As soon as you turn your back and walk away acting like you don't care if he's trapped or not, he'll back out and come flying around the gate in the correct lead with no help or outside interference.

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