The cow was to be separated from the herd. The rider kept light contact on the reins, and quietly walked into the herd. Natural aptitude, “cow sense,” and intelligence helped, but it was good training that made this horse a master. The herd milled, but didn’t bolt. The horse waited, without anticipation or nervousness.
Finally the rider identified the cow, and smoothly drove it to the edge of the herd. When a slight separation was attained, the rider dropped the reins, sat deep in the close-contact cutting saddle, grabbed hold of the horn and allowed the horse to take control.
With a good horse, that moment was absolute magic. Anticipating every move the cow made, staying between it and the herd, barring the way, countering every change in direction. Like a ballet, or maybe more likened to a prize-fight, stopping short, whirling and changing direction, without over-shooting each turn.
The horse’s concentration was palpable, nostrils flaring, ears pointing, and every sinew of his being focused on the cow. Nothing else intruded, only the smell of horse sweat, the creak of the saddle, the pounding of hooves. And then it was over. The cow tired and gave up trying to return to the herd. With a lift of the reins, the rider told the horse to quit the cow. The best horses did it quietly, relaxing into calm and waiting for the next one.
After a long day, the rider would un-tack his horse, throw his cutting saddle over a fence, and loose his horse until the next day.
“And I was part of that. My rider sat deeply in my seat and listened to the creak and groan of my leather as his horse moved. I didn’t need polishing because his denim-covered bottom accomplished that each day.”
I imagine that the Circle Y cutting saddle is saying that, remembering those times and the riders which depended on it. Now it sits on a saddle rack in a seldomly frequented tack room. I brush away the thick layer of dust that somehow manages to waft under the covering.
Somehow I hear the saddle’s voice and it says to me, “It isn’t fair. I want to be on the back of a good horse working the herd with a rider sitting quiet.”
I no longer ride and have kept the saddle in sentimentality. But today, maybe I’ll listen to it.
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