|On the Edge of Common Sense|
|THE HOPPING HORSE|
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."
Over the years I have chronicled hundreds of horse wreck stories that have been told to me. I still marvel at the uniqueness of each one and how it stretches the imagination. One only need look through any rodeo photographer’s scrapbook to see the spectacular displays of flying bodies, nose-diving human projectiles and the continuous collection of cringing, crashing, crumpled cartwheeling cowboys caught catapulting on camera!
There is a fine line between getting on a horse you hope will buck and one you hope won’t! At least in the bucking chute you are forewarned.
Ron is an outfitter in Washington state. Packers and outfitters, in my opinion, look at horses differently than cowboys. Cowboys expect a degree of cow savvy, quickness, refinement and good looks. They might even sacrifice a little ‘usefulness’ for a good head or pretty color. Packers put very little store in lookin’ good. I don’t mean personally, but in a horse they want a stout one with stamina and strength. Long hair, big feet, blemishes, Roman noses, bob tails or the disposition of the Unabomber is okay as long as he packs his share of the load. After all, packers never shave either!
Bill is a carpenter with a bad back who, at the time of this story, was wearing a body cast. He asked Ron if he could put a ‘handle’ on a new horse he had just purchased. Ron mounted the beast. From the start it was obvious the light-colored, long-headed, round-withered, spooky-eyed devil had not spent much time in the Western Pleasure Class.
They started making circles in the round pen. Then Ron attempted a sliding stop. Hammerhead stopped abruptly and then backed up. Ron swiveled to the right, then to the left, but Hammerhead kept backing. Then he reared up on his hind legs and began hopping backwards! Ron clung like a monkey on a flag pole until he bailed out and slid off the rump where he landed on his butt in the sitting position.
He was looking up at the crazed horse who was still hopping toward him! Ron scooted to the aft, crablike until he hit the solid uprights of the round pen. The horse crashed tail first into the posts and sat on Ron!
Bill, who had watched this circus-like performance, hobbled over to his crushed companion.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"No," said Ron.
"Are you sure?" asked Bill.
"Yes," said Ron, "My leg’s broke!"
Realizing he could not lift his friend by himself, Bill ran to the barn and came back with his stall-mucking wheelbarrow.
"Are you sure you can carry me in that?" asked Ron, thinking of his friend’s back.
"Yeah," said Bill reassuringly, "I’ve hauled bigger loads of manure than you in this rig!"
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.