Those of us who use horses for ranch work often find ourselves puzzled by what we observe taking place in horse shows. It is a given that a horse show is of course an artificial situation. And, I’m glad to see the newer stock horse associations making the attempt to align their classes more with the realities of ranch type riding.
I’m remembering a story once told to me by a man that I worked with up in eastern New Mexico back in the eighties. He spoke of taking his teenage son to his first horse show in Texas, near where they were from, outside of El Paso.
His son had a little buckskin quarter horse that had been trained over the border in Chihuahua. He rode him on the ranch and helped with the cow work with the cowboys there. The boy was about fourteen years old. So, they signed up for a pleasure class in a local quarter horse show.
The boy rode in on his ranch saddle wearing his chinks, his sweat stained Stetson, and two inch rowell, long shank, drop down spurs. He entered the arena at a trot like he was told. He grabbed the saddlehorn, stood in the stirrups and took off at a long trot. After lapping all the other competitors, the steward asked for a walk.
So the boy sat back, pushed his hat back on his head and pitched the slack to the old pony, and rolled out into a mile eating, ranch style running walk.
Again he lapped his fellow competitors.
When the steward asked for a lope, the boy tugged his hat back down and kicked into a rocking chair Mexican canter, which was so laid-back that the rest of the horses began to pass him by.
Finally the steward indicated to come to the center of the arena.
So the boy picked up his bridle reins, laid down a pair of elevens in the dirt, and walked to the center to line up.
He threw his right leg over the saddlehorn, pulled out his snoose can for a dip and pushed his hat back,waiting, with a big satisfied smile.
Later he told his dad
daddy I don’t understand it? I got the gate!