A Cowboy in the Show Arena

A friend once recounted the tale of his son at a horse show. This was in the eighties when his son was an early teenager. He had joined a local 4-H Club with his horse. Now, the horse was of quarter-type, however being raised in Mexico it probably had some crossing with Criollo or native Mexican ancestry. The reason the boy had the horse was that the family lived near the border and had friends who lived in Mexico who had given him the pony as a gift. The horse was trained by Charros, Mexican cowboys, who had trained it for practical ranch work before giving it to the boy, so that he would have a really nice, well-reined, well-behaved mount.

One weekend the club scheduled a horse show, so the boy entered with his horse. When he returned home he was disappointed at his results and he went to speak to his father, my friend. The father told his story of the horse show.

Three wine casks used as barrels for barrel racing in a dirt arena with a fence in the background.

The boy entered the arena on his horse dressed in his working “leggins,” some pretty stained and worn chaps. His hat was a sweat stained felt Stetson. He wore the typical faded khaki, long sleeve shirt popular in that Southwest, desert country. The judge asked the competitors for a walk. The other youths, in their colored shirts, show chaps and silver mounted saddles, walked slowly with heads down and knee level. His horse boogied along at a ground gobbling running walk. He lapped The others – more than once. Then they were asked to trot. The boy stood up in his stirrups, like the vaqueros had taught him to do, and holding his reins forward, surged off into a long trot, once again lapping the others as they shuffled along in a near death jog.

Finally the judge asked for the lope, so the boy bumped his horse for that gate and sat down to enjoy a rocking chair canter, typical of the Mexican “cuaco.”

This time the other competitors passed him by. The signal to come into the center of the arena was given, so he cantered in, came to a sliding stop, and looped his right leg over the saddle horn, pulled out his snuff can, tapped the lid and took a dip while he awaited the results, confident that he alone had ridden a truly trained western horse. His father asked how he came out.

“Dad, they gave me the gate! I don’t understand! “

“Son,” my friend responded, “I don’t understand either. I guess a horse show ain’t the real world! “

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