Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thinking of an Old Cowboy

I was talking to Boyfriend about this the other week while driving to our favorite store, Cabela's. Im not sure why it came across my mind, as do many odd things, but I had to bring it into conversation.

It was that I wished I could have learned more from Old Cowboy when I had the chance. I mentioned Old Cowboy in my series expanding, rather undetailed however, about my journey into horses, The Arabians, The Quarter Horses, and The Journey. All I really mentioned about Old Cowboy was how tough and difficult he was, and how J was my saving grace in my lessons. Old Cowboy would leave me in tears, feeling inadequate and in a wallow of self pity. But I really should be giving better credit towards the knowledgeable old cod.

See, Old Cowboy came to stay with J and his wife back in the late eighties. He had developed himself, his training program, and his Arabians in the cowboy country of California. J and his wife brought him out to their farm here in Western Washington, at the time they were breeding Arabians and needed someone to start their colts, and finish their personal horses. Old Cowboy came up and did the job as asked, all with his own Vaquero flair.

When I was younger and was under the influence of Old Cowboy and his early lessons, I remember coming across, what to my ignorant eyes, looked to be a pure torture device. That was, a spade bit. My mindset being very much in the natural horsemanship methods and with no concept of real training or especially traditional training, I immedietly asked J what the bit was intended for. He responded Old Cowboy used it for highly trained, finished horses. Well I wanted nothing to do with that bit and it's evil, I affirmed to myself, and put it aside. Now a small part of me started to not want to hear what Old Cowboy had to teach. In my young eyes, he was a cruel old man and had nothing of real benefit to teach myself.

Old Cowboy did, in fact, have much to teach. And that is the subject of today.

With more knowledge as well as interest in the traditional ways of Vaquero training and methods put into their ultimum ranch versatility and cow horses, I wish I could sit down and talk to Old Cowboy firsthand about these well crafted methods. I only have the knowledge of what I can read, and its going to be a rare and wonderful day if I ever cross the path of one of those old, California Cowboys again.

You see, Old Cowboy died at the late age of 94, at the home of J and his wife, amongst his closest companions: the Arabians he bred and raised. He died four years ago. He didnt leave a family; his son had died long ago. He had no wife or other relatives. No one person he left all of his infinite wisdom with. J and his wife learned some of the practices he employed, but being trail riders themselves, they only really wanted a safe broke trail mount. They personally didnt have much interest in having a finished cow horse, one who could hold that spade bit regally, and with the subtlest of cues successfully work and manage a cow at top speed.

Oh, if only I could sit down with Old Cowboy today, and actually listen to what he had to give. Appreciate and learn from the personal experiences of training those ranch horses. I wish so much, yearn even, to learn about those old practices. How those horses were taught through the loping hackamore, almost a sidepull, to the bosal, the two rein, then the finished bridle horse. I wish I could feel the way they would stretegically hold those reins, see the changes in the horses as they progressed. I wish I could have watched Old Cowboy ride one of those finished cow horses, after seeing the building blocks leading up to that finished masterpiece.

But if wishes were horses, as the saying goes. 

Google Image - I just thought this was a prime example of the Vaquero methods

I'm only melancholly over the fact that I didnt appreciate and learn as much as possible from the fantastic teacher that was in my life for more than just a handful of years. I wish that I hadnt had my head in such an ignorant and closeminded gutter that I could have listened to the wealth of knowledge that was cleverly slipping from that Old Man's file cabinet.

I think, even though I cannot change the past or sit down with the Old Cowboy now, at least finally coming to appreciate what he had to offer is in and of itself a proper way to remember him. As I sadly didnt remember him that way as he was laid to rest. Now, I can look back and understand the knowledgeable man that was, and while still wish I had utilized our time together better, I can still appreciate what was given to me. Even if only after the grave now. Please don't take those important people in your lives for granted, even those that to you at the time may deem unimporatant, because everyone has something to offer and to teach even if it isnt what you chose to listen to.


Rising Rainbow said...

Boy, isn't that the truth.

Great post, Nina!

I can remember my own dumb early impressions about things people did or didn't do with horses, including what kind of bits finished horses were going in.

I'm fortunate enough that when an old cowboy crossed my path I was in the right place to listen. While I didn't get much time to do so, that little bit of time gave me a wealth of understanding that I will forever appreciate and utilize.

I sure wish I knew the name of your old cowboy. I have a feeling he was friends with some people close to me.

paint_horse_milo said...

Mikael send me an email and ill disclose the name

CedarCreek Performance said...

I love this Nina. I had someone like Old Cowboy in my 20's... I let my guard down and she changed my life. I think you learned so much from your interactions with him. Most of all the courage to discover for yourself what methods work for you and ultimately you have come full circle. (Did I mention that the circle spirals in and out... forever...) :-)
This picture is a wonderful depiction of teaching a horse to move from the bosal to the spade with the intermediate step of the bosalito (a very small Bosal and a 3/4" mecate rein) With the romel rein on the spade and the main control on the mecate and bosalito the horse learns to carry the spade and respond to the lightest cue. Have you ever held a spade bit? It wiggles, ever so slightly. That movement is what the horse responds to. Beautiful shot. Thanks for including it.