September 01, 2008 | | Comments 0

The Beginnings of a Horse Whisperer: Breaking the Fall

Horse Whisper

By Carson Cockman

Fall, the name says it all.  I am on the downhill side of middle age and that is the fall of life, isn’t it? To prove to myself that I still have ”it” I decided to become a cowboy.  It is probably this fact that I am to blame for the occurrences of today.

I got a couple of horses this winter.  It was a kind of rescue situation.  They are in a pasture and had not been ridden…EVER.

So, in my mind I have become…THE HORSE WHISPERER!

I took two of my young nieces out to visit the two horses.  They must be members of the FCGOA…Future Cow Girls of America. They were telling me how Daddy was simply going to HAVE to buy them a horse.

One of the horses is a quarter horse/mustang mix.  He was the most calm, so it was he that I had selected to ride first.  Sandy is the Enforcer of the two. When she gets into season, she is the poster girl for Equine PMS.

So, I put Sandy up in the stall and let the two girls brush her to keep her quiet.  Cinnamon and I went out to face our destinies.

I had worked with him all week in that quiet logical horse-sense way I have.  I talked to him and gained his trust.  I got the saddle and blanket on him. Funny, I probably should have put the blanket on first, but I am very new at this.

The horse was very patient with me.  I know this because we tried several configurations of bridle wear.  I think the bit goes in his mouth because it just did not look right sitting on his ears.

I walked him for hours with sand bags tied onto the saddle.  He responded quietly to my instruction by turning when I applied slight pressure to one rein or the other.

Flush with cow poke success, I then stood with one foot in the stirrup.  I was fervently praying at the time that the horse would not bolt and I would get my foot hung and bounce along using my head as a rock locator.

He got used to the weight and I then mustered my courage to push myself onto the saddle with my belly where one normally sits.

He looked back at me as if to say, “You know, I’ve seen this before. Let’s skip the preliminaries and get on with it.”

But I am nothing if not patient.  I continued getting up and down…up and down …up and down.  I must have looked like a Jack-in-the-box.  My nieces were hollering for me to get up on him.  Finally, one of them asked if I was chicken.


So, with my pride blazin’, I brushed the feathers from my seat and threw my leg over the saddle.

I got my boot in the other stirrup and I was proudly committed.  Let me re-phrase that…I should probably BE committed!

He looked back at me as if to say, ” Finally, I have you where I want you, you pathetic saddle-standing wimp!”

You know, in the rodeo, they have a buzzer that buzzes after eight seconds to indicate the rider has managed to get a full ride.

My buzzer needed to be at 5.5 nanoseconds!

He bucked and twirled.  He did what I critiqued as the prettiest pirouette. I’ll have to get him shoed with ballerina slippers.  Then he went from the agitate cycle to super spin!

As I achieved orbit, I considered my chances of making a successful dead-stick landing.  There was something oddly disturbing about that word “dead” but I did not have the time to contemplate it because the ground was approaching much too quickly.

I hit the ground in what the professional cowboys call a “tuck and roll” maneuver.  It must be called that because after you perform it, the medics just tuck your internal organs back into your body and roll you to the funeral home.

The thud I made shook my nieces in the barn.  I imagined that I heard girlish laughter.  I am not sure as the wind was knocked from what was left of my lungs with the force of a C-135 Cargo plane full of tanks nose-diving into a North Carolina cornfield.

I instinctively tried to sit up.  I instinctively lay back down.

“Are you ok, Uncle Carson?” my nieces squealed.

“Now, you ask!”  I replied.

Cinnamon was finishing the final scene of the Nut Cracker ballet and was half way down the pasture.

I slowly, ever so slowly, tried to sense what on my body was NOT hurting.  Even my earlobes were numb!

There is another old cowboy saying.

“You must get back into the saddle,” the old cowboys say.  I think the old cowboys say that because they have survived somehow and retired from riding equine rocket launchers and have been hitting the Mescal tequila too hard.

I dragged what was left of my body up to wobble on two feet.  I chased Cinnamon down and stuck my foot in the stirrup.  I threw my belly over the saddle and lay there like a sandbag, hoping he would think I was an inanimate object and not worthy of a new lunar mission.  He looked back at me as if to say, ” That will be a quarter for the ride!”

There is something good in every situation.  The silver lining maybe hidden by tarnish and you may have to pick the pasture grass out of your eyeballs to see it but it is there.

I asked my nieces, “So, do you STILL want a horse?”

My potential cowgirls breathlessly replied in the negative.

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