Sunday, January 29, 2012


There's a stock horse sport called working cow horse, in which a horse and rider face off against a cow in an arena. The object of the game is for the mounted pair to take control of the cow's immediate destiny, make it go down the arena side, turn back, turn left, turn right, turn in a circle, whether the cow wants to go along with the program or not. Some cows don't put up much resistance; some are defiant. Cow horses need speed, nimbleness, and spunk to do it well. The rider has to stay balanced and out of the horse's way; on a well-trained horse who's game for the game, s/he doesn't need to do a lot more than some subtle cuing.

Here's an example of doing it right, on a cow who isn't at first inclined to cooperate:

It's a sport that's exciting and fun to watch, and from its home in the American/Canadian West it's spread to Europe, Germany, for example. Of course, not everyone can afford to import a well-trained Quarter Horse or Paint, a competitor sprung from generations of horses bred to take it to the cow. So our European friends will press into service whatever breed they have to hand, dress up in full Western regalia, and go for it. Even if said breed is, say, a Haflinger, a smallish but sturdy flaxen-maned golden horse with that Western cow horse look but not, perhaps, quite the same Western cow horse attitude:

Having giggled her way through that video, a friend was moved to share this recollection:

That takes me back to a pony my parents leased for me on summer vacations when I was 8-11. Mr. Magee was a bay paint, about 13 hands, not very pretty, not very friendly, but a parent couldn't ask for a better babysitter. My friend's pony was a much prettier, friendlier and smaller chestnut paint mare. (I always felt I was on the lesser of the two on some childhood standard). We rode through old fields, orchards and cow pastures near the barn, but we never encountered cows in the cow pasture. Until one day we did. We, the young humans and the smaller pony, were in favor of exiting stage left when we came up on a bunch of them napping near some trees. They were BIG, and we didn't have a clue about cows. But Mr. Magee knew exactly what to do when one of them got to her feet. He took charge, walked toward the matron and informed her that she and her friends had better move on. Mrs. Bovine did not question Mr. Magee and we never saw the cows again.

In other words, that homely little pinto weren't no stinkin' beauty parlor Halflingwhatsiss.

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