The Kid’s Horse
- April 30, 2016
- Jolyn Young
“Jim, grab her off the horse. He’s going to spook. He doesn’t look like he’s okay with the situation. He looks nervous.”
“I think you’re the one who’s nervous. Just lead her around, she’ll be fine.”
I handed my husband the lead rope that was attached to the horse our three-year-old daughter was sitting atop, forced air into my lungs, and walked away. I’ve been around livestock for all of my nearly thirty years, and I knew darn good and well that the horse and my daughter were picking up on my nervousness. I wanted to be near the pair in case I needed to help or protect my daughter, but truthfully I was more liable to just freak the freak out and cause a wreck.
I’ve started colts for a living and necked yearlings running full-tilt down the shoulder of Mountain City Highway with a semi truck as a hazer, but putting my daughter on top of a horse and telling her to have fun scares the bejeebers out of me. My husband and I worked out a system that I liked where I led the horse and he walked beside her, ready to catch her if necessary. I want Grace to grow up enjoying horses and riding them, and I want to protect her from unsafe or negative experiences.
We had tried letting Grace ride a couple of our super-gentle bridle horses around, but they weren’t quite comfortable with her unpredictable toddler movements. If she jerked an arm up and let out a squall unexpectedly, they’d spook sideways and scare the hell out of Mom. After we’d been at the Spanish Ranch a few weeks, Jim said he had an older gelding in his string that was named Butters, but he spelled it l-a-z-y. He thought Butters was gentle and desensitized enough for Grace, so I helped our little cowgirl get her boots on and head to the barn for a test ride.
We tried our walk-and-lead system, but Butters was eyeballing the cowboy walking alongside him and not okay with that at all. The horse seemed unperturbed by his small passenger, though, so I decided to trust my husband, who was equally invested in the little person I wanted so desperately to protect, and stepped away so Jim could lead the pair and I could remove my nervous energy from the situation.
With baby Milo strapped to my chest, I stood in the barn and chatted with another cowboy on the crew while he shod a horse. I peeked out periodically to observe a tall cowboy leading a buckskin horse around the yard with a super-happy little pink person sitting atop her daddy’s saddle. Butters’ head was lower than his withers, and he lazily swung his head from side to side while he slowly walked along. Jim stopped every so often to pet Butters on the neck and remind his daughter to hang onto the saddle horn.
I relaxed and let myself enjoy the fact that we’d found Grace the perfect kid’s horse. I made myself ignore the fact that he was packing a pitchfork iron on his left hip (the Spanish Ranch brand), as the Span horses have a reputation for being tough and broncy. I judged the scene and horse before me on their own merits, and thanked Jim for leading Grace around and helping instill an early love of ranch life in our young daughter.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on Mann Lake Ranch in eastern Oregon with her husband and their two small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....