White Elephant Horse Race
- February 2, 2019
- Jan Swan Wood
I rode a horse years ago that had some issues. He was pretty gentle and traveled okay, but he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the drawer. He sort of woke up in a new world every day. No matter how many times some jobs were done, each time was the first time. I didn’t like having to use him, but when my regular string got tired and needed a rest, I’d put him in the rotation. I guess it did liven things up as I never knew what to expect out of him. His name was Fox.
The big summer range I was riding on had a section of ground in the middle of it that belonged to someone else. The old gent had a little band of Belgian draft mares and a pretty nice Belgian stud. He would take in a few mares to breed to his stud each summer and this season one of those mares was a really big, grayed out to white, Percheron mare. I’d seen her in the pasture with the other horses as I rode by.
I had made my rounds checking the yearlings in the first pasture, which was west of this section. I was riding toward the corner gate at a long trot and checking the last of some draws as I rode. I crested out on a ridge above a dry creek and was about a quarter mile from the gate by the section when I spotted that white mare on my side of the fence. She was hanging in the corner by the gate and I figured I’d put her back into her pasture when I got there.
This Fox horse I was riding didn’t always see things quite like everyone else and what he saw he didn’t process really well. He was unaware of the white mare until we were about 300 yards from her. That’s when she turned and noticed us. I’m sure she had thought she was the last horse on earth, so she was very glad to see us and in her excitement, came at a hard lope, whinnying loudly and mane flying. She looked as big as an elephant coming straight on like that.
I’m sure Fox had never seen a white horse of any description, much less one that was probably over 17 hands tall and 1800 pounds. He in no way equated what he saw and the noise it was making with being a horse! First he squatted on his belly, gave the loudest snort or honk I’d ever heard, then tried to run backwards. He nearly tipped over doing that so he reasoned that to exit really fast, he needed to turn around. He whirled and sold out. I mean, he was pickin’ ’em up and puttin’ ’em down!
I tried to bend him but there was nobody home. He ran for his life back over the ridge and down the other side. He finally let himself be turned in a circle, mostly I think to see if the monster was still in pursuit. We had lost her by going over the ridge, so I got him down to a trot and eased around to where I could come in to that gate from down along the creek. I was pretty sure he’d run through a fence over her so was being really cautious. He was still acting like a ninny and spooking at every little bird that flew up.
All the commotion had caused the band of horses to appear on a hill where the white mare could see them. She went over to the fence and stood there looking at them while Fox and I snuck up a draw and opened the gate into her pasture. I then went through the gate and shut it into my next pasture. I rode up where the mare could see us better and hollered at her so she’d look. I was well back from the gate when she trotted down the fence and through the gate and back into her pasture, easy as pie.
Fox didn’t just stand there casually watching her though. He was sideways, backwards and round and round, fighting to get away from whatever he thought she was. After she headed off across her pasture and away from us, I was able to ride back down and shut the gate without getting left afoot.
I don’t think I ever rode him toward that corner again that he wasn’t bug eyed and looking for that huge white monster that nearly got him. That was one of the few things he always remembered.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....