“You’re going to ride with me Cowboy. Mama’s on the circle horse…”
It’s been a while since I’ve heard those words. I generally am not the one on the “circle horse.” A few days ago when we discussed bringing cows back in to get calves branded, it was up to me, the Weebeast and Husbeast to get about 100 pair in. The cows were out in one of the desert pastures on our allotment and we eyeballed where they had divided themselves from either end. Some of them had stayed at the water trough closest to the home pastures and some of them headed south to utilize the water gap.
Our plan was for Husbeast and Weebeast to ride the close circle and bump cows at the base of the hill, toward the trough, while I would take the big circle and go to the farthest boundaries to get those cows.
To most people, this may sound like no big deal and many may wonder where the story even is. But to those who’ve had children and had to do cow work, the story has already formed in their heads.
For the past 9 years, most of my horseback time has been spent on the gentler horses, the slower horses, the short circle horses. The gray mare packed me around when I was 7,8,9 months pregnant, then the sorrel gelding packed me and a very tiny Weebeast for two years. Timmy, the big gentle roan, came along when Weebeast was riding in front of me. From that point on, I would either have him in the saddle with me or would lead the horse or pony he was riding. In most cases I was in the drag following cows or riding the short circle when we gathered.
So the other day when Husbeast said that I was on the circle horse there was a moment that I had to make an adjustment in my head that I could be that person again. It’s not only because the Weebeast is riding his own horse, it’s also because I felt in that moment that I could ride out of sight of him and be okay with it.
Last summer when he started riding Timmy more often, I still had a fairly short leash in feeling that I could be out of sight of him. It’s a mom thing I suppose but it also comes from my own experience knowing what can happen with even the gentlest of horses…just about anything. It took a lot for me to let go of the lead rope and let him try to ride on his own. I wouldn’t get very far away from him and was always close enough that I could grab the lead rope if something didn’t go right. Even when I turned Timmy over to him, I had to try really hard to be okay with letting him out of my sight. He would tell me that he had it under control and was fine and I had to let him own that confidence and not show the fear I felt. I didn’t want to take away from what he was certain he could do. He and I both grew a lot last summer in terms of his riding ability and my comfort with it. In the fall when Husbeast was hunting and Weebeast and I had cow chores to do, my confidence in him and Timmy as a team, grew a little more each time we rode. They were both careful and they were both brave. And I grew a little more in my belief that they would be okay together without my constant presence.
As we rode out to gather the other day, my circle horse seemed ready to prove that he and I needed the big loop. We all walked to the top of the hill, and he hopped into a trot to make the summit. We stopped and agreed on our landmarks before we went our separate ways. As I nudged him into a trot, I tried not to look behind me at Weebeast headed the other way to make his own circle. I don’t know for certain what would have happened, but I may have changed my mind, or choked up a little. Those days of him riding with me and needing me to ride with him are slipping further away. I know soon enough that we will be saying, “Cowboy, you have the circle horse today.” and I’m definitely not ready for that.