The world is turning green again, in this hemisphere, anyway. Mares are foaling, cows springing. Tender grass is showing. The Super Stakes is right now in a minute. Our clock for the year has started, just as it has done since the mid-1800s, at least in the world of horses, cows and our sport – cutting.
The threads in this make the cloth of the sack that holds the why of the way we do things like we do. Timing is based on God and Mother Nature’s schedules, not ours. We use theirs because it is so much easier. Stuff just meshes up, like a six-speed transmission. Low gears lug us slowly, but steadily, out of the inactive winter into the higher gears of spring as we break loose the grip, shifting up as we gain traction and momentum.
Early, short forage is tender, sweet and more nutritious, making it perfect to bed on for birthing, then making milk and enticing new, soft mouths to try. Monkey see, monkey do. Yearlings needing to put on muscle for that athleticism that is beginning to blossom could want for nothing more. Two-year-olds fixing to start on their career paths are making a bank of calories they will need for recuperating from being asked to give it all, and then giving it. It makes for easy living for the herbivores in our lives, freeing our time for more important tasks.
It is time to put saddles on ponies, learning them their jobs. Back in the day, it was the last push for cow hunting before roundup. It was time to tune that string of horses that was needed to manage a herd of 20 million head of free but wild cattle, or escort 2,500 head of them 1,200 miles north inside four months to a railhead. They arrived back home with a string of finished horses tuned and ready for the fall fairs, rodeos and the [National Cutting Horse Association] Futurity, of course. Not really, but yes, really. Timing is perfect, don’t you see? Like clockwork, the sun and moon and stars are the clockhands for cowmen and horsewomen alike.
Their tasks were timed and scheduled into the vagaries and conditions of what you could do when, and now ours are, as well. Physiologically, when was best to put weight on a horse’s back coincided with when the time was available. In South Texas, the birthplace of this amazing industry, February was golden. The tough and ambitious could gut up and get it. Timing the roundups and trail herds with the warming weather going north made it work.
Follow the grass north. Being mounted was everything. “A man afoot was no man at all,” was the saying of the day. Trail cowboys were of all sizes, colors and nationalities and from all points of the compass. A fair amount came from a seafaring background. There was no shortage of exes either, as in slaves, soldiers, juvenile delinquents and convicts. All had a string of horses, usually around 10 each. One or two were aged horses, “aged” being 4, who could be trusted for night work and close-in work. The plan called for a lot of “on the job training.”
Talent came to light, in horses and men. Some figured out how they could stay home, ride horses and not have to look at the back end of a steer 24/7. An occupation was born, combining it all into a system which is basically still in place – horses to train and a plentiful supply of cows with which to do it.
Reading this in March, we are well into the busy of spring, with babies hitting the ground, 2-year-olds being started and 3-year-olds being sorted into Fort Worth horses or “small futurity” horses. Mares are bred back. Show strings are put together, and many have one-fourth of the year behind them already. Top 10 lists are stabilizing. A double handful are permanently hooked up and hauling for a world championship, with a truck full of calendars and roadmaps. The promising 4-year-olds are swinging for the fence every pitch, with many hitting it. All of it is going where we’ve always went – following the greening.
Clinics, like the Region 8 Trainers Clinic in Waurika, Okla., are filling up fast. And NCHA Day is Memorial Day Weekend. The affiliates are booking all their shows. It’s time to make a plan.
Cornbread thinks: It is spring, follow the grass.