The National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Non-Pro starts as I write. Horse shows have a “feel;” this one is very good, like it should be and what we want. I’m driving in from Whiskey Flats, listening to Norwegian Symphony tunes, to meet a Swiss snowboard racing lady, a man from Venezuela and a Ukrainian truck driver. I have run video feed for a Canadian. I have made a loper from Israel laugh. I helped “Fish,” the Eritrean parking attendant, help a girl from Wisconsin find her car and a cutter from Peaster, himself. Facebook has given me cutter friends from all over the world. These global connections are fascinating. This is old in the world of horses and cows.
The horse and cow industry in North America dates from the very first Spanish expeditions and backward to the earliest domestication. The cattle industry in Texas after the Civil War was the Silicon Valley of the day, attracting people from the war-torn South, many ex-slaves and Europeans displaced by various calamities. Not much told is the “venture capitalism” which gave reason to it.
They bought, contracted trail drives, then months later, met their “investment” at a railhead in the Midwest to sell at justifiable profits. Basic. Buy low, sell high. This changed the course of history. It was the food supply for New York, the growing financial center of the world, Washington, D.C., the capital of the greatest country in the world, and all points between. The most crucial of tools was the cutting horse. Cutters made the world run, and still do.
There are pieces of cutting, and us, leading directly back 6,000 years to Kazakhstan, the birthplace of domesticating the horse. Cows, even further – 10,500 years in places now known as Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt. The “Fertile Crescent.” Consider this – 9,000 years before Islam, 7,500 years before Judaism and 2,047 years before the birth of Christ, cowboys have apparently been getting all up in these people’s “bidness.”
Thinking about learning horses to cut cows got me to thinking about the wrecks. It just hasn’t been that long since the simplest of injuries could be fatal. Avoiding getting injured had to come early. Certainly, the benefits had to outweigh the risks. One of my deepest beliefs about horses, and cutting in particular, is that it is in our DNA. Something different from regular people echoes back in us when we drop our hands. Cowperson DNA goes way back.
All that to get to this little safety lesson. First, a horse’s instinct is to flee when threatened. It is ancient and cannot be changed. Horse muscle is stronger than people muscle. Don’t even consider trying to outmuscle a horse. When a wreck starts, get out of the way. Calmness is your best tool; it speaks to them. Be in their sight. Just as they learned a halter, they may feel the futility and stop. Give them that chance, or they don’t. Letting them expend themselves is most often best. It is called “blind panic” from experiences, usually bad ones. The nice lady with treats turns into a 500-pound saber toothed tiger as far as a scared horse is concerned.
Twitches. You should have one, a good one with at least 30 inches of handle, and know how to use it. Twitches are for restraining a horse temporarily. Very temporarily. Horses, like human beings, make endomorphins, a powerful natural opiate-like painkiller. A twitch will start this process. Within about 10 minutes, the twitch will become useless. Don’t forget that.
You should have the basic injectable medications for sedating a horse, along with syringes and needles on hand. Have the dosages written down with them. Memories fail under stress. Put a kit in the trailer. Can you hit a vein trotting beside a horse in the dark? If not, you will eventually regret it. Get les- sons from a textbook-qualified person.
One way to de-wreck a wreck is with rope. The best for this is thick cotton rope around 7/8ths of an inch in diameter. Twenty feet is a good length. Several is better, and invaluable if a horse is cast. Do not pull the legs closest to you. Pull inward. Thin nylon, like a throwing rope, will cut, crush and/or burn.
A new year starts now. You have to prepare to win by what you do before the time clock starts.
Cornbread Thinks: Randomly sometimes.