Sitting in my new studio writing this, a month ago now, and it’s raining. It’s been raining often this year. Got our first cutting baled a month ago and can’t get it out. Not far from being able to cut again. Nothing to do for it but to be patient. If you have done any farming, you know to never, ever put a rut in a pasture. If you haven’t, let me save you the trouble of learning the hard way. Those ruts cannot be fixed. That spot is changed forever. You will never quit banging your head on your truck roof. The equipment will always bump there and leave a raggedy spot. It will always hold water differently, and grow weeds and mosquitos.
Like most all long-term aggravations that you created for yourself, it is so easy to do. “Let’s go drive the place.” Or you left a tractor or piece of equipment until “tomorrow.” Sometimes the ground is solid until it isn’t. This is only one of the things you have to be mindful of in the country. Learning “ground” is a serious study. Everything important is a serious study. You have to think. It can be a chore.
When people go to school, a lot seems useless. “Imma be a horse trainer; I don’t need no grammar.” Besides people thinking you’re ignorant if you aren’t semi-skilled in the King’s English, you haven’t learned how to think. You haven’t learned how to learn. You haven’t learned to question and wonder about things. You haven’t learned how to fill this hollow place. In the worst cases, you don’t even know there is a hollow place, just waiting for you to bang your head on the roof. Again.
I am not a horse trainer. God saw fit to bless me with a lot of skills, but horse training is not one of them. God did bless me with a love for horses and cutting. I do have a reasonable amount of that skill. Not great, but I can get through a run every now and again. Horses, in particular cutters, fascinate me. It is one giant puzzle – every time I get one piece to fit, cutting hands me two more. The more I learn, the less I know. There is, with me anyway, a point where the big, easy lessons are in place but the little, really important ones are just floating out there in the fog. I will catch a glimpse of one for a second, then it drifts away. Seems like if I chase it, I run my shin into the trailer ball. I have to set my mind to be ready. To have all the doors and windows open to let it drift in, then grab that thing before it gets away. Like a pretty cut – ease in behind a cow, track her out to the camera and, for all that’s good and holy, don’t scare her.
It is a pretty poor horse person who doesn’t learn something about a horse every time he or she gets around or on them. Right now, with Buttermilk’s gentle (as an Oklahoma tornado) instructions, I am halter training this year’s babies. Three of them – by Im Countin Checks, High Brow CD and Once In A Blu Boon – out of Piper or her mother. They’re the best bred babies I have ever fooled with. Pretty sure they are smarter than me. I have never done more than one at a time, so being able to compare their learning styles is a thrill. Recognizing the differences just lights me up. One filly, two studs. As expected, the studs used their muscles first and their brains when they got tired. The filly never tried to power out of the resistance even though she is, by far, the stoutest one.
For me, the sessions aren’t by the clock. They are by my mental readiness. Zen and the art of halter training. Words fail me on this. A calmness, but hyper-alert. Not fast, but not slow. Pressure and release. Stop them before they go.
One of them seems to need to sleep on his lessons. He will know tomorrow what he didn’t today. One of them is a sneaky snake. Nips you on the back of your arm when you turn away. Stopping him before he moves, while it is still just a thought, has been a challenge. Think I’m getting there. Ask me at the Derby.
Cornbread Thinks: Learn the lesson that is standing just right there.