When Western performance horse trainer Jerry Jones and his wife, Jessica, brought a bucket calf home to their Texas ranch three years ago, it could easily be assumed the Hereford cross would wind up on a dinner plate. Their daughter “Pinkerton” had other plans.
Five years old when they brought “Norman” home, the already seasoned young rider thought the little red-and-white calf they bottle fed and nursed back from sickness had serious potential. After all, he was tame and had a sweet disposition. Why not?
“I never actually really heard anybody ride a steer and I just through it would work because he’s so gentle,” recalled the now-8-year-old Pinkerton. “And, one day, I just asked my mom if I could get on him bareback and I got on him and she was leading me around. And a few days I kept riding him bareback and we put a saddle on him and he acted like it was no problem.”
As Jessica recalls, “the rest is history.”
Norman never seemed to mind. Didn’t even buck once.
Ridden with a halter, he dutifully plodded over obstacles at the farm with Pinkerton aboard. Hopped into the trailer and stood tied without fuss. He never did anything very fast – Jessica says his favorite speed is a stop and his second-favorite is a walk – but the steer was more than willing to do whatever he’s asked.
He went to a “play day” at their local church. When friends visited from Dallas, the Jones’ got Norman out and gave them rides.
Pinkerton even trained him to pick up his cloven feet, allowing her to clean them out with a hoof pick.
“Even when we put the saddle on him he acted like he knew exactly what was going on. Didn’t care,” Jessica said of the now 3-year-old steer. “But that’s just his personality, and I don’t know if they’re all like that or not, but he just doesn’t care about anything. As long as you’re paying attention to him, he’s all for it.”
Jerry, who trains cow horses, and Jessica, a non-pro cow horse rider, allowed Pinkerton to keep Norman as a pet. They didn’t really have any plans to sell him, but recently Jerry suggested they offer him in one of the online auctions hosted on their Diamond 3 Performance Horses and Cowdogs Facebook page.
Jessica was doubtful. Who wanted a steer broke to ride? But, knowing they hard a barn full of futurity horses to keep them busy, she eventually agreed and a few weeks ago put up an auction posting with a few photos and videos of Pinkerton riding Norman around the ranch.
“I put him on [Facebook] and it just kind of blew up,” Jessica said of the post, which was shared 1,949 times and liked more than 1,100. “A bunch of people kind of wanted him as like a therapy cow, so I guess there is a market for that. It was a new to me.”
With all that interest, the bidding shot skyward. The final bid was $14,800.
Norman’s new owners were set to pick him up this week to take him into the next step of his life journey, which will be as a therapy animal for people with addiction issues. The idea of parting with the happy-go-lucky cow was a tough one for the family.
“I’ve explained to [Pinkerton] where he’s going and all that so she’s good with it,” Jessica said the night before the new owners were due to pick him up. “She just made me promise we have to get her another one for her to train.”
They haven’t gotten a replacement yet, but say a number people have offered possible prospects ranging from bucket calves to a retired longhorn steer.
Even with Norman gone, Pinkerton has plenty to keep her busy even without an immediate replacement. The articulate second grader – whose actual name is Audrey, but everyone calls her Pinkerton, or “Pink” for short – has been riding horses for years. She buys her own horses with money she earns training ponies, and competes in reined cow horse and cutting. For fun, she jumps horses over homemade obstacles at the family ranch.
She also has plans for the future. Her Quarter Horse mare, “Strawberry,” just gave birth to a foal by 2018 World’s Greatest Horseman Champion Hickory Holly Time (by One Time Pepto), and Pinkerton hopes to some day compete in the famed competition held annually at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
Though she was sad to see Norman leave, Pinkerton is happy for her friend.
“I’m just really glad that he’s going to a good home, because that’s what he deserves,” she said. “He deserves to go to a really good home and I think that’s what he found.”
For more news and information from the Western performance horse industry, subscribe to Quarter Horse News.