To be fair, I never really set Breeze up for success in this venture. I took a horse that I knew needed little encouragement to become slightly mental and completely rocked her world.
From miles of flat cotton rows with a horizon that goes on forever to hills and rocks and trees and limited vision.
From just the two of us, maybe three's a crowd, to the cowpony horde.
From the dog is following us to following the doggies.
There was no gradual acclimation to the change either. We arrived on a Saturday and by Monday morning, earrrrrly Monday morning, we were gathering the pasture named Chico. . . .
The sun was just peeking over the bluffs when we pulled up to the white gate with the red bar S welded on. One truck and trailer waited for us on the shoulder of the road, another topped the hill just as we pulled in and more would trickle in shortly thereafter. Dew clung to the long blades of tawny grass and the cool air nipped at my cheeks and ears as we unloaded horses.
Being a mare and an outside horse gave Breeze the dubious honor of riding at the back of the long stock trailer and being the first unloaded. I untied her and allowed her to turn around and step off. Later, I would learn that the cowboys preferred I keep her head facing forward and have her back off the trailer. It was one of many things I learned that summer.
Her snort punched at the air as she stood at full attention with nostrils flared and head held high. At that moment, she looked more than capable of creating flames deep within her chest and letting them erupt from her nostrils.
I gained Breeze's attention long enough to lead her out of the way so the rest of the horses could be unloaded. Had we been at home, I would have taken time to do groundwork until her state of mind was a little less volatile. But we weren't at home and the cowboys' horses were already saddled and bridled and I still needed to get a bridle on a head that was eight feet in the air and showing no indications of coming down. I sure as heck wasn't going to make them wait on me.
I hastily bridled as the others mounted and made their way over to Grant, who was already sitting on his horse in a little open area. I tightened my cinch, thrust my foot in the stirrup and threw myself up on the moving target that was my horse. Gathering the reins tightly in both hands, I rode over to the circle of cowboys.
Cowboy hats and leggins' and compact cowhorses.
Ballcap and hoodie and Gee-raffe.
We were the proverbial sore thumb.
The cowhorses stood quietly. Bay, dun, and sorrel. Their eyes were soft, their heads were low and reins hung from their bits with a generous drape.
The Gee-raffe and I argued over the idea of standing still for two seconds.
Jig, jig, jig. Snort. Head toss. Jig, jig, jig.
She puts her left foot in, I back her left foot out.
She swings her butt on in and she shakes it all about.
We do the hokey pokey and we turn ourselves around. . . .
Although not a single cowboy raised an eyebrow at our antics, I became worried that we were a distraction so we excused ourselves from the cirlce and found a little space to the side and began doing serpentines. If moving her feet is what she needed to do then move our feet we would. We made our own circles. Many, many, many of them.
I kept one eye on the cowboy gathering until, in unison, they turned and pealed off into the pasture at a long trot. I pointed Breeze's nose in their direction and released her from our endless circling. She powered forward at a ground eating trot, her long legs eating up the distance between us and the stream of cowboys in no time at all.
We passed one cowboy then two, three, and four. My fingers ached with the stress of clamping on the reins. Breeze's chin was tucked tight to her chest as we performed a piaffe born of ignorance. All the while Grant's advice to not ride in front of the cowboys echoed in my mind.
Boy, was I ever screwing that one up.