The Hardy Ranch - Three Months

Three Months - Hank

One little steer didn’t make much of a dent in our pasture, so we advertised the field for rent. Some nice folks brought out a couple of horses. Hank was a dead-broke trail horse who was pretty darn old. The owners even gave us a saddle to keep in our tack room so that we could ride him.

Hank was every bit as good as they said - for the first couple of weeks or so...
We rode old Hank nearly every day. He trailed docilely behind us after we haltered him, stood stock still as we mounted, and was neck rained so that all we had to do was bring the reigns to one side or the other and he would mosey in that direction. Hank did take a bit of encouragement to move any faster than a walk, but we were up to the task.

One Saturday Tony rode him first, then handed him off to me. I went for a nice long ride with my neighbor then turned him out into the pasture. The next morning, Michelle came by to see if I’d like to ride again.

“Sure. Saddle up, I’ll be right along with Hank.” I told her.

I went out to the pasture, halter in hand. As soon as I got within ten feet of Hank, he bolted across the field. I grimaced – he could run after all! I followed him to the opposite corner. Swiveling around, Hank dashed off again!

This continued for almost an hour. Michelle showed up, wondering what was taking so long. Being an old rodeo girl, Michelle had quite a few old cowpoke tricks for Hank.

First we walked up to him with the halter behind our backs. No dice. Next we shook a feed bucket. Hank wasn’t hungry. Finally we walked up to him backwards – no easy feat in a field with grass up to your shins, let me tell you. It seems wisdom comes with age, even to equines. Hank wasn’t buying it.

Now I was hot and sweaty and had quite enough from old Hank. I grabbed the halter and jumped on my four-wheeler. When Hank started running for the other corner, I was right on his heels. He was as stubborn as a mule – I was even more determined. I chased old Hank back and forth across the pasture ‘til he was good and sweaty. The next time I tried to halter him, he didn’t run.

Michelle and I got about a mile from home when we met some other neighbors. We had been drooling over Jesse, a black stallion in a pasture down a ways from us. He was everything a black beauty should be – 17 hands tall, glossy black coat and perfectly proportioned. I was thrilled to meet his owners.

We had been standing across from one another, the horses nose to nose, for about fifteen minutes when the ground started getting closer and closer to my left foot. I froze. My forehead crinkled in puzzlement. “Was Hank going to just lie down?” I thought.

I yanked my foot out of the stirrup and leaped to the ground, which was now only a foot from me.

“Don’t let him roll!” Michele yelled. “He’ll bust the saddle!”

I stared at the huge animal. What could I do to keep Hank from rolling, if he really wants to? I dashed to his rear-end and gave him a swift kick with my boot. It worked! Hank jumped up lickety-split. It worked a little too well: he charged down the hill the way we’d come.

Jesse’s owner was nice enough to offer me a ride home – pillion. She removed her foot from the stirrup and gestured behind her. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my foot up that high – the darn thing only hung down to my belly-button.

The cowgirl’s generosity was unending. She jumped down and gave me a leg up. Her friend had to help her into the stirrup – she usually uses the stump in her yard to get on Jesse. I grinned ear to ear, the whole way back. Riding the horse I’d dreamed about when I read those Black Beauty books as a kid was something I’ll never forget. It was all thanks to Hank.

Oh, and Hank, true to his trail-horse nature, had made his way back home. We found him outside our pasture – happily munching on the greener grass on the other side of his fence.

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