The little horse with a big heart..

10173565_10203892468536547_6650411374466403385_n

He was small, stout, nervous and had the type of heartwarming personality most people would kill to exude. When he walked across the roadway from one ranch to another we knew right away he was something very special.

As with all things special, he came with a story.

My son had been desperately searching for a good rope horse. As rodeo was progressing so were his roping skills and a good sound horse was on the agenda. One day at a cutting my neighbor saw me from across the parking lot, we made eye contact and he headed my way. A solid handshake and hello was followed with; I heard your son is looking for a horse? I said yes and he went on to tell me about this gelding he had that hadn’t made it as a cutter but had so much personality and drive my neighbor just couldn’t let him go. The problem? This horse needed a job. It was killing my neighbor to see such a wonderful horse with so much to give doing nothing and if my son was interested, after a test ride or two we may be able to strike a deal.

Of course I smiled, it sounded very promising and I said we would be over that week to take a look.

We walked across the road one afternoon and after the cordial hello’s, an introduction to the horse and a few laps around the indoor arena it was apparent these two were going to get along. My son was smiling from ear to ear riding this flashy paint gelding with an obvious personality twice his size. My neighbor was smiling too.

It was time for the deal making.

My neighbor helped the boy untack the horse and then pulled him aside. With a stern look on his face he proceeded to list the good, the bad and the ugly as all good horsemen should because no horse is truly perfect. Afterword’s it was time to negotiate a price. My son asked timidly how much for such a fine horse. My neighbor replied $5 dollars. Shocked my son repeated this monetary demand ensuring he’d heard it right! Yes this horse was being sold to my son, on this day only for the amazing sum of $5 dollars! He was also being sold with a thirty day money back guarantee! If for any reason my son changed his mind or decided the horse was too much animal he could simply walk said horse across the street, no strings attached and receive his $5 dollar bill back! Now after thirty days our neighbor made it very clear he would still take the horse back but he was keeping the $5 dollars.

My son ran across the street to gather his money and paid him promptly with a handshake and a gigantic, beaming smile.

Twoey set foot on our place and within minutes we all thought he was great. He seemed to be smiling and he acted as though he wanted to talk with you. Over the next year, hundreds of hours of practice and bonding between him and my son led us to know and understand just how great he really was.

Within two weeks we set out to get him into a great roping program with a well-known trainer. We loaded him up and dropped him off at the facility of our choice. After three weeks we received a phone call from the trainer. The call that morning was to initially let us know it just wasn’t working out. His nervousness, big engine and inability to focus were detrimental to becoming a rope horse. We of course also heard repeatedly just how sweet he could be and that everyone in the barn loved him! This was no shocker to us! But then something happened. On that very mornings practice everything clicked and the small, nervous horse with the giant engine and sweet disposition was repeatedly roping one steer after another. The trainer in a matter of hours had changed his mind and was requesting we keep him there a little longer.

When Twoey finally came home he pranced around our place like he was a Lipizzaner stallion! As though not only he knew he had accomplished something great but we all should bask in the glory of his accomplishments too! My son and he over the next month grew closer and closer and it didn’t take long before he could call Twoeys name and the horse would cover hill and dale to get at my boy. Lip quivering with excitement all the way.

Sometime later my neighbor ran into me again and asked how the horse was doing? I replied great, then explained all the training he’d undergone. My neighbor asked; how long did it take you to get him into a horse trailer? Shocked by the question I replied; I opened the door, said Twoey load up and pointed inside. Without hesitation the horse walked in and I closed the divider behind him. I had no idea he’d never, ever been in a trailer before. And just like that, there it was, the beauty of this horse. His mind always turning, thinking, he was willing to do anything to please you, to get a treat or a pet, he would literally do what ever it took to make you like him. He was a 1000 pound four hooved puppy dog that you just happened to be able to saddle and ride.

Not only was he taught to team rope or more precisely work in the role of a heel horse. But after a year on the ranch, my son also taught him to be a calf horse. He learned how to work cattle both in the pen and on the range, he roped, doctored and branded and he never, ever flinched. Not once.

Twoey also decided he really liked people. All people, and camera;s too! He was a super camera ham!! But he especially liked children. If he saw you near the fence he would always be the first to greet you, let you pet him and even give you a kiss. His nervous lip would always be quivering but it was his style and oh what an endearing style it was.

Four years later his paddock is right next to the house, he and his buddy Levi (the bulldogging horse) run around like mutt and jeff. They are inseparable. They travel to rodeos together, live together, eat together and look out for one another. Every time I see my son walking them from one paddock to another without halters, no worry as to whether or not they may leave him in the dust. Heads down, calm demeanors, moving alongside him like something straight out of a western, well it always makes me smile. Whenever I come home he is the very first horse I see and he will remind you he is there by knickering at you. If I’ve had a bad day, his quivering lips and kisses always make life just a little better.

Today at work I received the phone call no one who owns horses ever wants.

Twoeys hurt and it’s bad. You need to come home now!

Not knowing the situation I chose to wait until I got home and put my eyes on things before alerting my son who was at work. Yet as I pulled in the driveway a burgundy blur that is his F-250 flew by in a cloud of dust. No notification needed.

Walking into the barn I knew instantly it was bad, very, very bad. The long look on several faces as our borders gathered to help in any way was all I needed. Rounding the corner I see him, lip quivering, soaked in sweat, holding his left hind leg in the air while my son is squatted nearby holding his head in his hands. He knew it was bad too. Again, no words needed to be spoken.

Looking over my sons shoulder the picture became much clearer. A full avulsion from just under the Talus all the way down the leg to just above the Long pastern bone. Gone were the middle ligament and the lateral tendon, remaining was nothing but shredded skin and white, clean bone. It was so massive and mesmerizing I couldn’t believe this horse was even standing. My jaw was on the ground and the sheer size of this injury and the fact this horse was still upright wanting to be pet and kissed was boggling.

Our vet was out of town, several backups were called, but in the end UC Davis was notified and two vets were sent right away. Twoey’s lip quivered, his ears were up and forward, he licked his lips and looked as though he was wondering why everyone was making such a fuss over him. We gave him some medication to make him more comfortable and we waited. The dreadful long slow mind fucking wait!

During this time we found out he and Levi had somehow escaped, running through a fence while on their escapades. No one saw the accident or even how it happened. All anyone knew (including my daughter who saw them running about) was they were out and something just didn’t look right with Twoeys leg as he was running.

Our neighbor came over and assisted with his old horse. I was very glad to have him there, decisions needed to be made and it was comforting to have someone else to bounce things off. Twoey was surrounded by people who loved him and we did our best to keep him calm. My son was falling apart on the inside but very stoic on the outside. We both never said it, but each eye contact we made we knew the direction this was headed and it was tearing us both apart inside.

The vet arrived, several photographs were taken and consultations through the latest in technology led to only one plausible outcome for our dear sweet boy.

Today at 5:30 pm, under the old oak tree on our property our friend, my sons best friend, the face of our ranch after the passing of Tank (another story) and one of the smartest, sweetest horses I have ever known was laid to rest in tall green grass with those who loved him the most right by his side.

My son sat next to his head, stroking his mane and made direct eye contact with his buddy until the very last breath was taken. He and I hugged, we both cried.

Twoey was gone.

We gave my son some time alone with Twoey. There is a special bond between a boy and his horse, especially when that horse was the first one you ever trained for yourself, purchased with your own money, taught to come like a dog, give kisses only when asked and ride trail until there is no more trail to ride.

That horse loved him, believed in him and trusted him all the way till his very last breath. That is an amazing bond few youngsters from 13-17 will ever know.

When I came back after signing paperwork I rounded the corner headed towards the old oak tree just in time to see him. Sitting there on the ground, his arms around his horse and although I know he won’t admit it, he was crying. As a father it was the hardest thing to watch. It made my heart painfully, crushingly hurt and broke my spirit just a little more. Nothing in this world is more painful than the suffering of your own child. Nothing is more painful for a child than saying goodbye.

As I write this, I am in tears. Not for myself, not for Twoey as he feels no more pain, but for my son as he is going to feel lost and filled with anger and sadness for a while. Also for our family, I have two younger children who adored him and are in disbelief he is actually gone. I am also sad for our friends who knew Twoey through rodeo, interacted with him and all that knew what a sweet horse he was. I’m crying because our family is now missing an important stone in the foundation of our ranch.

Our boy is gone forever, this $5 dollar horse, the kind of horse and story no one believes until they see it for themselves. May he run heavens fields free, I hope he is with his old rodeo traveling partner Tank. Maybe Cooper is running alongside, barking and chasing his tail. May he know just how much we all loved and adored him? May my son rest easy soon and not dwell too hard on the tough decisions life brings. Even though they at times are dreadfully painful. His final words to me tonight were; this has been the worst day of my life.

I know deep inside, right now he is beating himself up thinking, just one more ride, why couldn’t I have had, just one more ride…..

Advertisements

7 Habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

 

parker-rodeo

 

I read an article today on being a grateful athlete in todays world.

The article was called; 7 Habits of a grateful athlete. It was authored by Brian Smith and can be found at www.athletesinaction.org

As I read through this article I found it refreshingly mirrored some of the very qualities we have been teaching our children. I then sat back and pondered what the 7 habits of a grateful rodeo kid would be? Using my own beliefs and the beliefs of many of my fellow rodeo parents, I came up with my own spin on the topic. My list holds a few similarities but also a few sport specific beliefs that many parents such as myself and my wife uphold on a daily basis.

Before we start though lets have a refresher for those who are unfamiliar with Rodeo and its concept.

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

~Wikipedia~

My wife and I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next everything including horses at the drop of a hat without any consideration the equipment they have is fine and the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to a child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome of a run! A simple reminder that this moment you are in was the luckiest, best thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how poorly you may have done, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But take your time, wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

The son teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful.

With that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, it all takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance they get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here rodeoing with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

 

He wasn’t just a horse…

tank-5

When we received the phone call my wife sat me down and prepared me for the next statement. No it wasn’t anything drastic, we had been looking for a cutting horse for some time hoping to start Jake in that direction.

But with myself having grown up around horses and on a working horse farm she knew the words coming out of her mouth were instantly going to be met with resistance.

“I think we found a horse for Jake, I am going with our friend to look at him”

Me: Cool you found a nice gelding for Jake to ride?

Her: Um, no he’s a stud.

Cue: opinionated, I know more than you, obnoxious, are you freaking crazy look.

I ranted for a minute or two about the dangers of a stud in conjunction with no child should be on, near or around a stud let alone further learn, hone or develop their cutting skills aboard a stud! WE DON’T NEED IT, DON’T WANT IT, AINT HAVING ANY OF IT!!

Lil War Peppy- A.K.A Tank arrived at our doorstep the next day, out of shape, with long incorrect feet and a studly bellow which let everyone know on our ranch that although he didn’t exactly look the part, he was the new master of this domain.

I shook my head.

Tank was born April 6 1992 on Village Creek Ranch in Burleson Texas. He was born a direct son to the great world champion Stud Peppy San Badger who was introduced into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Yes he had royalty in his veins and soon enough we would see it shine through.

He traveled around a bit after his four year old year, moving to Wynnewood Oklahoma, the Compass R Ranch in Campbell Texas and through a sheer stroke of luck after a series of unfortunate events our little Blue Sky Ranch right here in Winters Ca.

We knew the minute this out of shape, screwy footed horse stood in front of a cow inside an open arena we had in fact made the right choice.

The very moment he unloaded out of the trailer and I was finally able to be face to face with this majestic diamond in the rough I knew my wife was right, and I needed to just shut the hell up.

I heard about these fabled stallions, the ones that don’t act like idiots all the time that actually listen, even when surrounded by mares yet I didn’t believe. Every stud horse I had encountered my entire life had always been an idiot. Oh some were sweet as pie as long as they were isolated or surrounded by very docile geldings. But never had I seen a stud who was gentler and sweeter than any gelding could ever be.

Tank took some conditioning and gentle, corrective foot care to get him back in line. He had a horrible split in his right front hoof that took almost two years to completely repair. He was a little stand offish at first and after a few weeks of me establishing some solid ground rules he slowly came to realize this was indeed his home and no one was going to pen him up or harm him in any way.

My son Jake, took to him right away, and he to Jake. The horse was a bit rusty and he favored his right side but with some solid schooling from Wes Johnson Cutting Horses and a bunch of lessons with junior aboard the two became quite a team. They rode almost every day and it wasn’t long before Tank was following Jake along like a puppy. And right there is where I saw it. I saw the look, in his eye, his neck, his relaxed demeanor and his ability to adapt to whatever Jake asked of him. Tank knew when Jake wasn’t doing it right and I can’t tell you how many times I watched that horse scoop the kid up during a run! Jake was out of position so tank would lose the advantage and place himself out of position to scoop the kid back up hoping not to lose him while getting back to work.

tank-4

Whenever Jake was around Tank would lower his head and listen intently, it was a thing of beauty. Occasionally he would remember he was a stud, but with a little correction he would fall right back into the fold and remember his place.

Now not everything was always daisies and roses, there would be times when Jake would cross up signals or Tank just simply hadn’t been warmed up enough and he would say screw you guys and get a bit broncy. One time in particular I think Jake was about 12, during a practice Tank just flat had enough of the crossed up signals bullshit and after several attempts to save the kid told him to get off! As a father in my opinion it was the greatest moment of that kid’s life! He rode that bronc all the way across the arena, with two old guys (me and Wes) screaming ride er cowboy!!!!! They made it to the furthest wall when Jake did the unthinkable. He reached out mid buck and grabbed for the fence line. One of the deadliest mistakes any cowboy can make. Grabbing the fence mid buck is a one way ticket to some missing teeth, a broken rib or face and even death. You always ride it out and if you start losing it, look for a spot out in the open where you can hit the ground and roll away without harm. Never wedge yourself between a fence and a firing set of 1400 pound hooves.

Luckily for Jake Tank bucked off the opposite direction. Jake sat for a moment stunned at what just happened. Looked at us both, started to snivel a bit and then said; DID YOU SEE THAT??? I RODE HIM!!!

We all laughed and with a little coaxing, a minute or two of schooling by Wes and Jake got right back on and finished his set. It was a defining moment for them both.

The two of them went on to win a few things and finally came up reserve grand champions in our cutting club before we figured out just why no matter what we did this horse favored his right side.

He had a bum shoulder. We will never know if he injured it as young colt or even as a young stud. He spent ten years on one ranch with little on record to show for it. But no matter the limitation that horse would always give you his best try. It was just who he was, and if he couldn’t do it he still tried.

Over the years Jake moved on to younger, more agile and skilled horses and Tank became mine. I rode him three to four times a week, keeping him in shape and would cut on him to sharpen my skills. He was solid and slow and not always correct which allowed me to focus on my riding ability instead of the horses ability to cut. As long as I always remembered to go easy on that right side, we would be just fine. I got what I needed and he always strutted out of the arena feeling accomplished.

Eventually he became my turnback horse. It was the one job he truly loved. He always knew when we were headed out to the practice ring or off to a show. He would get excited and call for me as soon as the trailer backed up to the barn. He didn’t care for corner work, but that’s because I think he wanted to cut the cows, but he loved turning back, more specifically the left side of the arena. He could push off that left front much better on the jump so he knew his place inside the fence line.

Over the last three years of his life, he taught several kids how to ride, made several more happy to have a horse to ride, was used for senior pictures and was the go to horse for our youngest Parker. Tank and I also participated in a Sutters Fort reenactment where we rode in together as mail call for the settlers. He loved doing it and would get super excited as we rode around the park surrounding Sutters Fort in downtown Sacramento. As we passed people in the park they would smile and wave and he would calm down just so they could pet him. Once away from the pedestrians his head would come up, his ears would go forward and his tail would rise. He would strut, like a king, like the boss, like a stud. Once we passed through the forts front gates, it all went away, and it was show time.

tank-3

He loved those little kids which was the strangest thing to me. When little kids came around he would put his head all the way down to their level and wait. He loved nothing more than their little hands petting his face, stroking his neck and scratching his ears. He wouldn’t move so much as a single muscle. Just stand there like a statue, ears moving back and forth, lips being licked and eyes soft and gentle, not a tense bone in his body. I had somebody tell me once that Tank looked as though if he could have laid on his back like a puppy he would have just so the kids could scratch his belly.

tank-2

Tank became my best friend.

The hours we spent talking, going for rides, helping teach kids, riding alongside others and simply being a team I could not count. He was the first place I would go when walking into our barn. The first one to get rode while others sat saddled and tied to the barn or inside the arena. He stayed with me all day as my mount for when I was helping others. We have gathered cattle, doctored cattle, branded, rode the trails, gone sorting, cutting and worked the alleyways of events. But most all of he listened and gave me consistency when I needed it most. The last three years with Jacy being sick have been hell. He has always been my favorite confidant, that non judgemental set of ears that carried me and allowed me an hour or two of normalcy during our very abnormal times.

No matter what I needed to do, where I needed to do it, be it rain or shine, this wonderful, kind, amazing animal was there for me. I truly loved him.

Tank passed away on Saturday the 17th 2016.

I got the phone call from one of our borders that he didn’t look right. He was breathing hard and not acting his normal self. She had seen him roll in his stall and he just didn’t act right after that. She sent me a video of him breathing hard and although it was hard to see I had a bad feeling.

Our barn manager showed up minutes later, calling me to say it was colic and she was starting treatment. I pulled off the freeway and we both started mass calling Vet’s to get someone there as soon as possible. By the time I arrived I knew it wasn’t good. His demeanor was poor, he was breathing very heavy and soaked in sweat. When I walked up and took him from one of the girls, he sighed heavy and just leaned into me. I stroked his mane, kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

My heart was breaking.

Tank passed away later that afternoon.

I have lost quite few animals in my life. Some were closer than others, but losing this horse was hands down the toughest one to date. What this horse (the one I didn’t want) brought to our family was a piece of fabric that wove us all together. He was the best horse I have ever owned. I can say unequivocally that I loved him with all my heart and as he slipped away with his head near my lap, me stroking his mane, while he stayed relaxed because he trusted me, I could no longer hold back my emotions.

If you know horses, if you love horses than you know just how powerful that moment was, when a stud horse not only trusts you, but trusts you all the way to the very end. He would have done anything I asked of him and the thought of this ranch without him was and still is overwhelming to say the least.

Some will say just get over it, there are a million great horses out there, and yes I will turn the corner from sadness to fondness for all he brought us the minute he crossed through those gates. But for right now, at this very point in time, well, I haven’t even been in the barn. His stall empty, no bellow or happy snort as I walk inside to greet me and no big 1400 pound hug. It just hurts my heart way too much.

Tank is laid to rest overlooking the ranch from under the old oak tree. Right next to him is the founder of our ranch and Cooper’s good dog rescue. Cooper himself. There were two dogs Tank let follow him around. One was Cooper the other is Jack.

I hope his spirit is running wild and free with Cooper right by his side hoping we will see each other again.

I just wish I could ride him one more time, we have so much to talk about……..

tank-1

In the rodeo arena; from my point of view.

I read a story today. (I know shocking right) This story was in regards to ethical behavior, sportsman like conduct and the fine art of propping your competitors up instead of tearing them down in and around an arena. It was a great read focusing on industry and personal growth through teamwork, leadership and mentoring. Although its main reference was rodeo or equestrian sports its message can easily be applied to any discipline.

It also got me to thinking.

Our children learn how to behave early on by emulating us, their parents. As they grow and expand, their brains began telling them to separate from mom and dad, create their own identity and show the world an individualistic side. Yet at the end of the day you, your spouse or significant other have created the very foundation for which they stand upon.

In saying this I have taken note on each one of my children and how completely different they all have become. With differing skill sets, likes and dislikes, mannerism and of course beliefs. Yet underneath it all their mom and I expect them to carry on the very values for which we have instilled. They may shape those values, build upon them, add or subtract certain aspects but at the end of the day there had better be some basics that never wain otherwise I feel we as parents have failed.

Today after reading this story titled: 6 reasons to ignore arena chatter. Found on a FB page named Earn Your Spurs, it also became clear to me that I care about your children as well. I may not know them, but I care about them as only a parent can.

Every rodeo you can find me somewhere around the arena. Whether helping at the stripping chutes, manning a gate, working turn back for the cutting, announcing in the small arena or just being there for our kids and their friends behind the bucking chutes. You will undoubtedly find me with a smile on my face and a kind word of encouragement for your kid, my kid, their kid, hell any kid. I don’t need to know you, I don’t need to personally know your kid, and it is just something I have always done for as long as I can remember. Baseball, swimming, soccer, school events, you name it, I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I used to think I enjoyed working the events because I hate sitting still ( I really do hate sitting still!!!) or because as parents we need to put our time in; events don’t run themselves and it takes a small army to put one of these rodeos on! But I was wrong. I enjoy doing all these things because I believe what these kids are doing is amazing! No matter the sport or dedication, and although for this articles reference my point is centered on rodeo, it makes no difference. To have the guts and heart as a child to participate in these activities we put in front of them, to overcome fear and just participate, well that’s amazing in itself. Yet in this instance from the beginner to the seasoned senior, this sport, this way of life, takes drive, dedication and heart. It is not just you and a ball, or a bat or a pair of pads. It is you and a horse, steer or a bull! A 200-1500 pound animal who at any time can either have the best or worst day possible. It takes dedication away from the arena and the power of a positive attitude to even begin dreaming about winning! It takes an even stronger positive attitude to brush off a loss or mistake and move onto the next event ready to accept any challenge with confidence! But what makes this sport even better is knowing there is a wall of support behind you! That’s right everyone and I mean EVERYONE has your back! Your friends, your parents, and your fellow competitors! These are the people you will rodeo with your whole life, and if you are lucky one day you will meet back here at these hallowed rodeo grounds as parents to foster the next generation of athletes! What an amazing honor!

And that’s what it is for me! It is an honor as a parent to be able to participate in these jobs. To work with other dedicated parents! To be by your or my own child’s side with a positive attitude and some kind words whether they nailed it or messed up big time! It is a privilege to catch their horse, pat them on the back, help them shrug off an awful run and even remind them from time to time that in most cases they need to check themselves before becoming angry with their horse. It is our job as parents to nurture that next generation, teach them that winning at all costs is not fulfilling! Winning comes from hard work and drive, fulfillment comes after giving back and if you are lucky as a competitor you will experience both! If we as adults show this attitude then teach our children correctly, we can stand back and watch with pride as it trickles down or is payed forward.

Having our children give or share knowledge with the new kids on the block is the key to success! Never excluding, but always including them into the imaginary “inner” circle. Showing these scared young new kids they a part of something big! Then sharing their secrets on how to succeed, better themselves, maybe ride their horses a little better, come out of that chute centered and solid, or drop into the pocket quicker and smoother or simply offering to practice on one of their own tie down dummies. Giving back at its best!

When you see this happening, it should be fostered. We are a team. Even though these kids are competing against each other, they should always be propping each other up, cheering each other on and never looking down upon another competitor in our arena. Because in reality if we are all working together, (parents as well) we all win! The goal each and every year is to bring our best to state, then front load the National team with as many of our districts kids as possible! That can only be achieved if we take an as a team attitude right here, right now! Not after the season is over, and we are headed to state and definitely not after state is over, because by then the ability to recognize the importance of supporting one another or our “team” is long lost. If that is the case then we as parents, and our children as competitors will head out into the ring of competition with an “it’s all about me” attitude. It’s hard to compete feeling alone, it’s even harder when you are alone. And for a child, nothing is more devastating than learning the people who supposedly had your back are now tearing you down (parents included) from behind you.

So this year, we should all take a moment to say; good job! Tell a kid they did great, doesn’t matter whose kid it is, let your kids see you propping up others. Re-enforce the amazing benefits of being a team player, a mentor or coach to your children. Remind them they started at the bottom once too and point them towards a new kid to the show. Parents make a point of meeting other parents, new parents and help them along the way. A friendly face and helping hand builds trust. Trust builds confidence and confidence breeds winners.

And the way I see it from my point of view that is what we should all be remembered for.

Not just winning an event, but winning at life….

 

Rodeo

Sun slowly rises from the east, it’s that time of morning when neither dark nor light can decide who has a larger grip on the atmosphere. There is softness in the morning light engulfing all within sight while a single dull ray tries it’s hardest to squeeze through the blinds into my sleeping area. A rattling, squealing noise rambles off in the distance, my groggy head rises from the pillow instantly recognizing it to be a John Deer carefully dragging a plot of dirt that will soon be either a place of speed and scores or a cushion for the unfortunate. It is time to rise.

Coffee brewing brings a smell that always snaps me into the present. My bones hurt and joints crack as I carefully pull my pants from the floor while checking my shirt for damage, or wrinkles that may indicate I slept on it last night. Real estate is a premium inside our 3 horse trailer and it’s not uncommon for clothing, bedding and blankets to become a tangled web easier to let be than untangle. Some days it’s so bad we head out the door wearing whatever comes easiest. When the day is through it really doesn’t matter as most everything we own is covered in a mixture of dust, sweat and animal fluids. It is just the way it is and you wear it with pride.

My son and daughter have risen, our horses need to be fed and so do they prior to today’s activities. Microwavable breakfast sandwiches a cup of coffee/ orange juice, brush your teeth (not necessarily in that order) and its check in time. Afterwards they hook up with friends then start warming up horses. Their day is full, between caring for horses, warming them up, performing, helping in the arena, helping buddies during events then cooling horses off and feeding for the evening they are constantly moving from sun up to sun down. It’s good for them both as hard work, camaraderie and competition help mold them for adulthood.

Stepping outside words of good morning are echoed from our trailer neighbors as well as every parent you come across. Hands are shook, smiles, laughter and stories are the topic of the morning. These are wonderful solid people, many come from ranches and are second or third generation rodeo families. In the distance an announcer is checking his equipment with a repeated; TEST, TEST echoing across the grounds. The grandstands slowly begin filling as family and friends file in to watch the show. It is the very beginning of a weekend that will not disappoint.

A few words from the announcer, the National Anthem then goat tying starts the day with poles running in the big arena. Seniors and juniors vying for opposite space. The sound of two announcers reverberating gives notice to those not surrounding either ring that competition has in fact begun. Nervous parents run back and forth ensuring their kids have all they need while others move about on horseback with all the confidence of seasoned rodeo veterans.

I love the smell of horses and saddles, there is just something about it that leaves me feeling content. When I am around horses, either walking or on horseback my brain quits moving at a hundred miles an hour, my heart rate slows and the world just seems to be, well, at peace. Horses have kept me grounded, given me purpose and I’m always trying my hardest to learn each and every ones personality and quirks. These four legged creatures have kept me sane while missing my wife, both at home and during every rodeo for the last two years. Standing alone, along a fence line watching my daughter tie her goat after jumping from the dizzying height of her little pony there is nothing for me to think about, no stresses, just pride at watching her do something she was terrified to even attempt not that long ago.

As quickly as I am at parental peace with my daughter, my son texts me that it is time. Saddling his rope horse, climbing aboard and heading into the warm up pen we slowly work up from walk, trot to lope. Some good solid stops getting lighter in the mouth each time and he is ready to go. My son is aboard the Steer Wrestling horse trying his best to clear his mind, readying himself for competition against some of his closest friends. In no more than two hours’ time we shift gears and horses warming up the turn back horse and cutting horse. There are many events in rodeo and his events of choice are Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Cutting and Steer Wrestling. My daughter competes in Goat Tying, Poles and Barrels.

When not warming up our horses, I enjoy helping during the cutting with turn back duties and then it’s off to the return chutes where hanging with my friends watching the performance while moving calves and steers keeps us all busy for the remainder of the day. We stand tall and constantly yell, cheer and help these kids feel good no matter their outcome in the arena. For little do they really know just how amazing they are and as parents standing in the same spot every rodeo we have the privilege of witnessing their continued improvement from countless hours of practice throughout the year! It is a great weekend that’s all about them, a payback for their hard work.

Red sky and a setting sun shining through a permanent layer of dirt hovering in the air tells me the day is done. There are scrapes and bruises, kids kick the dirt from their boots and clothes, while chaps and bull ropes are hung with care. The announcers’ booth powers down, arena lights begin to glow and the stands are emptied. Horses are washed and fed, bbq smoke and laughter comes from every camp as war stories are told with glee. A perfect tie-down, the best team roping time of the year, did you see the air under my but when I got bucked off? Laughter and friends after a long day helping knock off the day’s highs and lows, chuckle at knuckle head moves and pat those on the back who lead in their events. Young men and women forging friendships they will have for life over a shared love of friendly competition and the ranching way of life. These kids or small adults wander the grounds in packs like coyotes looking for their next free meal or easy place to crash. They are funny little versions of ourselves who pretend to the best of their abilities to appear grown-up. I love watching them interact with each other, they are truly funny. At the end of the day these are the stories we adults will share with our grandchildren.

Country music blares from every corner of this place as I sit in my chair, boots off, enjoying a beverage, soaking it all in while wondering just how much longer I am going to make it before falling asleep. Before long I have my answer. It is dark, chilly and a fire is blazing for warmth, most everyone has already crashed with the exception of a handful of us. My son heads in to hit the hay letting me know what a great day it’s been, my daughter is out cold in her tent. Once inside he is out cold in two seconds. Turning everything off and checking our horses one last time after bidding a goodnight to our friends I slowly make my way inside, my pants hit the floor and somewhere there is a clean shirt hidden inside my messy bunk. Oh well, stretching carefully across it, before I can completely exhale my lights are out and tomorrow the smell of coffee will start this cycle all over again. What a great life!

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo…

 

My little angel might be no angel at all…

What you are about to read is an opinion; it is not a solution, it is based upon expressed emotions pondered for a specific amount of time. We (as a society) are allowed opinions afforded us through the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Although we are afforded these rights, I will never abuse that privilege. I have and always will take very seriously what ever opinion is put forth by my ever spinning brain.

I purchased a laptop, and promised stories would continue, I wrote a few relatively funny snippets about parenthood but just could not bring myself to post them. Why? Life got in the way, and my sense of humor has been affected.

Over the past couple of weeks since posting my last story a multitude of events have transpired both locally and nationally  leaving me wondering what the hell?

  1. A warning comes down from the federal government stating that ISIS is now looking at soft targets.  That is right; no longer are we safe in our homes as operatives are now individually targeting military personnel, (first and foremost) police officers, politicians and firefighters.  We now have terrorism at its very core.  When you become afraid to post with pride what you do for a living through social media, walk out your front door, and fear for your family’s safety.  Our country has a serious problem. Note I said “fear” because that is the root of terrorism. It may never happen, it probably will never happen, but the fear is always there, always present.  For this I have no comment other than to shake my head in sadness for our country.
  2. School shooting in Washington.  We have all read or watched the reports.  Teenage boy gets together with his closest friends during lunch like he does everyday then pulls a gun from his backpack and proceeds to shoot them in the back, in the middle of the cafeteria, with all to see.
  3. Teenager walks towards a high school, back pack containing a handgun and several rounds of ammunition.  A friend of said teenager feels comments he made the previous day are of concern, notifies school administrators that this teenager had in fact made credible threats in regards to coming to school and shooting several individuals, including a teacher that very day. (this is all para-phrased) Long story short-cops look for teenager, teenager finds them first unloading several rounds into unsuspecting patrol car, barely missing the police officer inside. Short chase ensues, face off happens, teenager ends up with a superficial wound after being shot (public knowledge) by police.
  4. A young girl decides she has had enough.  After some discussion with her mother she disappears from home, the police are called and a missing persons report is filed. What no one knows or could have known was this girl proceeded to walk towards the train tracks and step boldly in front of a 70mph Amtrak train. I say boldly because it takes a certain amount of resolve/inner pain to willingly step in front of a moving train. It makes me nauseous just thinking about it.  It was my shift, my guys responded to the incident, and all though it is not the first time nor will it be the last time for our crew dealing with such a morbid scene along the railway. It has forever changed the face of suicide for each and every one of us. Her reasoning for taking her life stemmed from bullying.

These four things all happened with in the last few weeks.  I have screamed at the television, written a few things in regards, decided the tone was all wrong and deleted the subject matter. I as have all of you, have sat patiently while political pundits cast stones in all directions away from any responsibility their own party may bear.  I am frustrated, confused, disgruntled and angry! As a parent it makes no sense to me why we can’t create solutions! Instead we all sit by as the news media (who cares not one bit about finding an answer through non bias reporting, but instead thrives on ratings and if there are none then the story disappears forever) gnaws on the raw meat that is our emotions. My emotions are raw as well. I have pondered and pondered, written and as I stated before, erased. My blog has always been about my life, the life of my family, the fun and exasperating moments along the way. I never want anything on my page to become a political debate as it takes away from the fun.  Unfortunately this is still about my family as I have been affected personally by each of these 4 stories. Number #1 is self-explanatory. The shooting in Washington, #2, only in relation to #3 as my crew responded to this incident, and the “what if’s” rolled fast and furious afterwards. What if he made it to the school? What if-it turned into a mass shooting are we prepared? What if- my son was one of the victims could I have continued to do my job? Number #4 was also my crew and opened my eyes to what is out there, pulling my head from the sand and re-evaluating my own personal responsibility when it comes to our children. Remember these are only my opinions, and although many may disagree I am open to any conversation that is held respectfully on these topics.

  1. More gun laws- More gun laws are not the answer. I would like to say they are but they are not. The answer: allow our police officers to do their jobs, then hold the courts accountable for not upholding the strictest of sentences when these laws currently in place are broken!!! We don’t ever hold our court system accountable! It amazes me that a drug offense is stricter than a gun violation. Our country screams for justice, why are we not starting with the justice system! We knee jerk react instead of planning for the future in turn we allow another idiot politician to revel underneath his own fodder, founding a bill in their
    name so he/she can pat him/herself on the back a little more.  Here is another idea, how about a revision of all laws currently on the books in regards to guns? I bet there are many that are redundant or have no bearing what so ever in this supposed civilized society! Listen people a sign at school that says this is a no gun zone doesn’t mean shit to an angry person hell-bent on vengeance.  And if it’s not a gun, then maybe its a crossbow, or a knife or what ever that angry person is using in the commission of a crime. Hell a weapon is not a description used solely for guns as the news media would have you believe! A weapon is any object used in the commission of a heinous act.  I get it, put up the sign which creates another charge added to the suspect, but that leads us back to my original complaint! Our justice system. Now before you get angry with me, I am neither pro-nor anti gun.  I am for reasonable people making reasonable decisions when it comes to our future as a society. Something I feel we have lost.
  2. Bullying- Ok so we have all been bullied at one time or another in our lives. If you have read any of my stories than you know in high school I was a bit mouthy (yes that means I bullied a time or two as well).  Got myself into trouble and at times ran scared (being bullied in return).  The ability to handle those situations and learn from them is what made me the person I am today, it developed my character.  We as parents cannot protect our children from everything and at some point they (our kids)  need to learn to stand up for themselves, hopefully with our help and guidance. Although that all sounds good and fine, it is not happening, the problem lies with our current way of living, our social structure, the need for rapid gratification! What is the problem, the root cause you ask?  Social media and a severe lack of respect! Not just for others, but for ourselves! Our children are not equipped for what lays in wait for them on the internet, like a wolf hiding in grandmas dress waiting for little red riding hood to come through the door, so does the internet. We have provided our children with too much! To much freedom, too much trust, to many  electronic gadgets with windows to a world we just can’t keep shut from prying eyes! Television shows  that exemplify treating your best girlfriends like shit, talking behind their backs, having sex as a social status in school! Teenage girls portrayed as sluts, hookers, meat for young boys to have anyway they wish and whenever they want! And if you don’t give it up, you are anonymously trashed on every social media site available! FB, Yik Yak, KIK, Snap-chat all there to post how she was a slut, what degrading acts you performed on her (or really didn’t but by lying about it you keep your rep), why she should sleep with your friends-oh hello snap-chat! Here is a picture of her naked everyone, I took it with my cell phone camera! I promised I wouldn’t show any one, but I lied! Also On the Snap-Chat front, girls willingly sending pictures of their boobs to boys! What the hell! It’s no wonder bullying is such a problem! Dont believe me?                               I will use Yik-Yak as an example. I downloaded the app, set my geographical area to the center of my town, within one hour I knew where to go for drugs, who was looking to score, what girls were hoes (yes I even knew a few of them) whose ass was so hot it needed to be (one boys own words) POUNDED! I now know the description of several shapes of a penis’, the detailed description of both what its like having inter-racial sex and sex between boys, what group everyone wants to kill at school, who the hottest teacher is everyone wants to sleep with, and so one. And I really mean SO ON!!! Oh and let me add I only chronicled the boys here, the girls are just as descriptive, mouthy and vile. As a parent I have never been so disgusted by what I read in a very short period of time.  Did we talk this way as teenagers 35 years ago? Hell yes we did, not to the extreme I am reading here, but yup! It happened. The difference is it was between us, our small group, done in person and if you crossed the line it was handled then and there, either with apologies afterwards or some smoothing over that took a few weeks.  Today they are all hidden behind a veil of secrecy, they can say what they want without retribution, it gives them power! It creates monsters that have no repercussion for their actions. The ones with no conscience, or parental guidance will only grow bigger and stronger until someone decides they have had enough, choosing to step in front of a train as their only option, as opposed to seeking help, receiving that help and living.

Unlike the gun control debate where I only provide a suggestion; I think I have a solution to help us begin to conquer our social media related troubles.

  • We can start by eliminating cell phones from campus.  I am sorry your little angel is at school and you need to get ahold of them right now, but guess what? THEY ARE AT SCHOOL!!!! We didn’t have cell phones at school in my day and our parents got along just fine without us! If little Johnny needs a message from you then go through the office! Its called the chain of command. Something we use to a T in the fire service.  If you don’t allow your school to guide and control the motions and activities of your child while they are on campus then you are circumventing the system and empowering your child. You are telling your child they are more important than the lesson being provided which in turn takes away from the respect due towards the instructor inside the classroom.  Eliminate phones and you eliminate distractions, kids texting kids, taking pictures, surfing the internet. Dont tell me your little one would never do that, because I guarantee if given the chance they will. If we can’t take them away (cell phones) maybe just as a few of these social apps restrict their use while near a school campus, we jam all cell signals within the same specified area, neutralizing the temptation. Just a thought.
  • Mandatory bullying class- a class taught by adults, sharing their experiences being bullied. Bullying doesn’t just happen to children, it also happens to adults, if we are to become this great civilized society, an example to all around the world then why aren’t we educating ourselves in regards to the destructive nature of bullying.  Why are we not recognizing the life long damage it can create? Why are we not empowering the weak, celebrating the strong and bringing them all closer together.  Our society currently crushes the weak, watch any teenage show on Disney and prove me wrong. We are teaching our children to cast them aside instead of standing up, protecting them, and showing compassion. Our children, parents and siblings should be supportive, creating change, providing a better society that thrives on pushing forward mankind, people’s rights and ability to thrive. It sounds nice I know, I also know we can’t save everyone, but education has and always will be the key.

So there it is, its off my chest. Like me or hate me, agree or disagree. I felt it had to be said. I am tired of fearing for our world and what we as adult are allowing to happen. I am just as guilty as the next person. My children are just like yours and given the same opportunities will follow the very same paths without proper guidance from their mother and me.  In the end, it comes down to this, we are trying our hardest to raise respectful, well-rounded children who understands the needs of others. It’s a hard enough job parenting with both of us working multiple jobs and running from one kids sporting event to the next, but it is what we signed up for and we all need a little help now and again.  I also never want to see another young child take their life, or see a kid who is so frustrated they feel killing someone or there fellow students is the answer. Because it never is.

Betty is sad………

 

A boy finds a horse…or did a horse find a boy?

When the dust had settled he stared into the soft, red dirt scattered around his partners feet.  Frustration filled every fiber of his body, anger brewed deep inside as he coiled up his rope slowly, deliberately as if this woven, intertwined piece of apparatus had feelings to be hurt by such forcefulness.  He had missed his throw again, leaving his header dragging the steer alone. Team Roping* is his new rodeo sport of choice, it has a pretty big learning curve and right now this boy is bearing that weight.

Looking at his partner from a distance the appearance was one of a nervous looking paint horse standing silently, waiting, hoping not to fall upon the wrong end of youthful rage.  But nothing could be further from the truth. The boy leaned over gently petting his friend, his amigo, letting him know that he (the horse) had in fact done his job, and done it quite well.  The sole responsibility fell completely upon the boy and as they rode out of the arena only a blind person could not see the anger this boy had within himself.

Toowey is a 12-year-old paint, purchased for the staggering sum of $5 dollars.  Toowey was born to be a cutter * He was purposely bred from a fine stallion to a mare of substantial quality all in the hopes he would someday reign king of his craft. But for poor Toowey that was not to be, for this horse was a thinker, so much so that he repeatedly would get into his own way, not allowing the natural course of action to take place. Thus leaving him without a job. A sorry thing for a horse with such a sharp mind. That was until three months ago when a proposition was laid before this young lad; You need a horse to rope from and this horse needs a job. The owner absolutely loved this horse and could not bear to part with him. The deal was simple, if he works he is yours, if Toowey cannot do the job, bring him home, no questions asked. And just like that a union was formed, and my family is forever grateful for this amazing gesture.

Now don’t think for a second it was that easy, you see two months ago I may have paid $10 dollars to send him home. (joking) But you see the thing about Toowey that makes him different from every other horse (besides the astronomical purchase price) the thing that continues to amaze me about this very animal is not that he needed a job, but that he needed a boy.  You see as I previously stated; Twooey is a thinker, he is also a very fast learner, and yes his ability to over think a situation still gets him into trouble on occasion, but he has an uncanny way of saying he is sorry. Roping gives him the release of responsibility that cutting does not and that fits this horse just fine.  He is also incredibly loyal.

That’s right I said he is loyal, loyal like an old bloodhound or your best friend.  I have been around many, many horses in my 48 years and yes they are all different, they all have personalities; traits we love, behaviors we try to correct and we may even like some more than others.  But I have never seen a horse that loves and loves to be loved by just one person like this horse. I am not talking about leaning into a good scratching or nuzzling up I am talking about devotion shown directly towards one human being.

Twooeys engine is huge! He can go and go and go, and just when you thought he was done, he would go some more.  When we sent him off to roping camp I warned the trainer about the size of this horses engine. It was big! Two weeks in, after checking in with the trainer it was confirmed just how big this horses motor was by him stating he almost gave up. But then like a light switch Twooey started to give, and just like that, everyday he learned more, became faster and stronger, and calmer all at the same time. Twooey finally had himself a bonafide job.

When we went to see him the first time is when I noticed Tooweys love starting to show.  As we walked towards the arena his head hung low, he sat still not a muscle twitching (unusual for him) and then he heard Jake’s voice. The boy who brushed him everyday, rode him in countless circles, walked him in the back and talked to him on the way back towards the paddock.  Tooweys head popped up, ears twitched forward and a loud whinny echoed across the arena.  As Jake approached Toowey could barely contain himself, scooting from side to side, licking his lips, quivering his lower lip.  Jake slowly reached out, placing his hand on Tooweys face and neck, slowly stroking him, whispering; hey buddy I’m here.  The horse stopped moving, dropped his head and leaned into my son.  A heavy sigh released, an eye softened and for a moment all was right in this animals world.

It broke my heart to leave him that night, as we drove back I could tell Jake missed his new buddy as well. Two weeks later when we picked him up, I have never seen a horse jump into a trailer so fast, ready for the long ride home, ready to be back with his rider.

Since that time it has been non stop practices and one official rodeo. There have been little successes here and there as far a this young boys roping goes, but no matter what happens or how it ends each afternoon after leaving it all in the arena; no matter how upset this boy becomes with himself or his performance his horse is there, always leaning into him, sighing heavy, lip quivering, happy to be his partner, his friend.

To have that kind of friendship with an animal as a young boy fighting the throes of testosterone coursing through his veins, competition, hard work and the sting of failure is priceless.

It appears as though the boy didn’t just need the horse, but the horse needed a boy. Some matches we just don’t understand, like a 5 dollar horse who unknowingly needed a home, a job and a frustrated boy who unknowingly needed a new partner and a friend. I believe the lord works in mysterious ways…

10173565_10203892468536547_6650411374466403385_n

*Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.

*Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente) and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header,” the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head.” Once the steer is caught by one of the three legal head catches, the header must dally ( wrap the rope around the rubber covered saddle horn)and use his horse to turn the steer to the left. the second is the “heeler,” who ropes the steer by its hind feet after the “header” has turned the steer, with a five second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.[1]

What if??

calvinWhat if?

As of late I have written about many aspects of our family, between watching my oldest graduate, the 13-year-old head off to compete in Junior High National Finals Rodeo, my two little ones finding their way around horses, softball and the thrill of competing associated with both, and of course my wife’s almost year-long battle with Leukemia. There has been plenty to lament over.

As most of you know I am an advocate for youth and horsemanship. So many of our youth are missing out on the joys associated with horses and the many disciplines that accompany these amazing animals. I feel as though we have the perfect life, its hard and gritty, exhausting and at time debilitating, but it is perfect.  Our children and our animals being the key or center of this perfect life. But being that as it may often times we sit images-8around the back yard with friends, a couple of beers and play the “what if” game. Usually revolving around “what if” you had a million dollars? Or “What if” you won the lottery? How would that change you and would it create the perfect life?

For me the answer is always the same.  While others conjure up majestic fantasies of philanthropy, travel, education, expensive colleges for their children and houses beyond what anyone really needs, all I center on revolves around children and horses.  (Ok maybe a new cutting horse for me, and a new kitchen for the house, but hey it’s my fantasy right?)

My dream centers on taking what hard work, luck and Gods guidance has provided our family, then building upon it.  An entire facility to help kids learn how to rope, cut, run barrels, chute dog, bull-dog, tie down rope, goat tie, etc.. A place where our local kids could come and practice, enjoy their horses, while also enjoying the camaraderie that comes with practicing surrounded by like-minded individuals, friends.  A place for kids to go have fun while learning every aspect of rodeo long after I am gone from this earth.

I can hear you now. Cant you already do that? What on earth would all that money be for? A fully functioning covered roping arena with cattle, ground improvements for year round work, a larger safer all-weather barn, every training aid available for the kids, a covered hot walker and simply put ( I know its selfish) a larger horse trailer and a truck without 200,000 miles on it.

Hey it is my dream.

The funny part about this whole crazy dream of mine, is 10 years ago if you had asked me if I’d ever step foot on a horse again, I would have told you no…..

As I have become older and through the eyes of my own children I have learned of my own short comings, the opportunities I gave up simply by quitting. Whether it was a fight with my parents, the hard work associated or my longing to be anything but what I was; trying to hide from my reality.

1534362_10203543583096759_624480372_nI grew up on a horse ranch. We moved from a very small place in Napa when I was 5 to a nice spread in Sonoma.  My parents had a very large barn, hot walker, paddocks, of course horses and a fully functioning roping arena. I vaguely remember trainers and the occasional times when as a small child I would sit atop the cattle chutes. My parents belonged to Napa Valley Horseman’s Association so once a month we attended dinner meetings and once or twice a month we loaded up and headed out for horse shows.  For me as a small child it was fun, horses were around, trainers and their kids and sometimes we would wait until no one was looking to hitch rides aboard the Hot Walker by clipping our belt loops to the lead lines then hanging on for fun! (This always got us in really huge trouble)

But as I grew older my opinions changed. It has taken me until just recently to understand why? We never had much money so my parents fought a lot about finances and the horses. As young children this was particularly scary. My father’s booming voice was always frightening but never more so than directed at my mother.  I wasn’t a particularly popular kid, early on my social skills were indeed lacking and wearing boots, buckles and western shirts to school didn’t help much either.  But as I said money wasn’t falling from the sky so we wore what we wore and even though I was teased at times I did like my boots.

By the time I hit junior high, 4-H consumed my life, and raising sheep to show at the fair was fun. Thank God for the whole Urban Cowboy thing, cause I was able to wear my cowboy hat with pride. I still dabbled with riding now and again, but gave it up as I felt 546605_3926690932288_428394999_nthere was no way I was ever going to get it right. My mother’s standards were high and I was always looking for the easy way out. This of course caused friction. I still remember everything she taught me to this day, including basic horsemanship principles.  Always accused of never listening or being too lazy finally took a toll upon my spirit as I began believing this to be true of myself as a whole.

My parents had a stud-horse. He was dappled and dark, tall and elegant looking, he was a race horse and had won on the track; he was also a complete asshole.  We were always warned to stay away from this horse although secretly I always wanted to kick his ass.  Even at a young age I can remember daydreaming about being big and strong enough to walk in grab this horse, throw everything I had ever been taught about horsemanship out the window and just plain old-fashioned choke this bastard out! I would stand near his paddock, alongside the shavings pile and stare at him. He would charge the fence, rear up and slam his hooves on the ground, kick, ram gates, and bellow at the top of his lungs. If he ever got out we would have to hide in a stall or the house out of fear.  He pushed my mom around and loathed my father as dad wouldn’t put up with any of his shit! The sad thing is no amount of training changed this horse’s disposition! Being at the barn meant constantly looking over your shoulder out of fear as he would charge the stall door, slipping out of the darkness to take a bite of your head or shoulder as you walked by. In the end, between my own frustrations, my mother’s stern way of teaching or my finding it easier to just quit, any desire or strength I had towards wanting to be around horses finally came crashing down the morning I watched this four-legged piece of crap grab my dad by the chest, pick him up shaking him like a rag doll thusly sending my father to the hospital. It was then and there I put to rest any aspirations of ever becoming a horseman.

Through Jr. high and high school I worked hard at surrounding myself with people who didn’t have anything to do with horse shows, rodeo and the such.  I still dabbled back and forth occasionally, we had a local rodeo for a few years and I always spent the weekend working in the back with my friends, pushing calves and steers, telling a good yarn about how I could do those events if I wanted too, but in the end it was nothing more than a lie, my overwhelming fear of failure or being around any four-legged creature just pushed me further away.  I was lucky enough that my friends who did ride never truly gave up on me. Oh I wasn’t a part of their groups anymore, but friendships remained, I was tolerated and some friendships remain casually to this day.  In truth, looking back I envied them, all of them, but hid in my own shadow for so very long.

430938_10200295633180041_80963042_nI fought for years against who I really was, but every job I ever held, new friendships acquired led to rodeos and occasionally trying new things all leading me back to ranch life.  Looking back now so many years later it was obvious what I wanted, what I needed in my life, I was just too stubborn to accept the reality of it. And as in most cases it took an equally stubborn woman (my wife) to snap me out of that funk some years later, opening my eyes to the possibilities and what I had to offer not only myself but our children.  In the end I feel as though I missed out on the very best years of my life! Training, competing, loving, these wonderful creatures and all they bring to my spirit. Sadly I feel now as though time is running out. The moment in life when I should have been running hard at achieving all that I missed was spent with blinders on using the excuse I was too busy working hard supporting myself then eventually supporting my family; it will always leave me wondering “what if”.

Fast forward to today-to my dream.

My wife and I have worked very hard to develop a place where kids (and their parents), my kids and their1507829_10202417311105686_2144312239_n friends can come, ride their horses safely, without ridicule or demoralization, instilling solid guidance starting with the most basic of horsemanship skills; the very same principles my mother instilled within me.  Where riders can excel; not by just jumping on their horses and running a barrel pattern as fast as physically possible, but by becoming one with this animal that allows them to climb upon their backs. So many children I see today have mom and dad purchase them the fastest, greatest horse; no questions asked and then never take the time to learn about their animal.  What it can do, what it can’t do, why it even wants to do anything at all for you?  These horses are smart and willing; they need guidance, reassurance, praise and most of all love, understanding and patience.46435_10151860711046649_451436046_n

I purchased my first cutting horse when she was two and half.  She was ornery, feisty, with 248288_2071612476486_214666_na huge engine and a strong will. She was also agile, cowy and loved to work.  I was told as a new cutter this wasn’t the horse I should buy.  A fully trained, finished horse was the horse for me. But like so many times in my life, I used my gut to make a decision and it was the very best decision I could have made.  I had something to prove to myself after all those years of running from who I was, and this was the opportunity to put all those doubts to rest.  Her name was Cassie and we didn’t exactly get along from the start, but using what I knew and what a very good friend (Wes) was patient enough to teach me along the way we slowly became one.  Cassie tried my patience and left me eating dirt a few times. (Which in our barn will cost you a case of beer.) We would scrap, things would go south and I would always go back and spend the evening figuring out what I did wrong first; then slowly methodically work on it until we got it right.  We went from black eyes and bleeding knuckles (a term, we weren’t really punching and kicking each other), bent feelings and frustration to inseparable team mates.1380273_10202277018473435_1379866202_n

Today when I come home from work she (Cassie) whinny’s at me, when I leave for work she whinny’s, when I load up the trailer without her, she pushes against the stall door, and if I work another horse before her she mean mugs me and paws the ground every time I pass by her stall.  It took 3 years of steady everyday work for this horse to become good at what she does, but all that aside the very best part of all of this is when I walk her out to the middle of the arena, gently tighten her cinch one last time, climb aboard and feel her sigh a happy sigh of relief as we warm up for whatever today’s lesson is going to be.  When I go in to feed her, change her blanket or just pet her, she leans into me and sighs, dropping her head, letting me know it’s ok as I gently pet her letting her know how much I appreciate her.

Everyone hopefully has something to bring them that much joy after such hard work.

So there it is, my dream and I how I got there. I want that feeling for every child who loves horses, who loves rodeo, who loves and is willing to put in the hard work it takes to achieve, succeed.  I want to provide that opportunity for so many, so one day when they are middle-aged they don’t push back from a desk, step out of their truck, punch out from their job and ask themselves; What if?

10173565_10203892468536547_6650411374466403385_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junior High National Finals Rodeo-Iowa 2014

 

IMG_0949

“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” – old cowboy proverb author unknown

8 months spent practicing, working hard, traveling, keeping our horses and children healthy have all led to this one moment in time.  Jake and I standing in awe at the spectacle that is the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Junior High National Finals Rodeo! A compilation, a cross-section, a melding of all the very best junior high students who have competed their hearts out in multiple divisions! Some have bested competitors and friends in several categories, some made here in only one, but they are here and ready to do battle!

Just so you understand why we are in “awe” here is a sample description of what our eyes behold, straight from the ISF web page. No better description could have been penned.

IMG_0919

The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and reduplicated.

The Iowa State Fair, the inspiration for the original novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, is without a doubt the country’s most famous state fair.

National media frequently rank the Fair as one of the top events in the country. In 2004, USA Weekend named the event the #2 choice for summer fun in America, topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and Disneyland in California.imagesIMG_0910

Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the “Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience.” The Fair is also the only fair listed in The New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the subsequent travel book, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die.

Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Throughout its history, the Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. It is an outstanding agricultural showplace, boasting one of the world’s largest livestock shows. Also home to the largest art show in the state, the Fair showcases visual and performing arts with a variety of special exhibits and activities.

We (the California team) have been graciously welcomed to Iowa. The people here are fantastic! Polite, friendly and caring.  The show that has been put together for these IMG_0928kids is without a doubt unrivaled! From the moment we arrived on Saturday each and every contestant (all 1000+ of them) have been treated as if they all had gone pro! Nowhere have I seen such generosity towards giving each and every child “their” moment. Yes at the end of the week there will be winners, and there will be losers, but each child will have had “their” moment in the sun!

It starts with a green lush campground, where care has been made to keep each state together, golf carts have been provided (at a fee) to help travel across these expansive grounds with saddles, feed and nervous competitors.

Moving to the center of the fairgrounds, the entire area is closed of to traffic (golf carts only) to lessen any chances of injuries to spectators, competitors and animals.  Every manufacture is here in one gigantic pavilion, showing the latest in rodeo gear, tack and animal care products! There are numerous raffles, covering clothing, boots, saddles and yes even a new Dodge truck! Practice roping stations are everywhere for fun and another large building is set up inside as a kids zone for competitors and their family members to go play games, shoot pool or practice roping some more!

The California team consisted of the top competitors in their divisions determined at the state level (just as with every other state). This band of misfits have banded together and for those who didn’t know each other they all are becoming fast friends.  Many of the other states are joining up as well cheering each other on and everyone (parents included) seem to be having a great time.

Sunday morning started with a two-hour meeting which filled the main arena. The rules were laid out and policies explained. The grounds are filled with eyes and any infraction will cost a participant the chance to compete! Sitting in the stands you could feel the electricity as the building was filled to capacity with rodeo kids, friends and family! Flags from all the states represented are flying, including Canada and Australia! Each performance is comprised of 5/6 states with next Saturday being the short go!

The first go was Sunday night, it was a real testing of the waters as far as competition goes and man did the kids live up to the hype! The performances put forth were outstanding! Large groups of parents cheering for their states, kids cheering for friends and the ability to watch everything from both arenas on a large split screen television overhead made the events very entertaining for all involved. By the end of the evening it became clear it was definitely going to be a long week but one they all would remember for the rest of their lives!

 

More to come!

 

Three sons

 

Unknown-8

There once lived a man who had three sons.

A smart one

A big one

and a, well a, very talented, exceptionally gifted, with a wonderful crazy sense of humor one.

These three boys were as different as different could be.

The smart one wanted to spread his wings and fly, see the world, make his mark all while bringing his form of justice to the unjust.  The smart one holds a higher sense of moral responsibility combined with a sly dry whit that usually becomes apparent for those who don’t understand by a wicked smile, etched upon his face.  He’s a charmer when need be, mean when cornered and generous when the moment suits him.  His eyes are piercing, mannerisms awkward at times, he is almost ready to walk forward into adulthood. Handsome and fit, he is everything he believes himself to be. Ready to mount up and ride off into the sunset. This son will go very, very far in this world and I know deep inside no matter what he does it will be a success and he will make it look to have been easy..

The big one- Well lets talk about the big one. When I speak of his size it is in reference not only to his outer appearance but his inner one too.  Big hands, big feet, big arms and legs. Big heart.  He loves a good laugh and is gullible as hell! His smile is infectious, his eyes bright and unassuming.  He will lift a tree off you if you promise to be his friend. He is neither dimwitted nor overly intelligent. Yet his mind works in ways that most with high IQ’s would never understand. If you need help he is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave, that is unless his feelings are hurt, then he mopes for a while, kicks some dirt, forgives you and gets back to the task at hand. He is every-bit the young man I hoped for and someday he will hopefully be every bit the man some mother had hoped her daughter would find.

The crazy sense of humor one- Sweet and cute, silly and timid, sly and outspoken, wild and at times overly emotional, this lad encompasses them all. There isn’t a young woman or mother who hasn’t doted over this charming, good looking young man.  He loves a good practical joke and will do or say just about anything to make you smile. Witticisms roll of his tongue like a barrel through Niagara falls.  He is a mammas boy and you better not hurt him or the smart one and the big one will make your life miserable.  Besides the last time those two checked this lad was brought into the world for their amusement.  He loves all things big and small, and has a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to the lives of animals.  Don’t let that cute smile fool you either, cross him and like the Tasmanian devil you will end up on the wrong side of a knuckle sandwich! Don’t say you haven’t been warned. This boy will always be a charmer and those around him will find him hard to resist.

The man spent all his time trying his hardest to raise these boys. Give them a definite sense of right and wrong, good and bad, all while recognizing the pure evil some people hold inside.  Manners and behavior, work ethic and rest time, just and unjust, teachings done while taking care of a family struggling through tragedy.  The man loved those boys more than anything in the world and wanted nothing more than to see them succeed in life.  Live to the fullest! Never, ever be afraid to follow your dreams, and never let anyone tell you; you can’t! The man spent endless hours working on them, honing them, shaping them for an unknown future, in hopes the work he put in would pay off in the end.  Oh they didn’t always see eye to eye and many times the man would growl like that of a cornered mountain lion only to get a sharp stab from one of the young juveniles wielding a stick. But in the end out of respect the three boys always came around to the mans way of thinking.

He loves them all and they love him.

There once was a man who had three sons…

images-15

 

WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS REFERRING TOO???

Just Kidding

my kids

Oh yeah there is one feisty sister too, but thats for another story!