Ranch Diaries: Trusting your horse on ice and in quicksand

On the ranch, horses help us through bad weather and barbed wire mishaps on a regular basis.

 

Ranch Diaries is an newtowncarshare.info series highlighting the experiences of Laura Jean Schneider, who gives us a peek into daily life during the first two years of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday.

Every time I see our horses making the trek in from their pasture to the water tank near the corrals, I’m in awe that I get to live in a way where they are an integral part of our ranching existence. To me, they’re not just romantic Western icons: they’ve shaped way that I experience the West. On horseback, I learned to put the tracking skills I was taught as a child to wider use. From my saddle, I’ve come across moose and black bear, lightening-struck Angus bulls and elk calves hidden under tree boughs; I have to trust my horse to be sensible no matter what we encounter. Once, while out checking cattle, Sam and I stopped for a lunch of sardines and crackers and a wolf came within 20 yards of our hobbled horses. They never scented him.

  • Hoot as a three year old.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Hoot, five, and Sam after doctoring a sick steer in the corral.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Raven, 2008.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Roxy and Dot, broodmare and filly 2014.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Sam readies for a ranch rodeo with his horse Frog.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Swanky as a two-year-old.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • The author and her husband on Tomato and Raven in Montana, 2008.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • The day we brought the horses to the Triangle P 2014.

    Laura Jean Schneider

When I stepped off our gelding Raven last fall and rolled my ankle, I remembered how much I have to trust these giant creatures to help me do what I need to get done. Urging my horse into a gallop over rocks, windfalls, and gopher holes to get around a rebellious cow, I have to believe that he wants to stay upright as much as I do. My body has learned to feel how my horse moves beneath me, and it follows instinctively now if my horse spooks sideways or jumps a cactus.

Trust. After spending 16 years with horses, from arenas to wilderness, that’s what I’ve learned. A quote I once read said something about throwing your heart over the jump before following with your horse. I’d say that applies to the kinds of situations I find myself in out on the ranch, navigating old barbed wire fences, steep rocky slopes, and unpredictable weather horseback.

Once I made the foolish error of riding through a stock pond to get to the other side. Halfway through, I realized the bottom was like quicksand. My horse struggled and plunged. I sat helpless as he forced his way through the sludge to the other side. There was only a strip of us not covered in thick grey mud, but we’d made it, thanks his steady mind and perseverance. Years ago in Montana, I was riding too fast for wet conditions and slid through a barbed wire gate. My horse stood quietly as I climbed shakily to the ground and unwound the broken fence and wire from his body. Had he panicked, both of us might not have made it. And I’ll never forget the way my body went motionless as I discovered the hill I was riding a Minnesota neighbor’s horse down was slick with ice, or fail to recall the way his shod hooves sounded as he scrambled for traction.

This dance, this intuitive motion, is why I like using horses to work cattle. As prey animals themselves, many horses understand the reasons cattle act in certain ways, their bodies instinctively moving in reaction to a cow. Here again comes the trust factor: It’s difficult but necessary to simultaneously assure the horse that you’re in control, while allowing him to think for himself.

With horses, there is no room for fear. They continue to teach me to let go of preconceived ideas, old habits and self-doubt. They are best at feeling and experiencing life exactly in the moment. I learn to stay observant of my surroundings, watching their ears prick as they register a sound, smell or sight. When I startle as a covey of quail explodes underneath my gelding’s legs, he never flinches, all business.

Yet freed of tack and his job, he rolls in the sand, shakes and trots out to reclaim that other aspect of himself, the self that bucks and farts and strikes out and wheels like his wild cousin. Be both, he tells me, equal parts careful and free.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • 9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • 57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.