Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dude Magoo

Dude Magoo was a registered quarterhorse that I bought from a good friend of mine in Utah. He was a four year old gelding, brown, as you can see in the second picture. In this picture, taken in Utah with the young Old Cowboy on him, his mane was growing from having been roached. Dude's sire was a Utah running quarterhorse named Mr Magoo, and his damn was an own daughter of a Texas horse named Royal King, from the 6666 ranch. Royal King was the leading sire of cutting horse dams. I owned two good cutting horses by this mother, Dude Magoo and one other, a mare. When I bought him Dude was well trained for general use as well as cutting.

For the uninitiated cutting is removing one critter, usually a cow, from a herd. Cows are herd animals and do not take kindly to being removed, or “cut”, from their buddies. They try to get back to their friends and that's when the fun starts. The cutting horse's job is to keep the cow from rejoining the herd. The cow can be quick and determined and the horse has to stay between him and the herd. The horse has to be quick, agile, have explosive speed and have a sixth sense about what the cow may do next, This is called “cow sense”, and is something that can't be taught. A good cutting horse has one additional thing: he likes what he does.

Riding a cutting horse while he is cutting a cow is one of the most exciting athletic things I have ever done. You have to hold on to the saddle horn with both hands and don't anticipate what the cow's going to do next. The first time I got on a really good cutting horse I anticipated and soon was plowing up the arena with my shoulder. Not a good idea, even if the spectators enjoyed it.

As you might expect, cowboys started holding contests to see whose cutting horse was the best. Rules evolved so that in a contest the reins must be slack from the point the chosen cow clears the herd and there is no spurring in front of the cinch. Of course as time has passed the prizes for winning have increased dramatically, in both professional and amateur non-pro contests. A champion cutting horse is now worth 6 or 7 figures.

Dude was not an expensive horse. I think I paid $1500 dollars for him. However we won more than our fair share of cuttings, even being Southern Arizona Cutting Horse Association Reserve champion in some category or another, probably novice non-pro. Like in every athletic contest, there is always some guy who tries to buy a championship(see New York Yankees and George Steinbrenner). I loved it when Dude and I whipped guys on their 5 figure horses, including one who had been in the top ten nationally.

Dude liked what he did. I put him in a pasture once with a yearling colt, and Dude proceeded to cut that colt. No rider, no saddle, no bridle, just a horse having fun. We used to practice on goats and kids(human children, not the goat kind). If it moved and tried to get by him, he would cut it.

I used Dude to round up cattle, ride fence, go hunting and for pleasure riding. I even roped off him once in an emergency. He would take care of me. Not all horses will do that. Some look for excuses to shy or buck or look for a low hung branch to scrape you off. Dude was always calm and careful with me. One day we were looking for cattle in some very rough country—so rough I got off and was leading him. I slipped and fell right in front of him. He put one front foot down on my leg and immediately picked it up without putting any weight on that leg. Some horses would have not only put full weight on my leg but kept right on going over me with all four.

Dude Magoo wasn't worth much money, but he was worth an awful lot to me. He was every cowboy's desire—He was a good horse.

A note on the photos
The photo of me sitting on Dude in Utah is a print I found going through old photos. I have no idea who took it or how I got this print, but I am grateful for it. The old photos have very few of me in action riding, branding, cutting, etc. It's one of the hazards of being a photographer. You end up with few photos of yourself.
The photo of me cutting on Dude Magoo was taken in North Phoenix at a trainer's. It was early morning with poor light, at least early, so I chose a special film, Ektachrome 160 with ESP-1 special processing to increase film speed. It did that but at a big cost in stability. The original slide has deteriorated badly. I scanned it and restored it as best I could in Photoshop. Unfortunately this is the best and almost only photo of me and Dude cutting.


  1. I will admit there were a few times reading this where me and Linus were each saying, "I don't understand a word of that." Sometime you'll have to explain to us what all of those fancy cowboy words meant (like "no spurring in front of the cinch" and other such things). I've always been fascinated by this part of your youth. Thanks for sharing. By the way, which horse is it that you have a painting of (that used to hang in my room)?

  2. I think it was Butterfly Daisy, a quarterhorse mare.

  3. All the horse lingo is interesting alright. Interesting memories of a good companion. Mutti

  4. Great story, Mike. Like some legal or medical terms that are used every day in some circles, but not in the general public, it never dawned on me that "no spurring in front of the cinch" was not common. :-) Love the pictures, too. Thanks for sharing. I had a cutter (Wilson) who was a better horse than I was a rider, so I understand what you are saying about the pratfalls of anticipation.

    Any story with a good dig at the Yankees is a good story. :-)

    Mark Haldane

  5. I like the horse's name, but I like all of your horses' names. He sounds like a great horse. Keep writing!