Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cutting Horses I Have Known

I have watched the movie “Tangled” several times with my grandchildren over the last couple of years. My favorite character in the movie is the horse, Maximus, Max for short. He reminds me of several cutting horses that I have known over the years. Max and my horses all had attitude. For the uninformed a cutting horse is one that is used to separate one cow from a herd and keep it separated. In a contest once the cow has cleared the herd the rider cannot use the reins or spur in front of the cinch.

The first one is a stud quarter horse named Sassy Bar Doc. Sassy was about as pleasant a stud horse as you'll ever find. He ran with mares in a pasture for the first two years of his life and every time he got uppity and/or studdily those mares beat the crap out of him. The first time we bred him, he took one look at the mare and turned to me and said “Boss, I don't want any part of this. That chick is going to kick my head in. What's the matter with you, anyway.” We had to put the mare in a breeding chute and then he finally got with the program, when it was clear that the mare couldn't hurt him. Ride Sassy into a herd of cattle and cut one out and his attitude about cows came out. The ears went back and the expression was “ Don't even think about going there, cow. I'm in charge here.” Sassy was in training for the Pacific Coast Cutting Futurity when he foundered; that ended his cutting career. I don't know how good a breeding career he had except the first filly that was his won the Rocky Mountain Cutting Futurity, I think. The photo below is Sassy loose in my arena in Cochise County.

The photo below is also Sassy loose in the arena. Just outside the arena is the hot walker, and to the right is the horse barn. There is also a tack room/feed room, not visible behind the far end of the barn. Cattle pens were at the other end of the arena. A round arena is better for training cutting horses because the lack of corners to hide in keeps the cattle fresher longer. 

The three black and white photos above are of Sassy being ridden by Mike Mowery, a professional cutting horse trainer. Notice the ears back and general attitude. These photos were taken by me for use in advertising.
The next horse is a black mare, a quarter horse, who's name I can't remember. Again she is being ridden by Mike Mowery.

This mare had a real attitude towards cows. She laid her ears back and dared the cow to try something. One got too close to her and she reached out and bit it. That'll teach that stinking cow! Unfortunately I didn't get to ride her too much due to breaking my back and getting out of the business.
A good cutting horse enjoys what he is doing and will cut anything that moves. I've used kids for practice when I didn't have any cattle handy. I had the horse shown below, Dude Magoo, in a pasture with a yearling colt. Dude proceeded to cut that colt and put him wherever he wanted to. Just having fun. 
Below is the young Old Cowboy on Dude in the frozen wastelands of Utah.

Below I am on Dude, cutting a cow. I don't know where those chaps came from; I must have borrowed them. I don't think I ever owned fringed chaps.

The next three are me and Dude in training. Notice that attitude of his, daring the cow to try something. Sorry about the quality of these. They were taken on a high speed Ektachrome and push processed and have not withstood the test of time well.

This is Dude and I after a training session. 

Dude was a great horse; I have written about him in a separate blog entry, Dude Magoo, 7/11/09. A good cutting horse is a real asset in ranch work. Someone asked me to help them separate some cattle one day. They said it would take all morning; they were going to do it on foot. It took Dude and I 15 minutes.

This last horse is a filly that I bred named Miss Two Pops. I think she is about two years old in this photo. In the 19th century there was great controversy  whether a horse had all four feet off the ground at the same time when it was trotting or galloping. Eadweard Muybridge proved that they did have all four off the ground with an elaborate multiple camera set up in 1872 and 1878, at the request of Leland Stanford.

The first photo above shows Two Pops in the arena, hot walker, house and barn in the background. The second shot shows her with all four feet off the ground. I didn't even intend to capture that. How technology has changed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert

April in the Arizona-Sonora desert is usually a wonderful time. Daytime highs are in the 80's and 90's, with the nights cool and pleasant. This is also when the desert really starts blooming. Wild flowers, trees and cacti all get into the act. What follows are some photos of this spring flowering taken in April 2013 and April 2014.

The first series of photos, five in all, focus on brittle bush. Brittle bush is a common small shrub of the Arizona-Sonoran desert. It is called brittle bush because it's woody stems are brittle. There is always brittle bush blooming in the spring; some years much more plentiful than others, depending on rain fall. These photos of brittle bush are all from April 2013, off the Four Peaks road north of Phoenix. 

 In the photo below is a barrel cactus with green palo verde trees in the background, which have not yet put out their yellow blossoms. I believe the small orange flower is a globe mallow.

The next three photos are of ocotillo. Ocotillo is a woody plant with long slender branches reaching up from the ground. They have an orange blossom on them in April. If you cut one of the branches off and bury the cut end in the ground it will grow. In southern Arizona it was common to do this,  weaving the ocotillo with wire fence, creating a living fence. Very good for a small corral. An added bonus is that the ocotillo has very sharp thorns. In my experience they tend to grow on rocky hillsides, sometimes in thickets. A helluva place to have to get a cow out of.

The next two photos are of palo verde trees. They are called palo verde because they have green bark. They cover themselves with yellow blossoms in April. One of my favorite trees. These two photos were taken this April in a wash on the Florence-Kelvin “highway”. The small orange blossoms in front of one of the palo verdes is globe mallow, I think.

The last photo is of a hedgehog cactus in bloom, taken off the Four Peaks road. The hedgehog grows close to the ground and has this beautiful blossom. A favorite cactus  of mine.