I’m in Texas for the week, visiting Tom and Mandy and riding reining horses. (Our reining-horse breeding operation is at their ranch.) We’ve had five foals born so far this year—two sweet palomino fillies with stars on their foreheads and snips on their noses, a sorrel filly with a white blaze, and two white-faced colts, one sorrel and one bay. The bay has blue eyes like his father, our stallion Gunners Special Nite. They’re all curious and a little shy, except one of the palomino fillies. She came right up to me in the field. When I squatted next to her, she let me scratch her neck while she sniffed my hair and chewed the brim of my baseball cap.
Last night we drove to Fort Worth for the third qualifying round of the World’s Greatest Horseman contest. Our friend Todd Bergen had the lead after the first two phases: cutting (where they separate a cow from the herd and the horse dodges dramatically back and forth to guard it from getting back) and reining (no cows for this one: a judged pattern of maneuvers—spins, sliding stops, and galloping circles—the showoff versions of cattle herding moves).
In round three we got to see those moves put to work. First was the steer stopping: break out of the gate just behind a running steer, rope the steer’s horns, dally the rope on the saddle horn, and perform a sliding stop to halt the steer and turn it around. Next was the fence work, also known as “going down the fence.” A cow is let into the arena where the horse and rider wait; they “box” the cow at the end of the arena, dodging back and forth to prevent it from running past. Then the rider picks a moment to hold the horse back and let the cow run, down the fence or arena wall. They gallop alongside the cow and finally pass it, stop it, and send it back the other way—a high-speed, close-contact, dirt-flying sequence that happened just in front of where we sat.
If it’s possible to increase the iPhone’s shutter speed, I haven’t learned how. At least these shots give a sense of the action. We’ll be back on Saturday to watch the finals and cheer for Todd.