Updated: Dec 19, 2019
People often comment on how i ride horses that have badly injured their previous rider and i work through it with no apparent fear. This is a little story about an incident that truly changed my life and the way i look at being afraid. Below is a distorted picture of that very incident; The day me and nine cowboys and cowgirls got stuck in a pen with a huge, angry mama cow!
A little context...
In the USA cattle are used in a number of events from all the rodeo stuff, to reined cow horse and cutting. When moving cattle around that are used for cutting, they will become dull if they are exposed to horses too much, so its not uncommon for a big 'momma cow' to be put into the herd, and all the young 'fresh' cows follow that one around, similar to a mare and foal.
While working the cattle in the arena, momma cow, seemingly out of nowhere, goes crazy, charges and lifts a horse and rider up with her head. Cutting up the horses belly and throwing the rider to the ground. With the size of the cow, it wasnt considered safe to take the horses back in, so we needed to move the cow on foot. As you can imagine, that was terrifying but we had a few moments to discuss our strategy.
Chris Cox gave us the rundown on what we needed to do and not do. Simply put, if you run away, youre dead. That cow can run a hell of a lot faster than you and once youre on the ground and shes on top of you there wont be any getting back up. *GULP* . That all having been said, these cows are so thick set that their agility doesnt match their speed. So as in the picture, when the cow charges you, you need to circle her until she tires. Then lead her away when she slows.
This was the first time that i really realised that my fear would literally kill me if i obeyed my insticts which were of course to run as soon as you see her charge you. This has helped so much with horses too...
Fear in Horses
When i though about the day that evening i realised that whenever i rode a 'problem horse' my body went into its instinctive state. Leaning forward with tense muscles, all the body's intention to protect itself. The way our bodies do this provide every excuse for the horse to panic. When a horse gets worried, the worsed thing that can happen to them is all of a sudden something tightens on their back and pulls their mouth. Our insticts go completely against theirs.
This has made me change my approach to troubled horses, when i ride these horses now i keep my body as calm as humanly possible, which helps on its own.
Moving slightly away from the incident, when i got into my 20's i really realsied that the best horsemen and women dont have to ride the bucking horses, because they never let the horse get that troubled. These days, i never ride the bucking, I do all i can to never let it get there!
The moral of the story is; Train yourself to move away from your body's natural instincts. When something kicks off, keep your chill and youll find that the problems dont escalate! It really changed my way of working!