eddy Mouse here again! Now, where was I before summer came, and the barn was so busy that I could no longer get to the barn office computer. I suppose the mares need supervision sometimes when they have their foals, but all the activity has kept me from being able to tell you what happened to Rocky after he was separated from Skylark, and sold to a Ranch to learn to become a Ranch Horse.
Well, let me tell you, Rocky worked his heart out, as always, throughout the summer. He had made some friends, and was beginning to getting over his sadness at being parted from Skylark. The food was good and the work, except for roping which he had a hard time with as I told you in part one of this chapter, was not too hard to learn. He was treated well, and the cowboys quickly learned how strong, fit and level-headed he was. He could be ridden all day long for more days a week than the domestic horses before becoming tired or sore or loosing any weight. And, the farrier always commented on how strong his hooves were. Also, having been born in the wild, he knew a few things about survival that the domestically born horses did not. He never stepped in the prairie-dog holes that sometimes seemed to be everywhere, and seemed to spot them long before he was even in any danger of doing so. He always seemed to know the best way to cross marshy areas or streams without sinking too far into the mud, or going too deep into the water. He also knew when it was time to head back to the ranch in order to arrive before dark, and would always try to turn back at that time. Of course, if it were necessary to continue on without turning back at that time, he would obey without much resistence, but it amazed his man that Rocky always knew when they had come to what was the halfway mark on most days.
It was these survival instincts that allowed Rocky to mostly do well that summer. And now I'll tell you how he even saved another horse from becoming seriously ill, and possibly dying from colic, which as you know is a severe stomach ache horses can get when they eat or drink things when they shouldn't. He had been taken out with Skippy, one of his new friends, to check on the fence and water in the pasture where all the cows and their calves were fattening up on the rich, upland, grasses of summer. The day had been hot, and the ride especially long and difficult. The fences were all ok, and the spring was still providing good and plentiful water. Several calves, however, had slipped through the fence, and had been unable or afraid to slip back even when called by their mothers. So the two cowboys had spent several hot and tedious hours that July day getting the calves to go through a gate some distance up the fence line. It was late in the afternoon when they finally turned to go home, and the men had had to ride back at a faster pace than usual to make it in time for dinner.
Upon arriving at the ranch, the two men had left Rocky and Skippy in the care of the young nephew of the ranch owner. He was visiting for the summer, and just learning about horses. He was anxious to do well, and was intent on doing his best for the two horses, but was inexperienced when it came to the care of horses who needed to be cooled out from their work on a hot day. He curried and brushed them, even using a water brush on the parts of their coats which were matted and sweaty from the saddles and girths, which was all well and good. But instead of walking them around to cool them off before feeding and watering them, since horses can get colic from drinking a lot of cold water and eating grain when they are hot, he just turned them out into a small pen after filling up its water trough with fresh, cold, spring water, and putting a large quantity of grain into two buckets. Rocky took one look at the grain and cold water, and felt immediately sick to his stomach just thinking about eating and drinking very much as hot as he still was. He and Skippy took a few sips of the cold water, but he soon stopped. When Skippy started to drink more, Rocky flattened his ears, and made threatening jestures towards him with his head to keep him from doing so. So Skippy gave up on the water, but then turned to the buckets of grain. Rocky then pushed him away from them. Skippy was quite hungry, however, and continued to try to get to the grain, but Rocky was determined to keep him away, and had to act very threatening by swinging his rear around, and pretending to kick him when he got close to the buckets. Fortunately all the activity made quite a commotion, and caught the notice of a passing cowboy who immediately sized up the situation. He quickly removed the grain, and after haltering the horses, he led them around until they were cooled out. When he was completely sure that they were no longer hot, he let them each have a small coffee can of grain and then turned them out into a large pasture for the night, where they would have to walk around as they grazed or went to the creek for water, which would keep them from getting stiff from their work out that day.
The men were not too surprised that Rocky had instinctively known better than to eat a grain and drink large quantities of cold water while he was still so hot, but they were surprised that he also kept Skippy from doing so. They concluded that, truly, these mustangs were great horses, and they went to sleep with renewed respect for Rocky and his kind.
A few weeks later, however, Rocky demonstrated that as a ranch horse, he had some severe limitations. A ranch horse has to have no fear of cows, and has to be completely confident in all aspects of caring for those cows that his man might ask him to help with, which includes roping them in all kinds of situations. Rocky, however, did not care for roping them in any situation. Not only did he feel somewhat sorry for them when the rope tightened over their head or feet and they were jerked to the ground, he also felt that they carried a grudge against him for being involved, and would probably try to get even if they could. So Rocky did not feel confident or comfortable with the roping aspects of his job, and looked upon it as possibly very dangerous to his well-being. His man sensed this, but hoped that he would eventually work into it, since he was, over all, a very willing and intelligent horse. So when it was learned that a young bull had become stuck in the marsh in a side channel of the river, his man thought it would be a good opportunity for Rocky to gain some more experience, and took him out with Skippy and his man to help in the rescue.
The two men roped the bull by his neck and horns, and began pulling him to dry ground. Fortunately the mud wasn't too deep, and the bull was soon unstuck. He seemed to be tired out from his ordeal, and stood quietly while the men dismounted and approached him to remove their ropes. Skippy's man managed to get the rope off his horns easily enough, but just as Rocky's man almost had his rope off his neck, the bull seemed to regain his strength. Although he was of a docile breed of cattle, he seemed to have a sudden change of temperment. He began to shake his head and paw the ground. He glared at Rocky and his man as if he had decided that they were the cause of his earlier distress. Then, just as the rope was almost off his horns, but not quite, the bull charged straight at Rocky. Rocky's reaction was instantaneous. He turned and fled. The rope on the bull was still attached to Rocky's saddle horn, and so although Rocky was faster than the bull, he could not get any further away from the bull than the length of the rope. The men could only watch in dismay as the two animals ran out of control towards the far side of the pasture. It was anybody's guess as to how it would end. Rocky began to tire from trying to pull away from the bull as he was actually pulling the bull along. Would he stumble or fall down and get gored by the bull, or would the bull, who was having a hard time now trying to keep up with Rocky, tire out first. Then, as the two neared the far side of the pasture, it looked as though Rocky was in such a panic that he would not stop at the fence, but would keep going, and risk becoming tangled in the barbed wire in order to get away from the bull. Barbed wire is necessary fencing on cattle ranches to keep the cows in the pasture where they belong, but if a horse gets tangled up in it, the barbs usually inflict permanent damage which can be so severe that the horse does not survive.
Fortunately, there was a small grove of trees between them and the fence. So when Rocky tried to run through the trees, he ran one way around one of the trees and the bull ran the other way. And that was how it all ended. The two animals each came to their end of the rope with the tree holding them from going any further. Rocky was further separated from the bull as they both wound themselves around a few more trees in their attemps to get loose, and soon neither animal could move any further. But they could not reach each other either. The bull was now really tired out from the day's exertions, and seemed to have finally decided to return to his usual docile self. But before the men set him free, they tended to Rocky. He was so scared that for a long time the men could not get close enough to him to remove the rope from the saddle horn and untangle him. He just stood there in a lather, shaking and breathing hard with the whites of his eyes showing. He did not seem to recognize his man at all, and would not respond to his voice. For a long time, whenever either man tried to touch him, he would jump aside, and try to pull away.
He did eventually settle down so that they could free him, and his man even rode him back to the barn. But from that day on, no one could get him close enough to a cow to ever rope one again. So, as fine a horse as he was, his career as a ranch horse was over, and that fall, Rocky was again up for sale. And, if the illegal operation screen doesn't come up too often, I'll be back soon to tell you all about who bought him, and what wonderful surprise awaited him at his new home.