January 17, 2013

A Horse is a Horse Of Course, Of Course

YeeeHaw! It's Fort Worth Stock Show Time!

Fort Worth, Texas calls itself 'Where the West Begins', primarily because it was the last place that the cowboys could stock up on supplies before heading north on the Chisolm Trail with their herds of Longhorn cattle for the 500 mile trek to the railroads in Kansas ... And it was the first civilized stop the cowboys had on the return trip, with their pockets filled with money from their wages.

It makes me smile every time I drive around what is today called Sundance Square, an artsy district in downtown, because I know that it was originally known as Hells Half Acre because it was nothing but gambling dens, saloons and various "dens of iniquity" in every direction.

Yes, this place that I call home commemorates its colorful and diverse cowboy heritage and culture in a BIG way every year, with a three week celebration of all things western and cowboy. This post is the first in a three part series about my favorite part of this celebration of my Wild West home: the HORSES.

Cowboys and Horses

Horses weren't just another animal to the long ago wild west cowboy, they were THE number one necessity. Having a good horse was literally the difference between success and failure, independence and servitude and even life or death. It may surprise you to know that even today, with all the technological advances and tools available, a good horse still means the exact same thing to the modern cowboy.

In fact, get a cowboy talking about their horse and you'll see very quickly that they are still valued and appreciated above every other "piece of equipment" that used in modern day ranching. After all, those steers don't just quietly volunteer to load onto the truck for their trip to the Big McDonald Land in the sky.

So move over Usain Bolt, the American Quarter Horse was bred to be tough, strong, smart and most of all, FAST. They came to be called the "quarter" horse because they can reach top speeds of 35-45 mph over a quarter mile! That's 440 yards or FOUR football fields and some change! That combination of speed, quickness and athleticism made them the ideal (and indispensable) mount to carry a cowboy through his average duties in a day.

 Why Horses?

I confess. I pretty much love every boots scootin', wrangler jeaned, belt buckled minute of the Stock Show.. I love to walk through the barns, smell the hay, watch the 4-H kids showing their tiny lambs and huge steers, watch the milking machine milk the dairy cows, go with the other little kids into the petting zoo, check out all the weird looking chickens that I didn't even know existed... but by far my favorite thing about the Stock Show are still the horses.

I am a true horse nerd, captivated and fascinated with the grace, strength and sheer magnificence of this animal since I was a small girl. From the tiny perfection of the Minis, to the Disney fairy tale look of the Gypsy Vanners, to the sheer massive power of the Clydesdales, I just L-O-V-E me some Equines!

I was blessed in my life to have had the opportunity to realize a childhood dream and spend about ten years raising and showing quarter horses. Although I started too late to ever be considered an accomplished rider, I never felt closer to "slipping the surly bonds of earth. Putting out my hand to touch the face of God" as when I was on horseback.

I found myself in those horsey years. Became a more grounded person through the mundane tasks of brushing and feeding them. Accomplished things I never thought possible, like imprinting three newborn foals so well that they never knew they weren't people and riding into a show ring in front of a zillion people. I even showed a couple of my Palomino yearlings here at the Stock Show., though the location of the digital proof of my participation, complete with cowboy hat and chaps, will remain a closely guarded secret for the rest of my life. Sorry.

Going to the Stock Show every year brings that part of my life back to me in vivid, living color. Makes me almost consider kicking down a hay bale and throwing a leg over one of those wonderful broad backs to ride off and try to slip those surly bonds just one more time. Don't miss YOUR chance to see the magnificent gift from God that is the horse up close and personal, in all it's shapes, colors and sizes. It's a gift that you should give to yourself and your kids. You will be the better for the experience, I guarantee it.

Next week there will be several events showcasing both Quarter Horses in general and the Paint horse, one of the most striking of the quarter horse color breeds:

~ Friday afternoon you can watch real cowboys and their horses in the AQHA Versatilty and Ranching Heritage classes.
~ Saturday and Sunday mornings are the Paint horse halter and performance classes with the Working Cow classes Saturday night.
~ Monday will showcase both Quarter and Paint horses in their Cutting Horse classes.

 And that's just the first THREE days! 


Click here for the complete day by day schedule, then go git yer boots on, it's Stock Show Time!!

 I'll leave you with a few favorite pictures of my babies from those wonderful years and hopefully I'll see some of you around the barns sometime in the next three weeks. And be sure to call me if you want the Official Horse Nerd Tour!

Daisy Mae

My daughter and Farah (named for another famous Texas blonde bombshell)

Gumby, 1 day old

Farah under saddle at the Stock Show

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