Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



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Friday, June 10, 2011

Lady and Other Horses I Have Known


My littlest sibling, Anita (she's so cute!)
With another of our horses, King Prancer . . . and a friend


Age or inexperience were no barriers when it was time for roundup on the Stringam ranch.
The newest Stringam was merely perched up on Lady and told to "Hang on!"
A little background . . .
Lady was a tall, black mare of indeterminate years, who knew more than most of the humans in the vicinity. She would be put on tail (the position in the . . . er . . . rear . . . of the herd.) and could keep the entire herd going.
With or without human guidance.
So it just made sense to put the most inexperienced rider with the wisest teacher.
All one had to do was be ready for any sudden shifts and turns.
If a cow suddenly took it into her head to take off for . . . elsewhere, Lady was on them in a heartbeat. Less, if your heartbeat is slow.
Over the years, we had a few mishaps. Lady would suddenly spot a member of the criminal element sneaking away and she would charge, heedless of whomever was, more or less, sitting in her saddle. Many times, if her rider was particularly inattentive, she turned right out from under. Her hapless human would suddenly discover just what it was like to hang, suspended, in the air.
For a moment.
Then he, or she, would end up finding out just how hard the prairie can be. Usually on their backs. Staring up at the sky, and completely devoid of breath.
Lady would complete her transaction and return peacefully to the scene of the crime. She would nose her rider gently and look down at them with soft, 'Now what are you doing down there?' eyes.
She was too sweet and too gentle to really make any of us angry, regardless of how long it took to regain our breath. Plus she was a darn good worker.
The funny thing is, we never tried bringing her out without a rider. As I look back, that would have been a logical experiment. (And certainly one that my brother George, he of the strange aversion to horses, would have loved to try.)
But the fact of the matter was that there were simply too many Stringams clamoring for a chance to help with roundup.
To send out an empty horse would have been criminal, however entertaining the rest of us might find it.
Lady was definitely one of a kind.
Oh we had other horses. Lots of other horses.
Slim. Tall and rangy, and with a terrible loathing for men. But a sweetheart when ridden by a woman or child. Coco. Another gentle mare, quiet, unassuming, but lazy. Far happier with her nose in a manger than breathing the soft prairie winds. Steamboat. An enormous and unholy mix of thoroughbred and percheron. He could cover the ground quickly and efficiently, but with a gate that could rattle the fillings out of anyone's teeth. The ponies, Pinto, Star and Shammy, who would submit to anything their young riders could inflict, except leaving the ranch buildings. Luke. Nipper. Topper. Eagle. Peanuts. Gypsy. The list goes on and on.
These, and others like them were our partners and friends during the long hours that define ranching.
Each had their own distinct personality. Likes and dislikes.
And all were graded according to ability, size, and disposition.
As us kids grew, we were graduated from one to the next.
But we all started with the same mount.
To say that we could ride before we could walk was, literally, true. We had Lady. She of the very, very apt name.

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