Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Lady . . . and Other Horses

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 . . .
Or multiple riders.
That worked as well . . .
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 sitting in her saddle.
Many times, if her rider was particularly inattentive, she turned right out from under and 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 discover that the hardest thing about learning to ride was the prairie.
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 other 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.
The amazing Shammy
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.
Ditto
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.


Feisty little Rebel

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

8 comments:

  1. What a gentle horsey memory. I hope Lady is grazing in eternally green pasture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope the same for her. She truly was a lady.

      Delete
  2. " ... the hardest thing about learning to ride was the prairie" ... what a great sentence!

    You folks had a lot of horses. My daughter would love to have grown up with even one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny how they were so much a part of our lives and now my grandchildren have never even been close to one. Sigh.

      Delete
  3. What wonderful photos! The smiles on the faces, the thrill of being on the horse. And Lady--what a teacher.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember pony rides at the local fairs when I was very young, we sat quietly while the pony was led around the circle twice, then we got down for someone else to take a turn. Years later, I got on a horse and she took off for the nearest fence before I was properly settled. I slid off as she jumped and never, ever got back on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, so sorry to hear it! I spent most of my life on horseback. But I know that, if the horse and I (for whatever reason) ever parted company, the best thing was to get right back on. Otherwise the trauma remains and grows. And makes it harder and harder to do. So sorry that you missed out! :)

      Delete

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