Ode To A Horse That’s Good On Gates

Not like gates in a trail class but real life, nearly impossible to open gates.

My good gelding waits patiently beneath me. Each breath an exhaled judgment. He lets me know exactly how he feels about me, about my riding skill, about this task I’m asking him to undertake. Yet still he stands, waiting. Not patiently, impatiently but still and quiet. I lean down, stretching and balancing carefully to reach the gate on level with my foot. The chain is wrapped down and around, as I uncoil it my attention is split between it and my seat out of my saddle. The cinch is loose, like usual, and keeping the saddle from sliding under his belly while reaching down below his belly is an interesting trick.

Chain undone I sit back up, it’s time for the real work to start. The hinges sag, the heavy gate sits on the ground sinking into the mud. The balancing trick comes into play again. I shift my weight into the far stirrup and heft up on the gate. Once cleared of the mud I tighten my left calf muscle. Beneath me he sighs as his hoof slurps free of the sucking mud and he takes one step to the side. And one step only. I set the gate down, re-balance, re-position , and regather my strength for another lug on the gate. At what point I wonder would it simply be easier to get off and just open the dang gate? I’ve already mounted and dismounted so many times, covering my boots and stirrups in mud, straining his back stepping up from the ground and run out of cookies to offer as a token of my thanks for sticking with me to do this job. I can hardly stand to do it one more time. Surely this gate will open with one more try.

And it does, not after one more try but a few. A few more single steps to the side, a few more light touches of my calf before it reaches a point where it swings easily along with his seamless side pass. If he had thumbs he could open the gates himself, he’s done this enough times. Given the right latch he can and has opened many gates by himself. Freeing his pasture mates to find the greener grass beckoning out there. For now I rub his neck apologizing for the lack of cookies when he turns to look, demanding and expectant. His disdain is visible for all to see as he turns back to his job, our job. I would think he hates me, cattle, everything about this life if I were to judge by the glint in his eye and the disdainful wrinkle of his nostril, he lets me know that I am beneath him.

Then we spot the cow and her calf. We are a team, flowing smoothly together, thoughts spoken through each shift of weight in the saddle. Ears back he sweeps in behind the pair, unerringly working them towards the gate. This is why he lets me catch him, why he tolerates my lowly presence, why I put his big cow eating bit on instead of our usual halter when we are working. Teeth bared, nose pushing, front legs shoving, he moves the calf along behind its mother. I offer occasional suggestions, a light squeeze with a calf, picking up the reins when he gets too… enthusiastic in his encouragement. Placing my hand at the base of his neck I pick up the reins and pull him off as the pair goes through the gate. We’re done now I whisper, easy there, we’re done, and I turn him back away to look for his next target.

One thought on “Ode To A Horse That’s Good On Gates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *