The Quarter horse is one of the most intelligent horses and is bred with strong, muscled hind quarters so it can stop, turn and change direction when it is working with cattle. It is the sheep dog of the horse world. The cattle can and do move and change direction quickly so the horse has to be able to think ahead of the cow and be one step ahead to prevent its attempts at escape.
This weeks “weekly photo challenge” is “fleeting moment” this brought back the memory of 1986 when my daughter was competing in western riding cutting competitions in New Zealand. This was at local level and exciting to watch.
That year we went to watch the National Finals. I can still see the final two horses that had come through a number of elimination rounds and were now ready to compete for the trophy.
Horses have very different characters and personalities, just like people they can be shy, extroverted, lazy, quick, slow or any combination of traits. To get to this level of competition the horse must have the characteristics of an athlete. Also the quarter horse must be able to think for its self. The rider guides the horse to choose which cow is to be cut away from the herd. Once it is chosen the rider drops the reins then it is the horse that thinks, follows and works to keep the cow separate from the herd and steer it into a pen, without help from the rider.
Now back to those two semi finalists. The first was a bay with black points and black mane and tail. The light rippled along his coat. He approached the cow with head up and ears forward, never taking his eye off the frantic cow as it tried to escape. He weaved and turned, stopping in a cloud of dust following every movement. The crowd held their collective breath. Till finally the cow was cornered.
The second horse was a chestnut mare. What a different character she was. With ears flat to her head she stalked the cow. As the cow tried every tactic to escape she followed every move. Her head was low, her gaze intense on that cow, almost hypnotizing it. The crowd was on the edge of their seats, the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. The mare’s chestnut coat was dark with sweat, every muscle straining. When the cow finally gave in the crowd erupted in applause.
It was a hard-fought final and the judges said it was a hard decision to make, but by a very narrow margin the chestnut won…
This is a treasured memory.