Of good breeding
December 1, 2015
I think anyone that has ever owned a horse has been there; that moment that some "horse person" (as my dad likes to call them) has to ask how your horse is bred. Not that there is anything wrong with it; indeed good bloodlines do make a difference when picking out the right horse. Even so, growing up with rancher parents that were more cattle-people than horse-people, I never put a whole lot of stock into who was on my horse's papers. I didn't even know what "papers" were until I was well into high school; I just thought those that asked wanted to see my horse's vet record. Awkward.
I decided in my senior year of high school that the only way I was going to survive college and Pre-vet courses was to take my horse with me. I vividly remember walking into the stall barn the first time, with my big bay Quarter Horse gelding in tow. I was in shock, and he was clearly less than impressed with his new 12 by 12 foot home. After some coaxing, I managed to get him into the stall, where he immediately relieved himself right front and center. As usual, I was left cleaning up after him while the rest of the girls chatted and gossiped about all the new freshman and the one cute guy on the other side of the barn. Eddy stood in the corner, staring at me; had he been a human, he would have been getting a good laugh at my expense. Soon enough, I had finished spreading new chips and had thrown him some hay – and thinking I was finally done with Mr. Personality for a few minutes, I turned to walk off toward the barn when I heard the sound of water pouring all over the floor. I turned to catch my horse with the bucket handle in his teeth and a glimmer in his eye. Right then and there, I knew this horse was going to make a literal hell out of my life for the foreseeable future.
He would be the one to keep me busy during college; not the teachers, the tests, or the boyfriend.
I tell you that story to tell this story: During the first week of school, word had gotten out that everyone needed to keep their horses away from the bay gelding from Montana. Apparently, Eddy was even worse at making new friends than I was. My teachers were less than impressed, I was frustrated, and although I had managed to keep Eddy from killing anyone else in the arena, it had been a rather trying week. Finally one day, one of the sophomore girls walked up to my stall and struck up conversation with me. I realize now that she felt sorry for me- sorry for this kid that came from a ranch with a pain- in- the- ass horse. "He sure is a good looking horse, isn't he?" she asked. I agreed; he was built stout, with a big hip and big feet. "He's Hancock bred, isn't he?" she asked. I looked at her like an idiot, and sheepishly grinned. "Yes," I replied. When I asked her how she knew, she went on to share her experience with Hancock bred horses. We shared horror stories about breaking conniving colts that tried everything shy of eating us alive; and shared love stories about how even though these damn horses that could be mean, stubborn, and irritating couldn't help but make you fall head over heels for them. It made me feel better to know I wasn't the only one struggling to deal with a horse whose papers said a lot more about him than I had given them credit for.
He never smiled for the camera, either.
Truth be told, that first year at school didn't get a whole lot easier for Eddy and I. He got more and more sour toward his stall and the arena environment; we encountered road blocks every single day. I busted my butt to keep my teachers happy and my horse content. Even so, Eddy taught me something no college course in the world could have: You can take the horse off the ranch, but you can't take the ranch out of the horse. The few times he did get to work cows at college, he came alive. He wasn't lazy, stubborn, or even ornery anymore; he knew he had a job and he loved it. At the end of that first year, I loved (and hated) that damn Hancock horse more than I ever had in the five years I owned him. I decided that I had tortured him enough, and left him home on the ranch the fall of my sophomore year. I learned that just like with my own family, Eddy's heritage created more than just another horse. His genetics created a cowy, stubborn, great big pest of a horse that needed a real job to keep him happy. I finally sold Eddy to an old rancher that wanted a solid, sound minded horse that he could trust to get him to the field and back again. And while I often miss that cranky look in his eye and his puckered upper lip, I am happy knowing he is far from the show-horse life. Thanks to him, I probably won't own another Hancock horse again… only because I am also stubborn, cranky, even a bit irritating at times, and know now that just like you shouldn't hire employees in your own image, you probably shouldn't buy horses that constantly remind you of yourself. Bloodlines may be a reflection of science and history. The right papers might add a few dollars to a sale. But a horse's heart and soul are what make you fall in love, and keep you in the saddle.