Monday, February 23, 2009

Gaited Horses

If you want an instant argument, ask any horseman which breed makes the best trail horse. Those who ride Quarter Horses will tell you their short, stocky, well muscled animals are best on steep mountain trails. They are sure footed and have the power to go about anywhere you dare to ride. However, they usually don't want to discuss their preferred mounts slow walk or pounding trot. Endurance riders usually choose Arabians because they give them the best chance to win long distance races. A quick records check shows they are usually right, but they easily dismiss the Arabians small size and sometimes flighty nature. Riders who prefer other breeds will tell you the attractive dish in an Arabians forehead leaves them a bit short of gray matter. Since dog' don't ride, I evaluate all horses from ground level. From what I see, the best trail horse is one you can catch, load, shoe, and stay on. My favorite horse, Little Guy, isn't much to look at, but he does all these things well even though his actual breed is unknown.

These days Dangerous' preferred mount is Dottie. She is the buckskin mare featured in the bottom picture. Dottie has the same characteristics shared by all Tennessee Walking Horses, a smooth four-beat- lateral gait. According to Dangerous, you can read the newspaper while riding her or drink a beer without spilling a drop. All I know is that when he kicks her into a fast walk I have a hard time keeping up. By the time Dangerous pulls up, my tongue is hanging out, and I am looking for a cold drink of water. Dangerous mentioned to Fremont Bob one day how much he enjoyed riding with him last summer. In his usual style, Fremont told Dangerous that they really hadn't ridden that much together. Dangerous and Dottie were always up the trail somewhere waiting for Fremont to catch up.

When it comes to Walking Horses, Dangerous is a piker compared to his buddy Bill. Bill is sitting on his mare Sweetie in the picture on the left. Actually, Bill sold Dangerous Dottie after Dangerous' first Walking Horse broke his leg in a freak accident. Bill has a barn full of Walking Horses, and Dottie has to really strain and stretch to keep up with Bill's two big, black geldings. Both geldings literally eat up the ground, and can leave you breathless if you're not use to their pace. After Utah Jack spent a week riding one of Bill's horses, he tells everyone "the ground went by so fast you didn't have much time to take in the scenery, and at days end, your eyeballs had dried out." Fremont Bob describes riding with Bill a bit differently. He compared the experience to a scene from an old Star Wars movie. You remember the scene where Luke Skywalker is darting in and out among the trees on his high speed scooter.

The argument isn't just between those who ride gaited horses and those who don't. Similar disagreements occur among those who ride different breeds of gaited horses. Get a Missouri Fox Trotter devotee together with a Walking Horse owner and the argument can become even more heated. The Walking Horse owner will tell you why ride second best which can lead to a serious confrontation. As usual, Fremont Bob has found a way around these possible fights. He owns one of each. Actually, he rides a Rocky Mountain gaited horse, and Hemingway his mule can keep up with all known breeds. Trust old Fremont to find the most diplomatic but expensive solution.

I doubt the argument will ever end as long as there are horsemen and different breeds. All I know is that from my perspective I agree with the old adage, "the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse." In Dangerous' case, I would restate it to say, "the best thing for the inside of Dangerous is the outside of a Walking Horse."

By the way, I appreciate your comments both the ones you post and the calls Dangerous gets. Some of you have asked about enlarging the pictures. You can easily get a better view by double clicking on them. Hope to hear more from you soon!


Bluester said...

Howdy Dangerous,

Remember old Brownie, my Quarter Horse mare? Remember she could out walk anything with four legs on this side of the world. The trick was just staying with her. I do miss her. I sure like your mare Dottie, and Bills horses are something for sure. Lil' Guy belongs on a Birthday Card cover. Keep up the good work. I sure get a kick out of your musings. Oh, and by the way, you're missing a swell day down here in the weeds. Best From the Fremont. Bluester sends Rosie hugs and kisses.

Max said...

The smoothest horse I ever rode was a Tennessee Walker named Roxie up on the Natchez Trace just south of Nashville... talk about a Cadillac. However, I guess I'm a slow learner, because I just can't give up my Paint. She's a little hard on the trot at times, but, like Bob with Brownie, I'd sure miss her if she was gone.