Monday, May 08, 2006

Testing the new trail horse

I took a trail ride with my wife, Maxine, and her daughter, Allyson, last weekend. This was my second ride out on my new trail horse, Marley. We started out from the Buffalo Bridge across the Flathead River on the Salish-Kootenai tribal land. I think you can take the trail probably 40 or 50 miles downstream, but we only went about 4 or 5 miles. Then we turned off the trail and followed cow trails and game trails through open country back to where we started. We past a couple of old homesteads on our way. It was a beautiful day.

But, the point of this was to tell you about Marley. I was only half-seriously looking for a new trail horse when a customer of ours came in and told me about Marley. He was being sold by a neighbor of a friend, so we went over and checked him out. As hard as I tried, I couldn't find a reason NOT to buy him. He has so many of my qualities of a good trail horse that it was hard to pass him up.

Our first test was working cattle with a friend who runs his cattle on 80 sections in eastern Montana. As an ex-roping horse, I knew Marley had had experience with cattle, but I wasn't sure what to expect. He was great. He worked the cattle all day, he rode away from the herd and the other horses to fetch strays, he loaded in the trailer and was calm and level-headed about all of it. I don't have cattle of my own and don't really need a cow horse per se, but it is great to be able to help a friend and to have a horse that is willing and capable. That is a real bonus with Marley.

Back to the trail ride, Marley was great there too. He has a nice trot that is easy to sit and he was content to be in the front or in the back. I am still looking for the hole in him. Which reminds me of a story. I met an old guy once who had been riding and training horses for close to 70 years. And I asked him if, in all those years, he had ever had the perfect horse. He thought for a minute and then said, "Boy, he'd be a good one, wouldn't he?"

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