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On the Edge of Common Sense: Snaffle Bit Futurity

Baxter Black Published on 11 September 2015

Have you ever been drivin’ a set of pasture cattle down the lane, and then you notice them stringin’ out longer and longer, driftin’ over into the ditches along the side till pretty soon you’re a half-mile ahead of the lead steer?

You look back at the feller you put ridin’ drag. Over the backs of the wanderin’ herd, through the dusty haze, there he is. He’s got his 2-year-old brown gelding spinning in a tight circle to the right. The colt’s head is pulled to the inside, butt down and tail tucked in.

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Then the colt’s nose is pulled down against his chest, and he’s backin’ up in quick steps. Suddenly, the horse and rider burst forward like Custer’s charge and reach a gallop within a few strides. He leans all the way back.

The colt’s whole body tips back, head up, front hooves locked straight. The hind legs stiffen and reach plumb under the head. He sticks his butt nearly to the ground and skids to a sliding stop.

The cowboy pauses, pats ol’ Brown and gazes off listening to the thunderous applause of the imaginary crowd.

“You crazy two-legged mare-ridin’ maniac! Get those cattle up here!”

Every outfit’s got a feller who hired on to cowboy and get another $50 a month to ride a couple of colts. The better they seem to be with horses, the more their attention seems to wander workin’ cattle.

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They can’t help it. It’s in their blood. They march to a different drummer, those boys. Some of ’em are so good with horses it’s hard to believe they can’t read each other’s mind. Most of ’em dream of makin’ a livin’ training horses.

The pinnacle of achievement, the World Series, Super Bowl and National Finals of horse training, is the Snaffle Bit Futurity held in Reno every September.

It’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever set your eyes on. Even the grouchiest, grumblin’ feedlot foreman gets a little twinge to see man and horse perform as one. Ears twitchin’, nostrils flarin’, romals, bosals, braided macardies, rawhide, muscles ripplin’, eyes alert, horse hair, silver, mane and tail.

If this sounds like a tribute to that strange breed of cowboy who’d feel more at home on the back of a spinnin’, nervous colt than on the dance floor at Schroeder Hall, I guess it is.

They say there’s a place for everything.  PD

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