The following is a chapter by Carole Mercer sent to me for posting. Enjoy…
Morgan Horses in the First Year
I buy more horses. I arrive with my Morgan Mare, Suzi, from California. I buy Quarter horse buckskins became I believe I will make a try at being a “master cutting horse trainer.” I discover that the entry fee for a cutting horse show can be as much as $500.00 dollars for just several minutes. Plus I have not a clue on how to cut cows. I buy another Quarter horse gelding that I think will be my rope horse. I have one Western saddle and no idea how to rope. I own lots of pasture and I keep horses cheaply until winter when I find out that the horses eat more hay than my cows. I keep the Morgan because she is an easy keeper. Suzi can eat sticks and gain weight. I sell all of the nice Quarter Horse dreams. They all go to good homes. I am down to one horse.
This November I limp around with my foot in a cast. While riding a horse, I kick the horse to move it over to open a gate and break my leg in the process. I have a perfect spiral fracture. Just dumb luck. Don’t ask me how I break my leg. I don’t even know that I break the leg at the time. The leg swells up in my boot so I am in a temporary cast at the time. The leg hurts like the dickens when I try to pull the boot off. I take the pain rather than cutting the boot off. While I cook dinner, I cannot figure out why I hurt so much. At about three am in the morning, I know something is really, really wrong. After I put Sarah on the school bus at the end of the driveway I drive to the doctor’s office. Not easy to do because I am in pain and can hardly put pressure on my left leg. My truck at this point is an automatic.
The doctor says, “What did you do to cause this spiral fracture.” The doctor, of course, is looking at the x-ray of my left leg spiral fracture.
Says I. “I think that I have really done something to my leg when I kicked a horse, but I am not sure what I have done. “
The doctor places a plaster cast on my leg. The rain pours down outside the doctor’s office. The good doctor says “Keep off the leg for a couple of days and then come back and I will put a walking cast on the leg.”
He then says. “I’ll tell whoever drove you to the office to come and pick you up now.”
I smile and say. “I drove myself. There is no one else.” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life. I drive myself home. Not very smart, but I am alone and I have livestock to feed.
Remember that Sarah is only eleven years old. I have cattle to feed and a ranch to run. I have no extra money to hire help. I have cattle to feed. I stop and find crutches at the thrift store. I drive home. Get out of the truck. Use the crutches to get in the house. I have cattle to feed. I place a plastic bag over my cast. The bag lasts five steps. I know that I cannot get the cast wet. I hobble up to the barn, find an old inner tube, cut it in half and slip it over my cast. I fold back the extra inner tube by my leg. I secure it all with a bungee cord. I now have what I call my “Gutchy” galoshes. I function on the wet ground with the inner tube galoshes and crutches. I go to work the sale yard, broken leg and all. I can feed the cattle. I ride Suzi without a stirrup on my left side. I can get on the wrong side of Suzi. I must function. My child is only eleven and she helps all she can. I have no medical insurance. In eight weeks I sit on the back porch of the house and hack saw my cast off. I must be crazy. I am in so deep to this ranch that I have only one choice. I must function at all times and in all situations. I do not have the luxury of depression or to cry. I must swim or loose everything. I swim. The leg heals perfectly. I find a fellow in Grants Pass who will insure me. I pay my first private medical insurance premium. I never regret getting private medical insurgence. The medical insurance proves to be one of my wiser choices.
I decide to drive a pair. The old man, Gerry Black, who lives next door to me on a” hard scrabble ranch” drives horses. He is a master horseman. Gerry is in his seventies. Gerry agrees to help me put together a pair of light horses….my dream of a Morgan pair.
I buy a nice little gelding. This Morgan is named “Woody”. Woody is a dandy little guy only he and Suzi do not move alike and is not the same size. I sell Woody for a nice profit. I “hook” myself on “horse trading.” I use horse trading over and over to get myself out of tight financial spots that I put myself into.
Suzi stays on the ranch and earns her shoes at the sale yard. I drive her to a nice little single cart. I think I am on the top of the world.
Suzi pulls the sled in the hay field with the kids riding on the sled. She truly is an all around Morgan horse. Suzi needs a friend. I go looking for another Morgan Mare. This new unknown mare must be the same size, color and have the same way of going as Suzi. I am now an expert on what to buy for a pair. I am not, however and expert in what I buy. I prove to be as inept a buyer when I look at the horses as when I buy horse’s sight unseen. Once I find a good horse I recognize that aspect of horses trading, but I certainly sucker myself many times buying the wrong horses. The “poor choice horses” always leave here better than when they come. I find a horse that I call Sally. Sally becomes Suzy’s partner as a pair. I learn so much from Sally. Much of the learning is not what I want to know, but I certainly use the knowledge with other horses in the future.
Sunday I am invited over to a neighbor’s house to watch a “new method “of breaking colts. There are four unbroken two year olds and three riders. One guy is a pro bronc rider, another young cowboy and the third and last is another cowboy. They all look at me and ask if I want to try this new method.
“Want to try?” asks the pro bronc rider.
:”Sure.” Says I. Inside a flicker of fear glows. Why do I not find the word “no” in my vocabulary very often?
Sooooo. I climb off my English saddle, off my well broke Morgan Horse and try this “new method” of breaking horses. Turns out that Tom Dorrance is the man leading the group! I am so ignorant that I don’t know who this old man is, but I do know that must listen to his every word.
“Don’t grab hold of these colts. Just go with them. If you grab hold of them they will BUCK.” Says Tom.
I force myself to be totally relaxed. The ride is wonderful. None of the colts buck. After a couple of hours, they are turning and moving well. We NEVER move out of a WALK. Neat method.
I am invited back for the next session. The men are planning to work with ten young horses and want me back. This method is very passive. The key is no resistance and lots of forward impulsion. I must admit I am exhausted from “forced relaxation.” My mouth is dry and my legs are shaking when I get off my colt. I learn a lot. The pro bronc rider busted up his knee and needs a new method of training colts. He wants to try this different method of colt breaking, so his ranch supplied the two year olds. I am delighted to find pieces of the “old West” are still alive. I love to sit with the old cowboys who make their living at being cowboys and listen to them talk. These men are always surprised to see me climb off my English saddle and sit up there with them. Riding English is no mystery. “Riding is riding” no matter what your style.
My best compliment comes when one of the ol men looks at me and says.
“You are a pretty good hand with a colt. Will you come back to the next breaking party? We can use you.”
I understand perfectly that they just need a warm body that listens to the instructor and follows directions exactly. My motive, of course, is to stay alive; I also come to the conclusion that I used to claim that I am not a” brinksmanship person.” That claim is NOT true. I love the brink. I actively seek out adventures. Sometimes my judgment is great…other times I must crawl away from my mistakes. I love life.