Continued from Ranch Life

She hustled out the door and down the stairs, strutting toward the corral that had come alive with milling saddle horses. Dallas was first to catch a glimpse of the new ranch hand. He swiveled on his heel to face the corral and stifle a guffaw. Looking around him in curiosity, the two boys howled. George nodded his head and smiled gently at the approaching figure. “Well, Yry, you look like you’re ready for the parade next week.” Her expectant eyes dropped to the ground uncertainly.

“We’re thinkin’ maybe this little saddle will fit you nicely. Dal caught this little mare for you. We call her Silver. You go ahead and saddle up while we get ready.”

“Where are the brushes and hoof picks?” she inquired.

“Glad to hear you askin’ that question, little lady. The brushes are in the tack room, there to the right in the barn.  You won’t be needin’ a pick for these ponies. They ain’t shod, so they don’t pick up much in their hooves.” Dallas responded.

The weight of the saddle surprised her and made her grateful that the horse wasn’t as tall as the ones she’d ridden at home. Collecting a cacophony of heavy stirrup, mysterious strings, straps, and heavy, cotton latigo on the broad seat of the saddle, she approached Silver’s left side and with a grunt, hoisted the saddle onto the woolen Navajo saddle blanket. Once in place, that odd latigo vexed her. It had no buckles like the girths she was accustomed to. Dallas came up behind her surreptitiously and demonstrated how to loop the leather three times through the two rings and loop it like a necktie knot at the top.

The men were all saddled and ready to head out. But George wanted to test his new hire’s horsemanship. She had not demonstrated attributes to recommend confidence. He ordered her to mount, then he adjusted her stirrups and told her to ride a couple of circles in the corral.

“The stirrups are too long.” She complained.

“Get used to ‘em. They’re just about perfect for you.”

She began circling to the right at a walk, her spine ruler-straight, her ears, shoulders, and ankles plumb. Her arms extended down toward the horse’s withers with a rein in each hand. She pressed the horse into a trot and began posting on the inside beat, as she’d been taught. The men’s eyebrows lifted and they exchanged glances. She reversed directions and repeated the drill, then gaining confidence, she pushed the horse into a canter. The animal chaffed at the bit and danced, unable to find the proper rhythm.

“Give her some head,” barked George. “Loosen those reins!”

The relieved animal extended into a gentle lope. Yry still sat ramrod straight, rocking her hips back and forth to the horse’s motion, her arms reaching uncomfortably past the tall horn and toward the horse’s mane.

“Yeah. Okay, Yry. That’s fine for now.”

She slowed the animal and guided it toward the fence. “These horses out here neck rein. You need to hold your reins looser and in one hand, like this. And for God’s sake, relax. You’re gonna be up there all dang day long. Use the back of that saddle. Let the horse to do work.”

“But which hand should I use for the reins?”

“It doesn’t matter much, unless you’re ropin.’ In that case, you’re going to want to rein with the left and aim with the right.