I felt the saddle start to slip to the left. It was a rookie mistake and I couldn’t believe it was happening.
Blueberry and I had started galloping across the prairie with our eyes on the lead cow. We just had to get in front of her to get her turned around. Not usually a problem. Depending on the day and the cow. Blueberry is pretty cow-y so he knew what the goal was. What he didn’t count on is a rookie mistake.
I leaned put pressure in my right stirrup as I pulled up on Blueberry begging him to woah. I knew it wasn’t going to end well. And the more I pulled the further over the saddle slipped until I was bracing for impact.
I had my water break and rechecked my saddle. Tightened up where I needed too. We had been gathering pairs for summer pasture. It gets to be a long process because we have to be one thousand percent sure everyone has their exit buddy. Not everyone pays attention. And it was a warm day. We had the first group and were set to get the others we had left on the flat.
Blueberry had been feeling spry. We had been having a good run. I am out of practice. I call myself a weekend warrior because I come in as an extra hand most days long after my sister and dad have been at it. My 8-5 Monday through Friday paycheck tends to interrupt my ranch hand life. Blueberry was taking care of me, and so when we stopped for water I checked everything from his head down and re-checked my saddle. Or so I had thought. It felt tight. It felt fine. This is the saddle I consider “my saddle. ” It’s my dad’s 1973 high school all around saddle. It’s comfy and light. I had moved around in the saddle with pressure on the stirrups to be sure. We were both hot and sweaty.
It wasn’t until I hit fourth gear on my horse that the world turned side ways. It had been a long time since I had purposely taken a dive off a perfectly good horse, but there I was reins still in my hand and looking for a place to land. I learned some things from taking some unexpected falls from perfectly imperfect horses. But I don’t bounce like I use to so when I landed I tucked my shoulder under me and hit. I saw blue birds circle me as I got up to all fours.
My dad came by, like the cowboy he is, and only stopped to ask if I was okay before he was gone. I have several memories in my brain of him doing just that. My sister wanted to make sure I could actually get up before being hollered at by dad. She at least has a little more empathy but cows were on the move and before there is a mess; you gotta go.
I nodded and got up and looked at my saddle and gave Blueberry a pat. He was still standing there looking at me. The saddle side ways.
I thanked him for being a good horse and started the process of untangling him from the mess.
I stood there in the dirt and sage brush and blew out a breath. I did a quick check and realized I was fine. Just a bruised ego (and later some neck and shoulder pain). I unsaddled and then re-saddled him. All while he stood there and waited for me. When I met back up with my sister and my dad yelling at cattle; all they asked is what took me so long.
Growing up with a cowboy for a dad you learn some things. The first thing I learned is no matter what it is you have to get back up in saddle. That has been true since the first day I was unceremoniously dumped at the age of 5 or 6 in the middle of a field. My dad rode by and looked down, “Are you okay?” When I just nodded and sat there on my butt, he rode away to get my ride. I don’t recall getting back on that horse, but I am sure I did.
I carry that lesson through my whole life because it applies to whatever situation I happen to get myself in. It has to be done; I just tell myself to put my foot in the stirrup and get on with it.
Just check the cinch one more time.