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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Memoirs of a Mill Iron Wrangler

When I was about 12 or 13, my Dad helped run a mounted youth drill team called the Mill Iron Wranglers.  Sort of like the Westernaires, just not nearly so famous (FYI…Dad was a Westernaire, when he was a kid).  We met weekly (or was it weakly?) to practice during the summer months.  At the time he was a real stickler for details.  I can still hear him yelling at everyone else…”spacing, spacing, spacing!”  Of course he wasn’t yelling at me….I mean come on, I was always paying attention!  We ran mounted drills and if the spacing wasn’t right, there was potential to have crashes and scrapes.  But you can only hammer kids for so long before you start to lose their attention. So Dad was always telling us about the things him and his buddies did to alleviate their boredom.  We were constantly trying to ride standing in the saddle, which it turns out…is easier to do in a lope than a trot or walk.  Who would have thought that!  Roman riding was only attempted once (by me), it helps to have two horses that will move side by side and without fighting (learned that one the hard way).  But the one we probably had the most fun with was the rescue race.  Now these are fairly common in gymkhanas, but I haven’t seen it done in a long time!  The gist is that a rider runs to the other end of the arena to a person standing on the ground (behind a barrel), that person then swings up behind the saddle and you race back…fastest time wins.   Seems simple enough....

The one most memorable to me was when Brett and I were partners.  I think Dad partnered us because Brett was riding a two year old and we were the only two brave (dumb) enough to try it.  We ran two at a time, I was on the ground (I can remember Brett telling me to keep my legs out of the horse’s flanks.  Well duh, thanks for the advice!).  The race started and here comes Brett.  He was the first one down there, so I just grabbed the back of the saddle and let the horse sling me up on his back as Brett swung around the barrel.  Now you would think that this was a smooth process, but it turns out that you don’t have much body control like that.  My feet went exactly where we didn’t want them to go…in the flanks!  So Sorrelly started pitching.  Not hard mind you, just enough for everything to be awkward.  BUT, he was still moving toward the finish line crow hopping as he went…AND we were still winning!   About halfway down the arena, I started to have thoughts of victory!  Heck, I had my feet under control and Brett seemed to be doing fine on the front….we might pull this off!  Next thing I know, Brett throws his hands up in the air and he is gone!  So I’m sitting there, for what seemed like hours, reviewing the situation.  I was not having any trouble staying on the colt, even from behind the saddle. But I wouldn’t call it riding, I was just hanging on!  He was bucking pretty honest, straight toward the other horses.  I was bouncing around an awful lot and being a young man, I was very conscious of where I was landing every time I came down on the back of that horse!  After what seemed like 10 or 12 jumps (OK, more like two), I decided that there was no point in finishing the race.  So I started looking for a soft place to land and bailed!

Needless to say we lost, but what hurt the most was my pride.  You never heard such a bunch of hurrahing and razzing going on!   We got it from the other kids and from the parents.  We were the funniest thing of the night.

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