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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Ballad of Mad Bob

Over 20 years ago, I worked for Sam Wilson back when he had Bob Acre Doc.  I never got to ride Bob, but in the 8 months I worked for him I rode every two year old on the place.  Ya, I know…eight months.  Not very long, but I think colt starters (especially young ones) are a lot like feedlot cowboys.  See I grew up with a Dad that was a feedlot cowboy most of my life.  The joke was that you didn’t have to fire a feedlot cowboy; he would be gone in 60 days anyway.  Don’t get me wrong, my Dad was an exception to the rule for the most part.  But I watched a lot of the younger guys come and go…like nomads, hence the similarities between young colt starters and young feedlot cowboys.  To bolster this opinion I have some scientific facts that I personally created.  When my wife and filed our taxes the year before we got married, she had one W-2….I had four.  That’s right, I said four.  Four jobs in one year….and still made less than $10,000 for the year.  No wonder I was so skinny, I was starvin’ most of the time!

But I digress, this is about one of the colts I rode for Sam.  We had a couple that looked like Bob, and being the creative minded guys that we were….we called them Bad Bob and Mad Bob.  The names had more to do with their temperaments than anything else.  Bad Bob was a nasty bucker, again the creative name.  Mad Bob, well you guessed it….he was an angry horse!

When I first started him he tried to run me down.  He was mad at the world from the beginning.  Looking back I think this anger had more to do with the horseman and less to do with the horse.  But, I forced him to progress along and he got to the point that he quit trying to run me down.  I saddled him on the second day (there was never much groundwork, for me, back then.) and hoped he would pitch just a little.  Now most two years olds don’t have the power to buck hard, they tend to out quick you.  Mad Bob was no exception, he was not very big….but he was pretty quick.  I also knew there was a possibility that he could come back after me if he bucked me off, I didn’t think he would….but I was taking no chances. 

I stepped aboard rather quickly and turned his head loose.  He just stood there….I felt like I was sitting on a keg of dynamite.  His muscles were as tight as a fiddle string.  So I started swatting him on the hiney, trying to get him to make any sort of move.  He finally blew…pitching and squalling.  He sorta surprised me when he finally made the first jump, so it took me a couple of jumps to gather myself back up and pull him into a circle.  He pitched in a circle for a little and eventually stopped.  So I let him loose again…bam…again with the pitchin’.  I spent most of an hour with this process…turn him loose, he would buck a couple of jumps and I would pull him in a circle.  Eventually he tired, but then by that time so was I!  I couldn’t wait for the next couple of days…one more in the round pen….next one in the pasture….

The next day was more of the same, but I rode him for a couple of hours instead of the one.  He eventually got to the point I could somewhat pull him in one direction or another.  But he WAS NOT happy about any of this activity.  The third day, we went to the pasture.  That was pretty exciting!  It involved a lot of speed and some trees.  Once he figured out he could not out run me, he tried to brush me off with trees.  If you’ve ever rode colts, like I did back then, you know they can travel quite well with their heads bent to the side and still move in the direction they want to go.  Eventually we reached an understanding, meaning I got smarter and started making the wrong things hard and the right things easy.  We made this pasture ride for the next couple of weeks and he started really coming along.  The anger hadn’t left yet, be he was more willing.

When we started him on cows, he was like an alligator.  Biting at the cows anytime they got close to him.  I think he actually liked the cow work, but it was more about where he could make them go (he wanted to dominate them) and less about holding them out of the herd.  He turned into a pretty nice pony, but that anger was always just under the surface.  You never knew if he was going to blow up or not.

As a young man matures, he looks back in his past and wonders what he was thinking.  I never should have gotten on ol’ Mad Bob until he was ready.  As it was, I pushed him into something he wasn’t ready for and he never got over it.  He did not have a solid foundation and so that “you never know when he was going to blow up” statement was created and tied to Mad Bob.  I would hope that he got over that, but I don’t know.

Just like I was asking Mad Bob to do something he was fearful of doing, God will ask you to step outside your comfort zone.  The difference is that God will continue to encourage you to make that step, where I just forced ol’ Mad Bob to bend to my will.  Starting colts is about timing, knowing when to advance to that next step.  We often miss time the next step and a horse is created with that “you never know when he was going to blow up” statement tied to him.  He has no foundation to fall back on.  God’s timing is perfect; He never pushes you into something you’re not ready for.  You always have a foundation to fall back on, the love of Christ and God’s written word.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.  Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by the bit and bridle or they will not come to you.  Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

Psalms 32:8-10


  1. I've had a few Mad Bob's, but my stories didn't always include excellent riding. They were more filled with getting bucked off and stomped.

    I watched Seven Days in Utopia with Robert Duvall the other night and his character talked about having a foundation that is unshakeable. If you don't have a solid foundation, the slightest gust of a problem will up end you.

    1. Who said anything about excellent was pretty ugly. I just happened to stay in the saddle! There are even those about getting bucked off and stomped, but I seem to have mentally blocked them.

      Amen to the solid foundation, even when you ignore Him...He is right there to catch you and point you in the right direction!