Cowboy Bob's Campfire Conversations
Table of Contents
Cowboy Bob and
the Bouncin' Bovine
The Philmont Mountain Lion
The Dyin' Gunfighter
The Truth About Wild Horses
Bunc Bradshaw and the Mexican Captain
The Cowboy's Wardrobe
Some Other Cowboy Paraphernalia
The First Bulldogger
God's Bit and Bridle
The Adventures of Cheyenne Dawson
Louis Remme's Wild Ride
Cowboy Bob and the Bunny Buckle
About the time I started volunteering at a nearby therapeutic riding center, Leatha went to Indiana to help her mother move out of the house she'd lived in for some 60 years and into an apartment. Leatha and her sister then took over the task of clearing out the house in preparation for putting it on the real estate market. On one of her calls home, Leatha told me she had found something that she thought I'd enjoy having. It was to be a surprise, so she refused to give me any clues as to what it was.
Meanwhile, the riding center was having some problems with a horse named "Bunny." Bunny, a Standardbred, was a former harness racer -- a pacer. She wasn't fast enough on the track, so she was donated to the foundation. Since most of her training had been in a harness, a saddle was a fairly new thing for her and she tended to be a bit skittish under saddle. Obviously, a skittish horse with a handicapped rider is not a good combination, so the center's manager asked me to give Bunny a bit more saddle time.
Everything went fairly well for the first few turns around the arena. Bunny was a little tense, but was responding well to me. Then, some folks on the observation platform started loudly singing, stomping, and generally raising a ruckus. That, of course, pushed Bunny over the edge -- and she started bucking. Truth to tell, I had her head pulled up and the bucking stopped within just a few seconds, so it wouldn't have even qualified for an eight-second rodeo ride. She calmed down, and we finished the session with no further upsets.
The next day, Leatha returned from Indiana and presented me with her little surprise. It was an inexpensive stamped-metal western buckle with a brass bucking horse figure mounted in the center. I took one look at it and exclaimed, "That's what Bunny looked like yesterday!" I've called it my "Bunny Buckle" ever since.
Bunny has had some other interesting quirks. For example, she was terrified of plastic shopping bags -- the kind you get at a Walmart store. If she were in the arena when someone walked in with one of those bags, she would go ballistic. She would buck. She would rear up. She would dash around the arena at breakneck speed and try to push her way through any available door. There was no way she was going to stay in an enclosure with one of those terrifying bags. (In working with her, I've come to the conclusion that she may have had a leg trapped in the handle of one of those bags and couldn't get rid of it until the handle eventually broke.) This, of course, was another trait that couldn't be tolerated where folks with disabilities are involved, so I set about trying to break her of the habit.
I began by looping a lasso around her belly, running the rope through the ring on her halter, and tying the line to a secure post. As I gently introduced a Walmart bag to the situation, Bunny tried pulling back at first, but quickly learned that it was best to stand still -- albeit nervously. I proceeded to do some gentle "sacking out" by lightly rubbing her with the sack over my hand. While I was doing that, I kept up a cheerful banter, telling her what a good horse she was and what a good time we were having with this silly little bag.
Bunny, of course, didn't understand a word I said -- with the possible exceptions of "Bunny" and "good" -- but she clearly understood my tone of voice, which said, "We're having a happy time together." I'm not above a little bribery when it's appropriate, so I started offering a few horse treats. The catch was that she had to take the treat from my hand... and there was a Walmart bag on my hand! She learned that those plastic bags could actually deliver some of life's little pleasures.
It wasn't long before I had Bunny wearing plastic bags like a hat. My nickname for her was "the Walmart Queen."
We still had some difficulty getting her to walk across bags on the arena floor (which is what gave rise to my suspicion that she had gotten a leg caught in one sometime in the past). I had started trying to coax Bunny into walking over some bags when I had to answer a phone call in the office. I asked my friend, the late Bill Prickett (1956-2016), to continue working with Bunny while I was gone.
Now, you have to know something about Bill. He was a natural horseman. He had a quiet, gentle, yet firm and controlled demeanor that horses just naturally responded to. His results were so amazing that I called him "the horse magician."
When I returned to the arena 15 or 20 minutes later, Bill not only had Bunny walking over those bags, he was riding her over them -- bareback! What a guy!
Bunny became one of our most reliable horses -- being worked for several sessions on ride nights and even carrying double when a back rider was required.
Internationally acclaimed author Mary Casanova (leading Bunny in the photo on the right) met Bunny while doing research for her American Girl series books, "McKenna" and "McKenna Ready to Fly." In those books Bunny became Dusty, a horse that was terrified of plastic bags. ("Cowboy Bob" also got a brief mention.) The two books were adapted as a DVD movie and aired on NBC in November of 2012.
The moral of the story: Even a very skittish horse can be brought around with patience and sound training methods. And remember, "A horse will tend to respond to you like you respond to it."
("Walmart" is a registered trademark of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, AR.)
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MINNESOTA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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