So long, Cowboy, 5/22/01

Last night, feeling in an especially anthropocentric mood, Samson, and I shared carrots and nuzzled with Cowboy for the last time. Saying good-by to old friends is always hard, but remembering the times that helped form and solidify the friendship is what lives on.

Cowboy was the first horse I really bonded with.  He was a great schooling horse in that he seemed to sense how unsteady his rider (me) was and he would behave accordingly. When I first, started riding our relationship depended on Cowboy's automatic pilot. He would hear Mark call out gaits, speed, direction, and would expect me to hang on as he went through the maneuvers. I sometimes thought that he and Mark would talk about my progress after class - especially during the times I seemed to fall off of Cowboy about every other class.  Mark got tired of saying, "heels down" and Cowboy got tired of stopping and looking down with rolling eyes.  He sighed, but was always too gentlemanly to neigh.

During our formative bonding, Cowboy was quite independent.  He would never come to me when I called his name.  As a matter of fact, even when I went up to him to put the halter on to bring him in from the field, he gave no indication he knew me.  Being horse identifier challenged, I finally discovered that he had a white, equal sign on his foreleg that no other horse had.  It was especially fun checking for the equal sign during the muddy season, but it saved about 3 separate trips out to the field.

As my riding progressed, Cowboy eventually turned off his automatic pilot and started hanging around Samson when I came to look for him.  It was his way of saying, "over here, identifier challenged!"  I knew we finally clicked when he actually started coming to me when I called.  Of course, he always brought Samson so that I wouldn't get confused.

Parading, square dancing, and drill teaming is where Cowboy and I really bonded.  Both of us were proud that he could stand still in the front line for Drill Team inspection at the State Fair. As we stood for inspection and people who knew him would say, "boy, look at that Cowboy" I sometimes imagined they weren't talking about the horse. Cowboy, was that kind of friend -- he didn't mind. For square dancing, I was grateful to have a partner who did the moves with 2 coordinated, left feet. In parades, it was always fun hearing the ooh's and ah's he drew from the bystanders and I especially remember the fun we had riding up to the Dairy Queen drive in window.

Cowboy was the Houdini of the herd. More than once, he came up and nudged me after shaking open the quick release on the tie down, getting out of his bridle, or-- my favorite -- reaching up and pulling on the quick release knot to undo it. 

Cowboy was an energetic horse with a free spirit and big heart.  Three out of four bad hoofs got to be too much.  He never would have gotten along in handicapped parking.  I'm sorry to lose an old friend, but glad he went with his free spirit and big heart intact.