The famous King Ranch in south Texas has had some famous race horses over the years. They have won six Triple Crown Races……Two Kentucky Derbies, one Preakness and three Belmont Stakes. One of their Kentucky Derby winners, “Bold Venture” remains the only Kentucky Derby Winner to ever sire two other Kentucky Derby winners.
However, most of the horses they breed down there are what we call “Using Horses”, those that are bred to handle and work cattle.
My favorite and most faithful and useful horse ever was a mare from the King Ranch. Her name was “Suzie”, that I have mentioned earlier. I got her when she was still quite young. She could work all day long and still have plenty of energy and spirit. I bred her only one time (to my famous stud horse) and she produced a beautiful, Chestnut foal.
She had incredible ability as a cutting horse. Have you have ever watched a cutting horse competition? At the big ones the money prizes for the winners are huge. They use a group of yearling cattle who want to stick together. Then the competitor horse eases into the group and selects one animal. It then eases it away from the group. As the yearling usually in desperate fashion tries to get back into the group, the cutting horse competitor faces the yearling and keeps it away from the group.
The judge of the competition grades the competing horses on how well they complete that task and how efficient and classical their movements are. When the yearling darts to one side, trying to get back into its group, the cutting horse bounces its front legs in that direction and then cuts the yearling off and back away from the group.
I have always thought that it looks really awkward when the horse has to bounce its front legs to the side to get into position to cut the yearling back off from the group. My Suzie never fooled with that bouncing of her front legs. She would just whirl quickly completely around to get into the proper position to keep whatever animal we were cutting out, away from the heard. I never taught her to do that. It just came natural to her. She was not going to let that animal get back into the heard, and I thought it was way more efficient for her to whirl around that way, also. However, you had better be seated well into that saddle or she would leave you in mid-air and on the way to the ground.
On most cattle ranches in Texas we plant wheat or oats in the Fall. As this crop grows up all winter, it provides green grazing for the cattle in the winter months. We would then either let the cattle graze the crop out in the spring, or take them off if there was plenty of rain and let the crop grow up and harvest the grain in the early Summer.
On my 1,600 acre ranch near Denton one year we had a nice wheat crop growing on the plowed field way on the west side of the ranch. It was at least a mile from the ranch house and corrals across that big prairie-grass field to the wheat. You could drive a pick-up all over that grass field, but you had to be especially careful after a rain to avoid the many buffalo wallows in it. Of course, the wild buffalo were all gone, but they had left these fairly deep depressions where they had wallowed in the dust and the mud. Over the centuries they had carried off the dust and mud in their furry hides and left these deep depressions.
Anyway, one morning a cowhand and I were on horseback to take a herd of cattle across that prairie grass field to graze on the nice green wheat. We got them there and made sure that there was plenty of salty mineral for them. You couldn’t just put them completely on the green wheat without plenty of mineral or they would bloat and die. You needed salt in the mineral so they would not lick up too much of it.
So, we were coming back the mile across that prairie-grass field and admiring the Fall colors since that field looked down on most of the surrounding countryside.
Suddenly this huge bobcat jumped up right under our horses. I am sure it was there to get one of the several newborn calves. We would try to have the calves born in the early winter so that they could have access to the Spring grass at their maximum growth period, later.
Suzie just bolted forward and cut that big cat back. I had nothing to do with it. It was just instinct from her genes to cut an animal back that was running away at high speed. Then the cowboy’s horse cut the cat back toward us. This went on, back and forth for some time until that big bobcat just stopped and sulked right there in the grass. There were almost no trees in that big field.
I told the cowboy to stay right there with the cat, and I would go to the house and get a shotgun.
I got a 12 gage with high-velocity number 6 shot and came all the way back.
That cat had not moved.
I had never shot a high-velocity shotgun load from off of Suzie’s back. She was so dependable, that I am sure everything would have been all right. However, I eased out of the saddle to shoot from the ground. Whenever you dropped her reins to the ground, she would stay right there.
So, I walked toward the cat. I wanted to get as close as possible, since number 6 shot are not that large. When that cat saw me on the ground, and not on horseback……..zoom, here he came right at me. Scary! I shot him coming full speed, “head on”!!!
That dude was so big and impressive that I had him mounted. He made a nice addition to my Den.