Juan Baeza, El Defensor Chieftain Intern

Horses were always so cool growing up. Any chance I got at being around them I would take as a kid. Whether it was horseback riding or just feeding them. I never realized what a pivotal role they would play in my life.

From bites to kicks, to getting bucked off or ran over, horses have a way of teaching you a quick lesson. Just when you think you have them figured out, that’s when they show you that you don’t. Just like people, some are nicer than others. Personalities vary, some are cool, calm, and collected. Others carry a temper. Then there’s those with a special personality. The ones that seem to be aware of everything. They carry themselves with such a moxie that my dad and I would refer to them as if we were talking about another person. The type of horse that seems to pose for a picture. That might seem confusing, but those who have been around horses understand.

Patience is the word that I associate most with horses. The good lord knows that you will need plenty of it. My true experiences with horses began when my dad was working at a ranch called L Bar ranch, located near Grants. My grandpa, dad and I, out there in that vast land. The horse that I rode was a buckskin color with a black mane and tail. It was an old horse but a dang good one. “El Bayo” we called him referring to his color. My dad rode a tall white horse and boy did it give him hell. Everything spooked it, and my dad was in a constant bucking battle with this horse. He lost some and won some, yet he kept on riding. The ride became personal to my dad. My guess is that it became personal to the horse too. Watching this was quite the sight. It quickly showed me just how different these animals are. It was night and day between these two horses. I still remember my grandpa cheering on my dad as his horse bucked. As if it was a rodeo, but he understood the personal battle going on between my dad and the horse. I also think it reminded him of his younger self.

My ugly experiences came when I started working with yearlings. A yearling is like a big kid. They are extremely playful and full of energy; the problem is that the average yearling weighs around 500-600 pounds. Some weigh more. They are so curious about everything, and they are constantly biting at everything. That includes the person handling them. When I was younger, I just wasn’t strong enough to handle them.

Growing up certainly helped, as I got bigger and stronger; I became more confident when working with the yearlings. Maybe a bit too confident. There was this tall gray thoroughbred horse. We called him “ghost”. He was fine to handle, the problem was putting him on and taking him off the walker. The walker is like a big treadmill for horses. He would always be overly excited going on and coming off. Like a fan when you put it on the maximum speed, he was all over the place jumping, kicking, and yanking away from you. One morning while taking him off, he jumped and kicked out catching me right on the hip. Luckily for me I was close to his body so he couldn’t get the full wind up on the kick. Instead, he just kind of threw me up in the air. Like a sack of potatoes, I landed on my back, knocking my air out and a horse on the loose. It’s funny how those situations work out. I had always envisioned my life like a movie, and in that small fragment of coming back down all I could hear was Neil Armstrong singing ‘What a wonderful world.” Did I get too confident? Maybe. It was a quick lesson learned.

It was so frustrating to go through something that you just did the day before but this time everything seems to bother the horse. This is where that patience comes in, you got to ride that wave with it. You can’t really force the situation. My dad always says, “You supposed to be the smart one in this situation.”

The positive does outweigh the negative when it comes to horses, but I am extremely grateful for those humbling experiences that a horse once gave me.