And the horse he rode in on

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

Cowboys that hang in the same circles identify each other by their ride long before they recognize a face.

In the world outside of cowboy, if you were to inquire about someone in town, you might get a litany of descriptions. “Gwen? Sure, I know her. She’s a marine biologist, has a couple kids and lives over on the hill above the golf course.”

Or, “Bob? He’s looking pretty good for his age, but he did just win a Nobel prize for something no one understands. He’s some sort of nuclear physicist. He lives down by the lake, has a boat at the marina.”

With cowboys, the dialogue will go something like this:

“Dan? He’s the one that rides that well-made paint horse and ropes heels. That’s sure a nice horse. I used to have one about like that and, man, I won a lot of money on him.”

Or, “Jess? I don’t know him personally, but I sure like that big blue horse he rides.”

Cowboys will notice and evaluate a horse long before they even look at the rider. When they do get around to noticing the rider, they will already have an impression of the type of person who would ride a horse like that.

The stars of the rodeo world are no exception to this ironclad rule. Cowboys who are likely to never come into personal contact with the sport’s champions will be very aware of the horses they ride right down to their age and names.

Some horses achieve as much fame as the riders. Viper, Speed Williams’ good horse, had a rope named after him. Many pastures, barns, ranches, sometimes even the children, are named for a favorite horse.

The women of the sport are no exception. Every barrel racer in the world can tell you the story of Charmayne James and Scamper, a tale that will include the cloning of this one-of-a-kind legendary horse.

In the world of ropers, cowboys are often introduced according to their horses. They might be marine biologists or nuclear physicists, but no cowboy will ever know or care.

Jess was calling around lining up new partners for a upcoming roping. He had gotten a phone number from another roper by describing the horse ridden by the man he wanted to call.

When he called the man, the first thing said after Jess introduced himself was, “You ride that big blue horse, the one with the brand that’s a bunch of numbers?” Now that everyone was identified, a deal could be made.

Cowboys will spend more time getting their horses ready, tuned-up, tack checked, trailer ready, gear, feed and medicine loaded, than they will on themselves. Hours will be devoted to the horses, generally starting days ahead of any scheduled roping or rodeo.

About fifteen minutes before time to leave, they will run in the house and grab the first shirt in the closet. Good to go.

A cowboy knows it doesn’t much matter to any other cowboy how he looks, but he does know he will be judged by the horse he rode in on.

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.comVisit her website at



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