The Natural Horseman – Feast or famine

By Steve Stevens

We got a severe, unexpected thunderstorm the other day.

I was working a bay Arabian gelding we have had in training for some time now. He can be flighty and stubborn, but is incredibly smart. I believe he had a pretty rough start and we have had to rebuild his confidence and the way his body functions.

Needless to say the skies were blue, a little hazy, not a cloud in the sky. Hot and humid goes without saying, but there was a cool breeze that felt good across my sweaty brow.

The quick burst of wind whipping the trees around made me concerned so I checked the weather radar and nothing was on it.

By the time I had the Arab saddled and did some softening exercises, the sky grew dark, real dark from the north. But it seemed like I had time to ride. I put one foot in the stirrup, stood up and twisted my hip to saddle as I always do before I throw my leg over, a technique that has kept me safe more times than I can count.

This big Arab tightened across his rib cage and stiffened through the shoulders and the neck. I stepped down to unwind him and as I did a pretty bright flash…and then a big bang, and then a big jump sideways from my mount. It wasn’t moments later that the sky broke free and we had the first hail storm we have had since we moved here almost two years ago. It came down hard.

I double checked everything in my head. Get tack put away. Make sure horses are where they need to be and oh, man, did I forget to put the hay I just got this morning under the shelter? Ran around the buildings and saw my truck parked where it needed to be. I guess I did. My Ford F250 long bed was loaded with about 25 coastal bales and backed under shelter. By now I am soaked.

I ran inside to get out of the lightning. When I was younger I used to love lightning storms, but once you are responsible for livestock it is always an uneasy feeling when those bolts of lightning get close to home. You just have to keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. It is all you can do. Some horses will go under the shelters and others will just go stand in the middle of the pasture.

All right, get out of your wet, sticky wranglers. Not the most comfortable when they get wet. Seems like they become velcroed to your legs when they get soaked. The roof of our house goes from sounding like you are in the shower with the hail bouncing off the windows to silence—just like that.

And like it never happened—the sun is back out, breaking rays through the clouds and leaving GOD’S special beauty on the earth that is seen only after a good storm.

The arena and the round pen are flooded. I usually can tell how much rain we get by how flooded they get. It will be a day or two before they dry out.

It is so funny here in Texas. We hadn’t got any of the little rain recently and were going on a pretty bad drought of no rain again. Ground was cracking, grass was dried out, and the dust was out of control. I told Amanda just this morning how bad we needed rain and I am glad to have it, but does it always have to come in such sarcastic buckets?

So, I guess at the end of the day, you plan your best to work around Texas weather. But, sometimes you have to put the saddles and tack up early and enjoy the forced blessing and go spend time with your family.

We are always searching for those special moments with our horses, whether it be a change in their attitude, picking up a proper lead for the first time, or just walking up to you in the pen.

Sometimes we have to step away from all of that, and look for those moments with our family and friends.

Sometimes the rain gives us more than rain.•

This is Taz, the horse from the story. I wanted to show you some pictures of my mounting process. In the first picture I have stepped up in the stirrup and twisted my hip towards the saddle. But as you can see, Taz is throwing his head around. So I am going to wait until he relaxes his head. If he continues to do this I may step down and do some more groundwork. I am not going to mount until he stands still and relaxes. 




This second photo shows once he relaxes, I will then get on. This is a great practice to keep horses from walking off when you mount them. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Stevens)