Hubby used to have a registered Tennessee Walking Horse named Mariana. She had the rocking-chair canter and running walk typical of her breed, but Mariana’s sturdy build, agility, speed, and cow sense rivaled that of any Quarter Horse.
Quick and quick-witted, Mariana sprang into action the split-second that a cow made a wrong move. She read the situation and controlled a cow’s trajectory as handily as any competitive working cowhorse. Riders didn’t have to understand cattle because Mariana did. This was just as well; most were too preoccupied with staying in the saddle.
Not even the orneriest cows and bulls could bully Mariana. Hubby says that could be worrisome, seeing as he was aboard a horse that wasn’t going to back down from an angry bovine that often outweighed her. One particularly unpleasant old mama cow, #99, once hit Mariana’s side and nearly knocked her over. The experience might have intimidated some horses but only made Mariana more determined.
Mariana was never nominated for cowhorse sainthood, however, because she was difficult to catch. Hubby would have to haze her into a small corral or bribe her with oats before he could halter her.
One morning, Hubby was surprised to see Mariana not only out of the horse pasture but trotting up to him. Then he saw the blood. A mountain lion had left claw marks on her rump and had run her through a 7-wire barbed wire fence that ripped deep gashes into her neck and chest. She was a trooper, though, and stood calmly while Hubby treated her wounds and administered penicillin twice a day for weeks.
Hubby and Mariana logged many miles on mountain trails. She was the first horse he knew that wasn’t scared of moose. “The only thing wrong with her was that I didn’t have two of her. Even other gaited horses couldn’t walk as fast as she did. Packhorses had to jog to keep up, which was very uncomfortable for them. I had to keep stopping to let the packhorses rest.”
Hubby figures that Mariana was the best horse he’s ever owned, even though he didn’t pay a dime for her. He’d plowed 25 acres of ground for a neighbor, who gave him Mariana in payment. “I definitely came out ahead on that deal,” he says.
“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.” ~Malala Yousafzai