There’s an old cowboy saying that you will be lucky if you own one real good horse. I’ve been richly blessed. I’ve had two.
When I got to Oklahoma and started learning to daywork, I figured out real quick I needed an actual ranch horse. I was using what I had at the salebarn but I needed a little different kind of mount if I was going to daywork…well, if anyone was going to hire me to daywork.
Justin Roberts and I were riding together at the salebarn in South Coffeyville. His cousin David Carr was breaking cutting prospects on the Drummond for Lee Sellers. Justin told me about a nice filly that would be sold private treaty worth the money.I
David said she’d bucked with him 30 days in a row, but when that was over she was really handy, and built to boot. David thought she’d get past bucking and make a good mount.
Justin has always been a horse and cow trader. I didn’t have any money but I sure wanted a cow horse.
We made a deal. He’d buy her and have the use of her for a year until I got the money saved up to give him $1,000 plus his purchase price. I would owe $2,400 for the mare.
The first day Justin rode her at the salebarn, she bucked a little first thing. I said she was still salty. We called her that from then on.
I’ve dealt with lots of folks in horse deals. Many don’t keep their word. Most would not have in Justin’s position. By the time I got my money together, Salty was a really nice cow horse and stout enough to pull a train. Lots of traders would have backed out on the deal altogether or upped the price, but Justin was as good as his word.
If you care about bloodlines, she is a Doc’s Stylish Oak daughter. They had him at the Drummond for awhile. She is out of a Jackie Bee mare. She wears the famous T apple brand. Beside her tail on the right side is the year of her birth. On the left is supposed to be the mare’s number, but Chuck had recently married and Salty’s mother belonged to his new wife. The cowboys branding didn’t know how to identify her, so she just has a bar on that side.
From the first time I rode her, I just did whatever I needed to do. She learned to rope along with me. She learned exactly the best place for me to rope from and that’s where she always put me. Other cowboys that had occassion to rope off her said she put you right on top of a cow’s head so you could almost just lay it on. I said that was because she got tired of chasing stuff I couldn’t catch, so she made it as easy as possible.
I was kinda particular with her but while Brian Peak was working at Spur he needed a solid mount for the WRCA rodeo at Claremore. Brian was a good friend and a good hand, so I offered him Salty.
Turned out Salty loves Brian.
He took her to use for a week or two so they could get together. The first or second night I called and told him if he didn’t keep her in the trap he’d probably have to rope or trap her cause she’d never been easy to catch. She’d work herself to death for me, but she never volunteered.
He said “oh I can walk up to her. I think she’ll get to where she’ll come to me.” Salty? I didn’t believe it. But it turned out to be true and it was obvious that mare loved Brian.
I will never know why Brian didn’t win top hand at that rodeo. In addition to two good bronc ride scores, he and Salty were a one-man team. He roped everything from calves to the milking cow on her. The cow gave a jerk so hard it broke Brian’s rope. He jumped off and mugged the cow right by the announcer stand and Salty stood in front of her. She had to move to do it – she knew she wasn’t supposed to, but she moved anyway to help Brian.
My ranch rodeo teammate Kate Chambers Huddleston used her for a season and a half and they got along great. One year at the finals in Amarillo they turned a cow on the fence that you have to watch the video to believe.
For two years my brother rode with us at the salebarn every Friday. To keep from dragging a horse, he rode Salty. Nancey Lain says Salty is worth her weight in gold for the way she took care of Keith once when he was drunk.
It was the last sale before Christmas. John Blount rode with us then and he brought a gallon milk jug of homemade peppermint schnapps. All the riders were getting a pull now and then, but Keith and John were drinking on it regular.
By the time we started to sell killer cows,  Keith was lit. The cow alley is no place designed for horse riders. The gates have chains instead of latches, some so low you have to stand on your head to open and close them.
Keith was listing to each side like a poorly loaded ship when he wasn’t opening a gate. When he did open gates it seemed impossible he got sat upright again.
Nancey came to me laughing so hard she was snorting.
“Watch your horse take care of Keith. She moves over under him real easy, then when he goes off on the other side, she inches under him that way. If he starts off forward on his head, she eases forward. But she never makes a sudden move…she knows that would dump him altogether.”
So I started watching. She was right, Salty was the only thing keeping Keith from hitting the ground.
Mike used her a little to daywork. He said he took her when he thought he might have to rope something big. He does have one story he particularly likes.
He and another guy were hunting a stray yearling.
“So I come over this little rise and there he was,” Mike told me.
“Don’t ask me how, but he had that calf roped by a front foot and he had 40 foot of rope out on a horn knot. He was just turning in a circle and that yearling was running in a circle as fast as he could go on three legs. So all I can think is to hurry, he’ll break that calf’s leg.
“I take off at a high lope shaking out a loop. By the time I feel in the circle behind that calf I was standing hard in my right stirrup so she didn’t fall on her side. Somehow I slid a loop in there and got two feet. When you tell that mare whoa you better be ready to dally cause man she stops. Everything came tight pretty quick. Old boy said ‘damn.’
“And I’m thinking what a good horse she is.”
The first hard knot appeared under her mane. None of the many she now has have ever seemed to bother her, but a year or so ago I had to quit riding her because there is one now the size of a football in her heartgirth. There are no lesions under her tail like grays usually get.
She’s the first gray horse I ever owned so I hadn’t paid much attention to the cancer they get inside and out.
As long as she’s fat and comfortable she can just boss the geldings around in the pasture. When she’s gone, I’ll bury her in that pasture. She’s earned it.

4 thoughts on “One real good horse

  1. Yep, I have quite a few good Salty memories. Thanks Kathy for letting me ride her after I had to retired my old ranch horse, Gunsmoke. She is a good un!!
    (P.S. I hope the next story isn’t about your other horse, Straw. We didn’t get off to the best start! Haha!)

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