Get Along There, Cowgirl

Ms. Holder’s story about her Mr. Tucker becoming a cowboy brought back to memory a tale from over a quarter of a century ago regarding another new rider.
Our daughter, now in her late 20’s, was about two years old and being slowly walked around while sitting horseback by herself. She had already been riding in our arms or sitting in a halter slung over the saddle horn for a while. But this “By Myself Daddy” stage was just starting as it related to horses and LOTS of other things.
We had finished up a ride, checking fences and cattle on a couple of pastures, unsaddled our horses, except for Old Sonny. He was a big sorrel gelding that spent virtually all his 27 years on our place. Gentle as could be and a bit on the lazy side, he was the Designated Baby Sitter for our God Children and Children for many years. The other horses had walked back towards the Horse Pasture, but we kept him up so Jessica could walk around bit while sitting alone on his broad.
After a while, I pulled her off, unsaddled and brushed down Sonny, so he could go join his partners. Jessica headed off to “check on the horses” and proceeded to motor along in that unsteady little kid gait that occurs when they are walking on uneven ground in a new kind of footwear for her, called boots.
The trail between the fence and some light brush was kind of narrow in a spot or two and Jessica got ahead of Sonny on that red dirt path.
I watched him get right behind him and patiently let her navigate the journey. Of course, for every step he took she had to take six or eight, so he was mostly on hold waiting to get to his buddies. I noticed he was encouraging her with a very gentle nug to her little back with his nose every few steps.
I quickly walked over and picked her up so he could get by, have a drink at the trough, and then roll like most tired horses like to do. Of course, she was unhappy not to be on the adventure by herself, but I reminded her a good cowhand takes care of the needs of the animals first.
Some readers might think of this event as negligence on my part for allowing the little one to wander on her own and/or to allow the horse behind her so close. Could something bad have happened? Of course, but I knew it would take something VERY unusual for that old gelding to do any harm to her.
And it was important to support her start at independence while she also was beginning to understand the need to take real good care of the animals she loved so much.
These days she is having to teach that lesson to her own young ones. And I hope they figure it out as well as she did.
As an aside, that “funny gait” she demonstrated in those new red boots sure looks a whole lot like how her old Dad walks these days with bad knees and missing toes!