Saturday, January 19, 2013

Horses - All About Captain Jack

After losing my horse Murphy a little over a year ago, I didn't know if I really wanted to look for another horse for me to ride.

In a lot of ways, my closeness to Murphy was like that of a father to a son - more than just an owner for a horse. And yes, I saw him as one of a kind because he was everything that I ever wanted in a horse.

Though he was a typical American Quarter Horse in characteristics and temperament and abilities, he wasn't perfect.

He didn't like to sit still in the box when I decided to start roping again. And it is very true, he didn't like crossing water or wooden bridges. But those things were very minor when I consider all of his other attributes.

All in all, he had a great "cow sense" and he gave me a full days work when moving cows. Fact is, he didn't give me the hard time that other horses gave others - both during gatherings or on the trail.

He was never shy to go where I pointed him on our back country rides. Thick brush, unknown trails, predators in the distance, over log, up or down hillsides, rain or heat, day or night, we went everywhere for years.

And when it came to helping others move cows or gather, he had a second wind that he'd find somehow from somewhere. I thought he was all heart at times, but especially on those long days when we were out searching for cows or calves much longer than we thought.

After losing Murphy, I thought that I had no need to want another horse for me. But really, I was almost positive that I'd never find another horse like him. Yes, I really didn't think that I'd find another that would come close.

Well, that only last until just after last winter. About May, I really missed riding. And though we have other horses, I didn't trust any of them to carry me where I wanted to go. I knew I needed a bigger more able-bodied horse than what I have already.

So, it was then that I started to look for another horse again.

Over a period of months, I saw many horses. Some were very nicely built, good temperaments, great dispositions, easy to handle, calm, stood tied very well, were hoof broke, and all in all seemed like great horses. But for some reason, none were the ones that I wanted for me.

And yes, that's the way it went all spring, and summer and into the fall. But then at the beginning of last November, I was talking with a few friends over at the American Legion here in Glencoe. They told me about this strapping horse that one of the local cowboys up here owned - and was looking to sell.

The cowboy's name is Craig and he's known to be a real good hand with horses. I found out that he was getting ready to move to Wyoming to work with his brother on his cattle operation there. He was selling all of his horses that weren't making the trip with him.

The guys told me that a horse named "Captain Jack" was one that wasn't going, that he was a stout strong quarter horse, and that Craig was looking for a buyer who would give Jack a good home.

I met with Craig and talked about horses for awhile. He already knew that I have a few horses, but he didn't know that I was looking for a horse study enough to carry my weight.

Yes, thanks to steroidal medications, I have successfully put on enough weight for two average size men.

I told him about two of my bigger horses and how they both turned out to be lightweights when it came to being able to pack me around. One groaned and stepped out as if carrying the weight of the world. The other was a 16.2 hands Thoroughbred - it's hind end buckled on the first try, and on the second try he just stood there with his legs shaking.

On a visit to Old Town Sacramento, I stopped a few mounted Sheriff's Deputies who were astride some fairly sturdy looking horses. I found out that they were Belgian Quarter Horse Crosses. They were adopted PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) horses.

I immediately wanted to know more about them, including making a few calls to adoption facilities. All in all, no luck at all.

But what this experience did do was give me an idea of what I needed in the line of breeds to search for, as I honestly never thought of a Belgian Quarter Horse Cross as an option.

Craig told me about Captain Jack.

He said he was built very strong and beefy, wide chest, straight legs, with an all around good temperament. He assured me that Captain Jack was a good riding horse trail riding and for moving cows, but was a lousy rope horse.

When Craig mentioned his name was Captain Jack, his daughter overheard it and giggled. Yes, she giggled!

So I wanted to know why? I know it's not unusual to name a horse an odd name, but I also know that it's not usually a good sign when a kid who knows the horse - knows something about the horse to make he giggle at the mention of its name.

So I wanted to know, why did they call him Captain Jack?

Craig sort of grinned and laughed a little then finally said, "We named him after Captain Jack Sparrow, the pirate!"

Now I'm not usually one for movies these days simply because they have way too much unrealistic over-exaggerated violence. Many movies have nothing to do with realism and everything to do with a sort of blood lust that movie makers seem to have these days. Many are so graphic, yet there is nothing real about them.

 But even with that being said, yes, even I know who Captain Jack Sparrow is.

Of course, for the life of me, I had no idea why anyone would pick that character to name their horse after, so I asked why Captain Jack Sparrow?       

"Because he only has one eye like a pirate," his daughter answered.

"One eye?" I asked. "No peg leg or parrot I hope?"

"No," Craig answered smiling. "But really, he does only have one eye. One is good and the other is blind. He's been that way since I've had him, and I got him when he was about three. He's now 8."

Curiosity is a double edged sword. One side enables us to learn and experience things that we may never have before, good and bad. The other may revel to us a side of us that we don't want seen, by ourselves or others.

Curiosity had me, and I wanted to see this one-eyed horse named after a movie pirate. I was just hoping that my curiosity would not have me bring home another horse that I could not use for me.

And yes, I have to admit that I was curious if this one-eyed horse only walked around in circles? I was hoping I was wrong.

There are a lot of horses looking for homes these days. More and more owners are having to get rid of their horses simply because of the times we live in.

Democrat politicians want higher taxes at every turn, and by doing this they are doing absolutely nothing to help bring down the constant rise in the cost of living. They don't care as long as they get our money, more and more of our money.

Those who may have a horse, whether it was their kid's horse or maybe a horse used for recreation riding or more, are having a harder time keeping them. People just can't keep them because of the cost of boarding or feed or both.

Today, believe it or not, horses are literally being set free instead of keeping them and finding a home for them. More and more are ending up in shelters, animal control, and rescue operations than ever before.

My wife and I have taken in a few horses who might have ended up in horrible positions. They are horse just looking for homes. All they want is a place where they can live out there days.

Looking back on how I got Murphy, and the miserable condition he was in when I bought him, he was surely a rescue horse.

In Murphy's case, because he was too much horse for the owner and she couldn't ride him, she stopped feeding him on a regular basis to save money. Imagine that if you would. You buy a horse and then realize that he is too much to handle, so you starve him and let his hooves and all go to ruin.
 
Yes, I believe it is criminal.

I didn't know what I'd find when I'd see Captain Jack. I know Craig is a good hand and cares for all of his livestock. I knew I wouldn't find a horse that wasn't being cared for. I just wanted to see if he was worth buying and giving a good home.

We arranged to meet so that I could check him out. And when my wife and I arrived, we talked awhile before going out to the pasture and seeing Captain Jack.

My first impression, what caught my eye first, was his build. He was build like the old style American Quarter Horses of years gone by.

For you folks in other countries who read my blog, the American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse that has the ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less. Some folks have clocked them at speeds of up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h).

The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world with more than 5 million American Quarter Horses registered.

Quarter Horses are well known both as race horses and for their performance.

Their compact body is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, as working cow horse, in barrel racing, calf roping, trail riding, gatherings, and other western riding events, especially those involving live cattle.

They are also shown in English disciplines, such as dressage, driving, and many other equestrian activities.

The modern American Quarter Horse is said to have a small, short, refined head with a straight profile, and a strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and powerful rounded hindquarters.

They usually stand between 14 and 16 hands high, although some Halter-type and English hunter-jumper type horses may grow as tall as 17 hands.

Quarter Horses usually have an innate "cow sense" and can anticipate the movement of cattle.

And yes, that's the reason that they are so popular with cattlemen and cowboys. Quarter Horses just seem to have a natural instinct for working cattle.

They usually come in one of two different body types. One is what is known as the "stock" type which is really the more old style Quarter Horses of yesteryear, and the other is the "hunter-jumper" or "racing" type that have had too much of an influx of Thoroughbred bloodlines - that tall and sleek look is fine for some, but not for me.

Captain Jack is definitely a stock type of Quarter Horse. He is a stocky, tough, all-purpose horse.

He has alert ears and a blaze that goes from his eye to his muzzle sort of diagonal down his face. Because of the blaze going diagonally down his face, at time he looks as though his head is tilted when it isn't.

His chest is wide and broad, forelegs are set wide apart. At about 15 hands, he is not too tall. He has a straight profile, short back, and a very strong well-muscled body. In fact, his shoulder muscles caught my eye first off. Then it was his disposition.

Like most Quarter Horses, he has a good disposition and is pretty gentle. Where some horses can be a pain in the rump because they're either too skittish or pushy, Captain Jack is calm and easy to be around.   

Oh, and yes, they weren't kidding me, he only has one good eye. The other is clouded over which I assume means that it is dead. Also, it is interesting to note that like with people, he has learned to compensate pretty well without the one eye.

Compensating? Well, yes, since God has given us two eyes for a reason. The reason being to see things better in stereo so to say, which enables us to have better depth perception and such.

An old Cowboy buddy Leonard lost one eye years ago. Over the years he has learned to compensate to defeat any problems with depth perception. He drives and does everything that anyone with two eyes can do. And yes, even now into his 70s, he ropes with the best of them.

So why it that such a big deal to me? Friends, I once worked in construction as a sheet metal worker and welder. During that time, especially when grinding welds, over the years now and then, very tiny pieces of metal would get pass my safety glasses and into my eyes.

After going to the Emergency Room to fish them out, they would apply some ointment and a bandage over my eye and send me on my way. I found that my depth perception was a wreck.

It was hard to drive because it was hard to tell how far I was from another car, how far I was from putting something down on a table, or even putting my front door key in its lock.

So that's why I say that learning how to compensate with having only one eye is a pretty good trick. And yes, roping can be tough enough at times, now try doing it with one eye closed and then see how hard it is?

So yes, I'm pretty proud of  my old Cowboy buddy Leonard for doing what he does.

Now as for Captain Jack, I wanted to see how he does with only one eye.

Jack is basically a Quarter Horse who looks and acts like what Quarter Horses used to be. And yes, in his case, like the greater percentage of Quarter Horses out there, he is a sorrel.

I really liked the way he was built, and his disposition was great. So the questions became how did he ride and does that eye screw him up somehow?  

Well, Craig had Jack saddled up for his teenage daughter. But before she got in the saddle, Craig lifted and trimmed all four hooves. It was good to see that Jack was calm the whole time. 

Once he was done, he gave his daughter a leg up and she moved him around their round pen with ease. It was nice to see that Jack was calm and didn't move out until she ques him.  

After being in the round pen for a few minutes, she left there and walked up the road with him. She left our sight, but finally returned about 15 minutes later . He seemed a little hoof sore, but I wrote that off to Craig trimming his hooves a little too close.  

Once back, we removed her small women's saddle and replaced it with my 42 pound Tex Tan Prescott Rancher saddle with its 17 inch seat.  

Jack stood calm and easy the whole time I saddled him. I was a little surprised that he didn't take in air like Murphy used to do when I would cinch him up on the first go.

He took my bit and bridle easy enough and wasn't head shy when I was putting his ears through the headstall. These were all real good signs.  

After I had him saddled, I climbed aboard and asked my wife how he looked?  Since she was there when I climbed atop our 16.2 hands Thoroughbred that had its hind end buckled on the first try, and on the second try he just stood there with his legs shaking, I asked again how Jack looked once I was aboard?  

Knowing what I was talking about, she laughed and said that he was just standing on three legs. Yes, he was so calm and at ease that he had one leg lifted cocked and relaxed. It was as if indicating that he'd have no problem packing me at all.   

After that, I rode him around the round pen. I was looking for his movement and sense of direction. Besides making sure he could carry me, more than anything else I wanted to see if he had problems turning in the direction of his bad eye.   

I wanted to see if his not having one eye would be a hindrance of some sort. I'm happy to report that it wasn't.   

Once I was dismounted, Craig and I talked a while. I was very happy to buy Captain Jack, And yes, I really missed not riding and I wanted to get back in the saddle.   

I'm happy to say that he is a good riding horse. He has slower movements, and a smooth gait, though he still has the powerful hindquarters characteristic of the Quarter Horse.  

At first, he has shown himself to be a little ornery with the other horses while they establish the new pecking order around here. But that was two months ago, and yes, all seems to have settled down a little more these days.

Craig seems pretty happy that Captain Jack has a good home. And honestly, I think Craig is also happy about being able to help a friend find a good horse.

So yes, Captain Jack, or One Eyed Jack as a poker buddy calls him, is a horse that I like and can ride with ease.

Jack is a great addition to our family. Since he's only 8 years old, I'm hoping to have him as my primary riding horse for awhile.

As for working cows, I really don't know how "cowy" he is, but I'm sure I'll find out soon enough. And maybe, just maybe before I start moving cow with him, I'll find a patch for his bad eye?

Maybe one with a skull and cross bones that would make him look more like a pirate? After all, I could have sworn that just the other day I heard him say "Arr"!

Story by Tom Correa

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