In the sport of Cutting, the turnback horse is one of the most crucial, and yet often glazed over, players in the game. When you watch cutting there are four helpers that assist the cutter in driving a cow out of the herd and making a nice cut that will earn him or her a high score. These helpers are on turnback horses, this horse "turns back" the cow for the cutter. The turnback horse is also used to sort and settle the herd when it is first brought into the arena - a crucial time for cutters to watch the herd and evaluate the cows in the pen. This poem was inspired by a couple of things. The first one being an article on Sally Harrison's Blog about Bill Freeman's turnback horse, James, that was beloved by many. It was with Freeman and James that this poem really sprang from. The second inspiration came from great turnback horses I have known and ridden. Lastly, I was inspired by a few turnback horses I knew that were soft, sweet and highly under appreciated for what they were and who they served. Hope you enjoy.
The 2013 NCHA Open Futurity Finals
His head is rather homely, his demeanour rather punchy,
But he'll push any cow with a smile sat upon his unclipped mouth.
He is rather fuzzy, never sleek or ever shiny,
But i'll tell you what sir, this is the darnedest turnback horse from North to South.
& when I die, they will talk of all those wild champions I tamed,
the wins I rode, the accolades, the fame.
No one will talk of my constant companion,
the horse I rode throughout the years - a turn back with no name.
More often than not we called him "donkey",
because even in his twilight years that old nag could get a little bronc-ey.
Sometimes we called him "red", to reflect the colour of his coat,
Other times to reflect his firth we called him a big 'ol boat.
When he was naught his names were often quite obscene,
But he deserved it - that sucker he was pretty darn mean!
I remember at a show I had him tied up to a fence,
He lunged for a cute little mare - sent her right into a wooden bench!
Other times, to show displeasure, he'd nip me on the arm,
And I would tell him, ever so sternly, "I'm sending you right back to the goddamn farm."
But despite his lack of name, and his apparent lack of class and care,
When I needed to help a boy out of the herd, that horse turned into a bear.
He never stopped or stuttered or made a single move wrong,
And he never came up sore - and man, those days were long.
If you had ever tracked the winnings of those that we have helped out,
I bet it would be in the millions - probably a number you couldn't even count!
That horse may never be remember by the common man,
But my compadre he was, and I am still... his biggest fan.