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It’s the Pitts: A Crash Landing

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

It’s been my observation real horsemen who know how to ride also know how to fall. This, however, is a true story of one who didn’t.

I used to work ring at a lot of horse sales – Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Paints, Appaloosas, fast horses, slow horses, warmbloods and horses that were not so hot. It was always exciting to sell a multi-million dollar race horse or an $18,000 mule. 

I also remember the low-lights, like the consignment sale back in the 1970s when only 10 percent of the horses sold because the consignors thought too highly of their horses. 

There is one episode of this which stands out above all the rest.

At Quarter Horse sales, it has been tradition for the consignor to ride the horse into the ring and spin him around so fast everyone sitting in the front row ends up with a pile of wood chips and the byproduct of digestion in their laps. 

At the auctioneer’s coaxing, the rider would then dismount and remove the saddle so everyone could see the horse’s back. 

At every sale, there was a very young kid piloting the horse to show how gentle the horse was, and there would also be at least one knucklehead, who when asked to dismount by the auctioneer, would instead stand up in the saddle and twirl his rope. 

I’ve also seen them crack a whip, and one numbskull even fired off a blank round making the pavilion shake, but the horse slept right through it. Later, the new owner discovered his newly acquired horse was deaf and dumb. 

Standing up on the saddle was the rider’s moment in the sun, his 15 seconds of fame, so to speak. I’m using the masculine term instead of feminine here because I’ve never seen a female perform such ridiculous antics. Or, I should say, attempt to. 

I’ve witnessed a few disasters when the horse moved a little, or in one case, left the building entirely with great urgency after the consignor lit a cherry bomb, which he’d obviously not rehearsed with his horse prior to the sale.

The worst crash landing I ever saw occurred in front of 2,000 hushed spectators when the horse in the ring backed up a half a step, causing the rider to fall with great velocity right on top the saddle horn. I swear people could hear the THUMP two counties away. 

The rider didn’t really fall off the horse as much as he melted off of it with his only padding being the handkerchief in his back pocket. 

The crowd let out a collective “Ooow” as the rider alternated between being beet red from embarrassment and “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” to quote the song. 

As the rope he’d been twirling fell down around his shoulders, the embarrassed rider hunkered down on one knee trying to resume normal breathing, suffering terribly from what we can only politely describe as “a groin injury.” 

It’s a feeling only a man can explain, but really there are no words in the English language to adequately describe the extent of the poor man’s suffering.

Meanwhile, the bidding on the horse stopped cold, and the auctioneer gaveled down the horse for two-thirds of its real value to a rancher friend of mine. 

As the auctioneer tried to coax the rider out of the ring so we could resume our business, the rider walked out in a way I would describe as “a little daintily.” A bystander carried his saddle out for him in an act of compassion.

A couple years later, I ran into my rancher friend who had purchased this horse, and I asked him what happened to the rider. 

“He quit training horses after that,” my friend replied. “And, who can blame him? I hear he still walks a little funny, hasn’t sired any offspring, and he went from singing bass to soprano in the church choir. But, there is one bit of good news – he’s no longer cross-eyed.” 

My friend continued, “The horse I bought from him sure turned out to be a dandy. Initially I bought him to add to the remuda, but when I saw what a great horse he was, I saved him for my own personal use. Whenever I call out his name it reminds me of the sale. We call him Thud.”

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