In “Trails Plowed Under” by Charlie Russell he has a story about Bronc Riders and tells about Charlie Brewster striking a match on his saddle horn, causing his horse to start pitching and bucked off the edge of a big cut bank and landed in the top of a large cottonwood tree,When the other cowboys rode up to the edge to survey the wreck, Charlie Brewster hollered up at them, anybody got a match, mine blew out………!!!!!!!!! Charlie Russell tells other stories of old bronc riders like Con Price. Later Con wrote a book “Memories of Old Montana”, and in this book he tells about Bronc Riders and Broncs.
Several people not familiar with horses have asked me what a bronco-buster means, and they seem to think all cowboys are bronco riders, which is not so. I sometimes talk to an old-timer that once rode broncs and broke horses, and like most all old-timers in every line of work that claim the younger generation cannot compete with them the way they did it in their day. But the old boys are only kidding themselves when they think those young fellows can’t ride a bucking horse. They have made a profession of it and keep in practice. Another thing, the old-timers never flanked a horse like they do in contest today —— that’s putting a strap around his kidneys and cinching it up to make him buck—— and in a twist when he is up off the ground. That the horses of the old days never did. I have been judge at several bucking contest and shows and I would venture to say that no old-timer could ever have rode those horses with that rigging on him without first getting used to it.
Another thing, in the old days of the range the good riders tried to keep their horse from bucking, whereas today they train and teach them to buck for the shows. So naturally the horse and rider have more practice.
There is a great difference between a bronc-rider and a horse-breaker, or a regular cowboy——and still they are classed as the same by a great many people. Not saying anything against the modern bronc-rider, but all he knows about a horse is to ride him while he bucks. I have seen some of the best riders that didn’t have any idea of what a horse should do after he quit bucking, from the fact he saddle him in a chute and gets on him in there— then he is let out an the skill he uses is to stay on that horse a few seconds until the whistle is blown by the time-keeper and the horse is caught by the the pick-up man— and many a time that whistle has saved many a boy when he was all in. But the poor bronc-fighter has a hard time at best. He has plenty of competition and they can’t all win and most of them , if they follow it long enough, wind up broken physically and financially. So the old saying goes………”all it takes to make a good broncobuster is a strong back and weak mind”………as all it requires is plenty of courage and practice.
But a good horse-breaker really does something. He uses intelligence and studies the disposition of his horse, as every one is different and requires different methods—— and I wouldn’t attempt to say which is the best. Some cowboys are natural horsemen and seemingly without taking much pains get wonderful results, while the other fellow will try ever so hard and never get nowhere.
Nearly every state has a different way of starting a young horse. In Montana the first thing we did with a wild horse was to catch him by the front feet and throw him down, and take one hind leg away from him by tying it up so he can’t touch the ground with it (that way he can’t hurt you or himself). He stands on three legs and if he tries to kick or fight he usually falls down. After a few falls he will stand and let you rub him all over his body and legs, and you can saddle and unsaddle him until he finds he can’t get away from you and that you aren’t going to hurt him. That was the system I used and I thought I got very good results.
However, I have seen cowboys use a blindfold on a horse that worked very well, too—using a soft piece of leather or a piece of cloth to put over the horses’s eyes and in that way learned him to stand while they saddled him and got on and off until he gets used to it. But I always preferred the way of letting the horse see what was goin on from the first lesson.
But That is just a small part of breaking a horse. In the first place he may have a notion of bucking no matter how careful you have been in handling him, as there is no doubt some horses inherit those different bad habits from their ancestors just like humans do, and if bucking happens to be the favorite way of your horse’s showing his harness, the cowboy must be able to ride him, as every time a horse bucks his man off he getting that much nearer to being an outlaw. Then another thing ——seldom ever any two horses buck the same. One will have some different twist from the other one. I have seen good riders get on a horse that didn’t seem to buck so hard and would get throwed off. When I used to ride, the hardest for me was one that bucked and whirled around and around.
But the bucking is usually the small part of breaking a horse or at least to make him valuable as a cow horse. Mose horse-breakers first start the horse with a hackamore and sometimes never put a bridle on him for a couple of years and then sometimes he is not finished, depending both on what kind of a horse and man they are.
I think the early days in Wyoming and Montana they got much quicker results with a horse, as they started working cattle with a young horse as soon as a man could pull him around at all, and there is no doubt but that is what makes a good horse. They are like people. One can read forever about learning to do something and will never learn much until they actually do the work themselves.
There is no doubt California turns out some of best broke horses in the world, but the breaking sometimes costs the owner as much as two hundred dollars. So it can be readily seen that a big cow outfit like they had a few years back, that had a couple of hundred saddle horses and worked 25 or 30 men, couldn’t put in two years breaking a horse of pay two hundred dollars to break him. Even at that I have seen just as good, if not better, practical cow horses that never had that much time or money spent on them —— but they worked cattle every day during the six months of the season—— and I contend that’s what makes cow horses and cowboys.