Slingshot owned a horse that I thought I just had to have. Stinger was his name. He moved like a cat and was a little hard to get along with, but when the nitty gritty got gritty he was there for the long haul. It didn’t get to tough for Stinger. Slingshot could rope anything on him and play it like he was tarpon fishing on light line. Sling liked a sixty foot poly hard twist and weighted. He loved to forefoot a big cow and stand her on her nose. Stinger would hold her while Sling would run his rope to let her have enough rope to sit back down or pick up Stinger and step him back a step or two and flip her over on her back. Stinger was good in the herd and could cut the bakin’ powder out of a biscuit. He was a cat in the rocks, but if he was fresh and it was a cool morning, you might want to watch him while you were rolling your first smoke of the morning. Stinger was one of those that looked so good, he made you feel good.
I caught Sling at a weak moment, not sure why, but he asked me if I wanted to buy Stinger ?
I said, “Oh Yeah. How much.” I can’t remember how much I paid for him, but I remember every ride since I bought him. He was always testy on cool mornings but never serious.
It had been a year since I bought Stinger and we were like bread and butter. We were gathering trotty yearlings in big open, rolling country. Every bunch we jumped took a little run and tried to get away from us. We were hazing a bunch in a long steady run. The cattle had not honored me and I had to hold my position in a dead run and wait on them until they were ready to look for a way out of this racetrack. If I bumped them now they would just scatter like a covey of quail. Stinger was a cool cat and comfortable holding his position. You could feel him checking and chipping while he was running in perfect time with the cattle. The yearlings couldn’t get by Stinger so they were bending and giving to his pressure. Once we got them headed in the right direction, I picked up and checked ole Stinger to let him blow a minute while these cattle moved away from us headed to the hold up. My reins didn’t feel right while I was running along with these cattle , but I didn’t even look down to see what was happening. Stinger just chipped to a stop and I looked down to see my bridle hanging around Stinger’s neck. I had no clue what had happened, nothing was broke or undone. I never felt when it came off. Stinger was foot loose and fancy free with nothing in his mouth, just the bridle hanging around his neck. Didn’t bother him a bit, but I had the sudden feeling of no control. I got off and reinserted the bit in his mouth, realizing that he was just as good without it, as he was with it. He hadn’t missed a step while we were hazing those cattle.
It was a long time before I knew for sure what had happened. I always rode my bridles too loose. They kinda self adjusted that way and fit several of my horses without bothering to adjust the length of the bridle. Granted they didn’t have a throat latch or brow band. To much trouble and time consuming also. Early one morning just after I had bridled him, I saw him take the bid and suck it up in his mouth and hold it while he shook his head just a little and spit the bit out. It landed on the ground in front of him. It wasn’t an act of defiance, just an adjustment factor. I tightened it up a notch and and it never happened again. He just liked things to be done right.
I have never had another horse do that same maneuver until just reticently. I have acquired another cowboy special and was in the process of checking him out. I had got off to open a wire gap and after closing the gap I turned around to get back on and my bridle was laying on the ground. It is a little shocking when you look down and see your bridle laying on the ground and you are holding the other end of the reins with nothing attached. The greatest of Cowboy fears is being left afoot. “Special” climbed another rung in my ladder of appreciation. He didn’t make a step, just standing there looking at me foot loose and fancy free, as if to say, “You want to screw that thing back on there Earl.”
Since the days of Stinger I have been more careful of the bridle adjustments and ride with a much tighter bridle. I like to see them smile a little when I put the bridle on. “Special” could get his off with a much tighter bridle, so I had to make him smile a little more than most. I guess that is why they invented the throat latch.