The title of the picture in the Monday Morning Photo is “El Vaquero” by Ernie Morris. Ernie is a left-handed roper (everyone knows left-handed ropers are the best) so he and I had something in common, and along with it we have a pretty good roping story. I own a lot of his prints and had a whole series of them in my tack room in Montana.
What I see in this picture is a horse that is balanced mentally and physically. His ears are forward and his mind is right out in front of them to where they are going. He is not distracted by the other horse leaving him. The rider and the horse are both looking and headed in the same direction. He is not a very big horse, but looks to have a good frame that would be nice for a circle horse, corral horse, or rope horse. He is not bad to look at either.
The way the man is setting on the horse, he looks like his is not getting in the way of the athletic ability of the horse at all. His saddle is set forward to put him closer to the balance point of the horse. He is sitting with his chest over his saddle horn to keep balance between horse and rider and not create a drag on the horse by the way he is riding, yet is able to use his legs for balance for high level maneuvers, as any athlete would.
The man has nice gear and dresses very traditional for Californio-style. His horse is in the bridle and if you can do your work with your horse in the spade bit style, and he stays in balance and does not gap his mouth, you have spent the time to learn to keep a horse correct.
His saddle has no back cinch and no breast collar so it must fit fairly well. He also is packing a reata, so he must have enough feel to be able to rope something and slip rope so as not to break his rope or pull his saddle off.
His get down rope is ornately tied around his horses neck in the way of a fellow that does not have to get off and lead his horse too many times in a day. The alamar knot on his horse says when he gets to the corral he does not tie or hobble his horse, but uses him to work cattle.
You can’t tell how skilled a person is from a painting or a picture, but you can sure tell his potential.
Everything about this says high skill and stockmanship. There may be some things I can’t see, but like the story of the natives not being able to see the boat when Columbus first showed up, I have studied a true stockman’s skills, and I feel I am starting to see it.
There are many styles of stockmen around the world, and this is just one example of the different types. It should not be looked at as a contest to see which is best, but what style or combination of these styles is best applied in every person’s situation using the best type of pressure possible to achieve the goal you are trying to accomplish. This is probably true in life style as well.
There is also the big picture we need to look at. The mission in the background says he may be a man of faith. He has a full head of grey hair, so I would imagine lots of knowledge. He is in excellent physical condition and looks to be healthy so he has lived a good lifestyle, most likely a beef-eater. He has leather cuffs on his wrists and a nice scarf and a white shirt with a sleeve garter, and wears his hat like a man that is proud and confident.
I don’t know if my way of “seeing” this picture is the way it really was. That does not matter as much as what it does to inspire me to reach a level I would like to get to.
If you ask people to explain why they use certain gear or a type of saddle many times they have no real idea why, it’s just what someone else is using.
When you ask someone why they work cattle the way they do or ask them to explain it to you, many will not know what to say or do.
Learn to know what and why you are using or doing something. Don’t do it because everyone else is. Do it or use it because it’s the best for you. Always try to get better.
You need to “see it” to get this started.
~ Curt Pate