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Montana Spring Warmup: Chance the Bay Wonder

Well, it’s that time of year again: the winter snow has turned to water and ruined driveways and gravel roads all over the county. This year could’ve been a real nightmare with all the accumulation we had, but our nights were just cold enough to stem the tide. The creeks and the Missouri are running high, but the neighbor’s culvert didn’t wash out this year, so I guess that’s a win.

With the snow disappearing rapidly, my thoughts have turned to horseback riding once again. The thought of piling on long johns and coveralls, chaps, pac boots, a neck gaiter, and two pairs of gloves is usually enough to keep me from swinging a leg over the cantle during the winter.

I pulled shoes on our horses a few months back, grateful for the chance to stretch our horse budget a little further. Now, with the hills opening again, we’ve got a date with the farrier. Part of our routine is to handle the horses’ feet every day leading up to the visit. If we do our job right, he cusses less than he did during the previous visit.

He’s a crabby old man, but he’s mine.

Our ponies are resentful of anything resembling work or exercise come springtime. My old gelding, Chance the Bay Wonder, is 23 this year. He and I have had a disagreement every year I’ve owned him, and each spring it’s more of an ordeal than the last. Like a crotchety old man swinging his cane at the young kid trying to help him cross the street, Chance pitches a fit in the round corral that would make any colt look on in admiration.

Yesterday, he humped up and bogged his head four times in the course of our discussion. Not much of a bronc rider, I managed to stay on but did blow both stirrups and got a good look at the spot between his ears. I was upset and proud of him at the same time. Something about the old man connecting with the cane is satisfying. We worked through it and came to an understanding, thankfully. If he lives to be 30, I’m gonna need to go to a rodeo school.

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