First, congratulations to Meg on winning a copy of Death Rides the Rails on Six Sentence Saturday.
Second, I just read L.J. Washburn’s (our very own Livia Reasoner’s) book Bandera Pass. If you haven’t read it yet, find yourself a copy. It’s a great book. Watch for my review.
Now, as promised, time to talk about my favorite subject, horses. It’s said a man has been blessed if he’s known one good horse in his lifetime. In that case, I have been truly blessed, for I have owned two really good horses, and two great ones, Sam, Mr. T., Sizzle, and now Yankee.
As far as I’m concerned, the horse is God’s greatest creation, except for humans, and sometimes I’m convinced it’s the other way around. I’ve known plenty of horses who had more intelligence and common sense than most people I’ve dealt with.
And of course, without horses, there would be no Westerns. After all, there were stock keepers called “cow-boys” as far back as 16th century England, but they didn’t ride horses. Without horses, the settling of the West would have been impossible, and of course once they discovered the horse Native American Indian tribes like the Comanche and Sioux became some of the best cavalrymen the world has ever seen. So we can thank the horse for our favorite genre, Western novels, movies, and television shows.
Lots of people don’t believe there are such things as “one-man horses”, but there indeed are. Nelson Lee, a Texas Ranger back in the 1840s, owned a one-man horse named the Black Prince. My favorite one man horse story is that of a cavalry mount in the Prussian Army in the mid-1800s. This horse had killed several grooms by biting them in the abdomen, disemboweling them. The horse was going to be destroyed, until one of the cavalry officers entered its stall with a scalding hot leg of mutton hidden behind his back. When the horse attempted to bite the officer’s stomach, he quickly got the mutton in between, so the horse bit the hot mutton instead and burned its mouth. The officer took possession of the horse. Later, in a pitched battle, the horse saved the officer’s life by biting and ripping open the stomach of an enemy soldier who was about to run his sword through the officer.
Notice I said “one-man”. Today we would say “one-person”. However, even in 2013 the proper term is “horseman”, whether referring to male or female. “Horsewoman” is acceptable, “horseperson” absolutely not.
Paint or Pinto? Ah, the eternal question. Up until 1962, the terms were interchangeable, and still are to a certain extent. “Pinto” is from the Spanish word “pintado”, meaning painted. For obvious reasons, pinto was used more in the Southwest, paint elsewhere. However, in 1962 quite a few members of the Pinto Horse Association of America split off to form the American Paint Horse Association. They wanted to preserve a stock-type spotted horse. PtHA will register any qualifying horse or pony as long as it meets their registration requirements. APHA will register western-type horses only. So now all Paints can be Pintos, but not all Pintos can be Paints. Confused enough yet?
That brings us to Tobiano and Overo. What the heck are those? The two main color types of Paints/Pintos. Tobiano is the more common. Think of a Tobiano as a white horse where an artist has painted smooth spots of darker color on it. An Overo (pronounced OvAHro) usually looks like a colored horse which someone has thrown a can of white paint at. The Overo’s spots are usually irregular and jagged. There is also a third type in some cases, the Tovero, a combination of both. Not encouraged. And of course for the oxymoron of the day there are “solid” paints and pintos. These are horses who came out without spots, or with only white face and/or leg markings. There’s a long-standing error in the Gunsmith series. The Gunsmith’s horse is described as an “ovaro”. The original author misspelled “overo”, spelling the word as it’s pronounced. Rather than correcting the mistake many books down the line, the publisher just left it as is.
Tradition states cowboys didn’t much care for pintos/paints, referring to them disdainfully as “Indian ponies”. This was true in many cases. However, quite a few cowboys did ride spotted horses (I’m leaving out Appaloosas for this discussion, that’s a horse of a whole different color). There are several pictures of Texas Rangers of the Frontier Battalion riding paints, as well as other 19th century Rangers. Paints really fell out of favor when the Western movies started. They became so popular they were overbred (as happens with dogs today), so the quality went downhill, and most paint became inferior animals. That’s one of the main reasons Pinto Horse and later Paint Horse were formed, to set breed standards and improve the quality of the breed. All of my horses have been paints (two also pintos), and as far as I’m concerned you can’t find a better horse. The American Paint is now the second most popular horse breed in the world, second only to the American Quarter Horse.
Now, to answer the question which is on everyone’s mind… what the heck is a pie-biter?
A pie-biter, or biscuit-eater, was a horse which was spoiled by its rider, and hung around camp at the end of the day looking for treats.
Bonus question: What’s a kidney-pad?
Kidney-pad was a derogatory term used by cowboys to describe an English saddle. Came from the shape.
Now that you’ve found out probably more than you’ve ever wanted to know about painted horses, time to say Adios. See y’all back here next week, Thursday the 14th, same time, same channel. More talk about horses, Texas Rangers, or both.