Sunday, March 10, 2013
Ranger Jim’s Ramblings James J. Griffin
Since this is out of my usual slot, I’m just going to jot down some random thoughts and information.
We’ll start off with a quiz. This is from the files of today’s Texas Rangers. A couple of years back, my Ranger buddy Jim Huggins had to investigate and solve what became known as the “This Little Piggy Murder”. So, can anyone come up with an idea as to what the case involved? Answer will be on my regular blog slot on March 14th. And if anyone comes up with a guess that is even close, they’ll win an autographed copy of one of my Jim Blawcyzk Texas Ranger novels.
Back to horses. I want to bring up horse gaits, and hopefully prevent at least one western author from making a mistake I see over and over again in Westerns. A cowboy NEVER, EVER “canters” his horse. I repeat, a cowboy NEVER, EVER “canters” his horse! A cowboy “lopes” his horse. The three gaits of a Western horse are walk, jog, and lope. Walk, trot, and canter are the gaits of English horses and riders. You can get away with saying a cowboy trots his horse, although you really shouldn’t, unless you say jogtrot, but canter is completely, totally, absolutely incorrect. In fact, if you go to a horse show, in the western classes you will always hear the judge instruct the riders to “walk their horses”, then “jog”, then “lope”. And while a lot of people think the gaits are the same, there are differences. An English horse’s trot is generally faster than the Western horse’s jog, and an English horse’s canter is generally faster than the Western horse’s lope. Hence the reason English riders have to post to the trot, to keep from being bounced all over the place. So, no more cowboys cantering their horses. Next time I see that the author gets forty lashes with a rubber horseshoe.
While we’re on the subject of horses, I did one of my Western talks, reenactments, and a book signing at the Torrington, CT Public Library this past Thursday. One of the people who showed up was Eric Van Leer, a friend from college whom I hadn’t seen in over forty years! Turns out he lives only a few miles from Torrington, and saw the event listed in the local paper. He and I were both in the college’s Equestrian Club, in fact both of us bought our first horses while we were in school. Like me, he still has horses, and after the event was over (he helped me with the shootouts, doing a fine job of killing me, and later an excellent job of dying when I tried to arrest him and when he went for his pistol gunned him down) invited me back to his place to see his horses. We ended up talking for hours, catching up on old times and making plans to visit regularly. He now has a Morgan horse, and he reminded me that most people don’t realize the Morgan was a very popular horse in the frontier West, being used for cattle work, pulling stagecoaches, and as a general riding mount. The Morgan was the first true American breed of horse, and a rarity in that every Morgan can be traced back to a stallion named Figure, who was owned by a Vermont farmer named Justin, you guessed it, Morgan. Figure passed his traits to every mare he was bred to. Morgans are compact and tough, gentle and intelligent, so were well suited to life on the frontier.
Back to the Texas Rangers. Did they in fact hand-carve their badges? Were there Hispanic and African-American Rangers? Native American Indian Rangers? How about females? When were they founded, 1823 or 1835?
For answers to these questions and more, tune in Thursday March 14th, same blog time, same blog channel (with apologies to the old Batman TV series)
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Don't know about shows, Jim, but my dad had a big red sorrel that never stopped trotting, morning 'til night. I rode that horse all the way to the top of Mt. Baldy, and when we got back down, he was still trotting. Never once heard him jog. 'Course, I'm from Arizona and my pa was a schoolteacher and he mighta heart what the limeys said, but as a boy in AZ from 1941 to 1960, I never heard of a horse jogging. Not saying it weren't done, just saying . . . (and yes, they loped and they ran, as you so helpfully pointed out.)ReplyDelete
Heard, not heartReplyDelete
Like Charlie, I've never heard of a horse jogging. We always called it trotting, too, but then I grew up in a farming family, not a ranching family.ReplyDelete
Until I got my first horse, as far as I knew all horses trotted, too. Wasn't until then (and I didn't take lessons, just hopped on and learned) that a Western horse jogs. And I'll admit when my friends and I ride it's always "want to trot?" But, to be correct, it should be jog. In the old cowboy song "Sierra Peaks" (Tie a Knot in the Devil's Trail), which is one of those traditional cowboy tunes which has scores if not hundreds of variations in the lyrics, there is one line that goes either "I think I'll go to town" or "I think I'll jog to town". Not trot. However, no one is going to object if a cowboy's (or western character's) horse trots. It's the canter which is wrong. Beyond that, a gallop is a gallop,and a run is a run... until it becomes a panicked, I (the horse) ain't stoppin' for nothin' or nobody runaway. You never want to be caught in one of those.ReplyDelete
Jim, I always love your blog posts. I think I mentioned once that I always wanted a horse, but my dad would always counter with, "He wouldn't be happy in our back yard, it's too little." Smart dad.ReplyDelete
There's a huge controversy going on right now here in Oklahoma about horse slaughter--they're wanting to slaughter horses to be sent overseas, and there is a huge, huge revolt by the horse lovers here, marching on the capitol and protesting, etc. It just makes me sick, because even though I never got to have a horse of my own, I think they are some of the most beautiful animals God ever created.
Thanks so much for your insightful and interesting posts on horses. I'm learning a lot!
There's a group called "Horsemen United" which sounds like it wants to protect horses, right? Wrong... they're trying to promote slaughtering of horses and the consumption of horse meat. There's also a state rep (female) in Wyoming whose name escapes me at the moment who wants to start up horse slaughter again. She claims there is a vast US market or gourmets for "cheval"... which is a fancy word for horse meat. Ironically, PETA of all groups supports slaughtering horses again in the United States... not because they believe in it, but because the transport to and slaughter of horses in Mexico and Canada is so inhumane they feel the horses would at least suffer less if they were killed here.ReplyDelete
I've tried to see the other side, but can't. To quote (as best I can recollect) Harry Morgan as Col. Potter in MASH. "Horse are beautiful, intelligent creatures. Cows and pigs are ugly. They're meant to be eaten. Horses aren't. No one should have to eat a horse."
No guesses yet on the This Little Piggy Murder?
I would guess that the murderer took trophies and said trophies were toes. Love the interesting information on horse gaits and the differences.ReplyDelete
Hmmm. I never heard of a horse jogging, but then I don't go to horse shows, so it was interesting to learn about the gaits. How much of this is regional?ReplyDelete
In Idaho, horses walk, trot (slow and fast), lope, gallop, and run. Someone once told me that horses don't run--they gallop. I asked them if they'd ever been on a gallop-away.
Carolyn stole my answer--a murderer with a foot fetish.
I had always defined a "canter" as a lope or a "slow gallop" and a "gallop" as very fast, almost in the runaway category, such as when horses are racing.ReplyDelete
oh dear - found two 'canters' in my completed manuscript - think I'll have to find another genre!ReplyDelete
D M Harrison
My grandpa, an old cowboy from near Mason, Texas, had me sit a jog and post a trot when I was growing up-though he didn't call it 'posting', just putting a little more weight in the stirrups. To him at least, a jog was a slower, easier trot. As in: "Slow that trot to a jog." or "Jog him out."ReplyDelete
He didn't do any competition but was a heck of a rider and a sure-enough cowboy.
I never did hear him use the term "canter" though that I remember.
When I was a pup in mounted patrol school we had RCMP, NYPD mounted and Dallas PD instructors. All used different terms, sometimes to describe essentially the same thing. Sometimes there were subtle differences. After twelve weeks, I wound up with a hodgepodge of terms stuck in my head--mostly angry voices yelling at me to keep my heels down...
Old time cowboys came from all walks and backgrounds. Some started life in the East or even Europe. Some, had cavalry training from Prussian military riding instructors and could probably even piaffe or croupade.
So I'd expect a traditional cowboy mostly loped his horse but may have cantered if it fit his character. Wouldn't have made him less of a cowboy or a hero.
Man, this makes me miss owning horses...
I didn't do very well in shows because I never liked going around and around in circles, so I could never get serious about it. Never understood why horses in a trail class then had to work the rail (walk, jog, and lope) because oftentimes my horse would be only one of two or three who did all the obstacles with no balks, but then went too fast on the rail at the jog, or picked up the wrong lead at the lope (which was mainly my fault, I could never tell which lead he was on, and never understood what difference it made. I can still stick to a saddle for eight hours at a stretch (with a couple of breaks, of course) but I've never been a stylish rider... then again, a lot of riders won't even think about taking their horses down some of the trails and over the cliffs I have... and swimming in the ocean, either.ReplyDelete
Marc, you've got the best explanation of the subtle differences. Your grandpa was a wise man. And Jacquie, you gave me a chuckle with the gallop-away. Easiest way to explain it to a non-horseman or woman is a gallop is controlled, a dead run usually isn't... and it's a heckuva lot faster than a gallop. But no, it's not a regional difference. Check out the ad the AQHA runs occasionally in the major cowboy magazines, describing competing in a show on your quarter horse. They use the terms "walk your horses", then "jog your horses, show at the jog, please", then "lope your horses, show at the lope". I think the best way to describe the difference is a proper jog won't bounce you one millimeter off of the saddle, while a trot will. Jogging is more like being in a rocking chair. A lot of riders like the jog or trot best, but my favorite gait is the lope. You can cover a lot of ground on a horse who has a smooth lope, and neither you nor your mount will tire easily.
And thanks for all the interest. I love talking horses, in case you didn't notice.
Oh yeah, good guess on the Piggy mystery, but not very close. Wanna try again, anyone?
DM, not at all on the genre switch. I'm about a quarter of the way through editing your manuscript, and it's a fine one. Readers, look for "The Hanging Tree" by DM Harrison from Solstice Publishing in the near future.ReplyDelete
Jim, thanks for the information. I've used gallop and trot, but never lope. Now I will. I look forward to your post on March 14th.ReplyDelete
Jim, thanks for this explanation about gaits. Every time I see "canter" and "horse" together, my teeth hurt -- mostly because that gait in a western saddle will jar your teeth clean out of your head. Give me a nice lope any day. :-)ReplyDelete
Did the "This Little Piggy Murder" have anything to do with a real pig?
Did the Miss Piggy murderer wear a tiara?ReplyDelete
GREAT Blog Jim. Not being a horseman, I learned a lot. Hopefully I remember the next time I write a western.ReplyDelete
Trot, lope, canter... thanks, Jim! I always thought walk, trot, gallop. Is that why the ante-lopes? ;-D Ouch, ouch! sorry for the bad pun. lolReplyDelete
First time reader of your blog, James. Sure won't be the last time! I, too, grew up in Arizona near Concho. Never heard the word "jog." We walked, trotted, loped and galloped. That was it. With no formal training about posting *or anything else about horses*, you can bet my little hind-end almost left the saddle when our big ol' buckskin, Partner, trotted his huge bouncy steps! But I held on, and soon we would be riding the wind in the most wonderful lope! My heart and imagination soared...and hopefully the novels I write nowadays capture that feeling to share with my readers.ReplyDelete
As far as horse slaughter, it sickens me and makes me furious! Why not eat our beloved dogs and cats as well? Hopefully, the horse lovers of the world can unite to stop this barbaric, disrespectful practice. Perhaps we will have a President who won't give the go-ahead on such behavior. Am I dreaming? I truly pray I'm not. Best regards!
Hope you see this reply. I'm an incurable punster, so I love yours. True story. After I moved back east from San Diego, a couple of years later I took my folks and my kid brother on their first real trip West. (Dan and my brother had ridden out with me on the move to SD, but that didn't really count, as we were loaded down with my 1965 Impala hauling me and all my stuff, including my bike on the roof, my dog, and a horse trailer with Sam on his side and my furniture on the other. (An Impala was never meant to pull a horse trailer, but mine was one tough car) Anyway, we were somewhere in Texas or New Mexico when we came upon a herd of antelopes. My dad got all excited and yelled "Look at the herd of cantaloupes!"
Great post. I'm from Vermont and learned all about Justin Morgan. I didn't know that Morgans were used out west, though I have seen them shown western. I had Quarter Horses for years and I used to show. I agree with you as far as pet peeves go. I hope you don't mind my mentioning, only because I think there is confussion regarding gaits. A walk is three feet down, one foot up, a trot (English)is two down, two up. It is faster than a jog and can be pushed into an extended trot. A jog, like the trot is two down and two up, but it's slow, relaxed and a working horse can maintain that gait for a long time. The canter and lope are both three feet down, one up, and like the trot, the canter is more extended than the lope. A gallop is four feet off the ground and English show classes will sometimes ask for a hand gallop. Horses are also left handed and at the lope/canter horses will lead naturally with their left. Sorry to hog your blog. Oh and my pet peeve is cowboys who ride stallions and ladies who always ride mares with dainty feet.
Thanks for being a bit more technical for me. Greatly appreciated. And I also hate when a writer has cowboys riding stallions and women mares. Very few cowboys, or anyone else for that matter, rode stallions (just like today). Stallions were and are far too much trouble, in most cases, to be used as riding horses on the trail. One mare in heat and... Most cowboys rode geldings, with some mares tossed in.