Ripped jeans in a Stock Horse of Texas clinic is a ranch riding lesson learned.

It’s super hot. It’s casual. It’s a Stock Horse of Texas novice clinic at the NRS Event Center in Decatur, Texas. I’m in old jeans, a T-shirt and a King Ranch ballcap. The little bay mare and I are working on our horsemanship in ranch trail.

The left hand push gate for the ranch trail is at a barbed wire fence surrounding the cow pasture out back. No prob—the little bay mare and I open and shut gates of all kinds, all the time. We’ve got this.

However, we aren’t always on the same page about steering or leg pressure. Which is why we’re at the clinic. I’m often confusing; and she is often lazy and anticipates what “the silly human” wants.

Stock Horse of Texas Novice Clinic
Editor Christine Hamilton rides her horse, Pixie, at a Stock Horse of Texas novice clinic in Decatur, Texas.

At this gate, she ignores my right leg and hand, and marches through the gap so that my right leg brushes the fence post. “Rriipp,” go my jeans on the barbed wire fence. Oh, good grief.

To our credit, I get her paused, pushed over, do not let go of the gate, and we close it properly and quietly. I ride the rest of the day with a large safety pin holding my lower pants leg together, like a badge reminding me how often pride precedes a fall.

As I lead my mare away, a fellow rider offers some welcome encouragement and laments the loss of a good pair of jeans. He also shakes his head at the dangers of barbed wire.

I thank him. But barbed wire at a cow pasture is just part of ranching, right? It’s one of many reasons why you wear leggings in ranch work. I’m riding a ranch horse, and we were out of position on that gate, and not operating it correctly.

So, lesson learned. The little bay mare and I have more homework to do on the basics of guiding and waiting, which is what a good ranch trail course highlights. And I have a new pair of cut-off jeans shorts.

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Author

Raised in an Air Force family, Christine Hamilton was born hooked on horses. She remembers repeatedly asking to drive by the old Western Horseman building as a girl when her family was stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her family bought her a mare in Oklahoma, and hauled it from base to base. She graduated from The University of Alabama in 1990 with an English degree, and pursued a Master’s in literature at the University of Oklahoma where she taught freshman composition. But side jobs at horse farms led to fulltime work for horse breeding facilities—Colorado State University Equine Reproduction Laboratory; Bob Moore Farms, racing Quarter Horse breeder; and Royal Vista Equine, embryo transfer facility and stallion station. She also freelance wrote for horse racing publications, which led to a longtime position with The American Quarter Horse Journal in 2003, initially as field editor and then editor. Christine became editor of Western Horseman in 2014. She hauls her Quarter Horse mare, Whiskeys Pixie Stik, wherever she can, always aiming for the next Stock Horse of Texas clinic and show she can make. -What is the most memorable Western Horseman story or experience that you have been a part of? “It’s hard to land on just one. Especially when you combine the American West with the kind of horses and people that we cover. “I will say that getting a chance to ride Black Hope Stik [Mike and Holly Major’s Project Cowboy and AQHA versatility ranch horse champion] on the first day of her retirement, and to ride her rundown and stop, was the biggest WOW I’ve had on a horse. When Mike Major says, ‘Do you want to ride her?’ you don’t have to think about your answer. You just have to make sure he really asked.” -Is there a particular horse or individual (or both) you have met because of Western Horseman, who has made a lasting impression? “I met [NRCHA Hall of Fame trainer] Jim Paul Sr. to do a story on him. I had known who he was for years, and always wanted to meet him. He represents so much of the grit and quality that makes up our western stock horse history. He’s a professor in the craft, an artisan in horses. What was amazing was what other world-class trainers said about him. They all agreed he was a man who didn’t care about making every horse a champion; he wanted to make every horse in his hands the best it could be for whatever it would go on to do.”

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