When I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Have you hugged your kid today?” I couldn’t help but think that’s a no-brainer but did consider whom I haven’t hugged lately.
After contemplating those I’ve neglected, I realized the kids’ babysitter needs a lot more appreciative squeezes from me. I don’t know of any ranch family that hasn’t had a good ole horse at one time or another that’s been well-trusted with kids. Our babysitter horse Birde, eases my mind whenever our kids or their guests want to ride. Sometimes I trust Birde more than a young adult in taking care of our kids.
His papered name, “Ezzy Jet Birde,” makes one think he might have nabbed a little speed in his pedigree, but in truth he’s so laid-back he’s borderline lazy. His calm demeanor matches that of our daughter’s, which makes the two a perfect fit. She likes being in control to say when it’s time to take off on a lope, and isn’t interested in hot horses she can’t handle.
Of our meager remuda, Birde’s the curious one, always coming up to greet us if we’re nearby. He likes anybody’s company but enjoys even more, the companionship of kids around petting, grooming and feeding him. We trust Birde the most with novices whenever young guests ask to ride but are unaccustomed to being around horses. He doesn’t spook when kids dart around him or holler and endures being saddled and bridled by little people wanting to do it themselves.
Birde’s patience with young riders, his temperament, and understanding the nature of inattentive kids around makes him a favorite among kids and adults. As tikes, I had no qualms about putting our youngsters on him. Our kids developed their riding skills on Birde because he reins easily and tolerates being handled by them. He’s not restless while getting saddled and stands still no matter how long it takes kids to clamber up by saddle strings, stirrups or any other means, in order to make it to his back. Which to a kid, a horse that stands 15 ½ hands high is a long way up I’ve been told.
Since he and our daughter aren’t eager to chase down a cow with lightning speed, they make a good pair for bringing up the rear when moving cows. He doesn’t get wound up and take off when other riders leave to wrangle runaways but if my husband or I need a horse that hustles, neither of us fares very well to saddle the babysitter. Anything beyond a trot with Birde needs spurs.
He takes good care of our kids and has a likeable personality but due to his timid nature, he’s lost his rank in pecking order to our youngest, more aggressive and appropriately named gelding; Beandip (or Bean for short).
Even though Birde’s the second oldest horse on the place, he gets run off at feeding time, so we make sure he’s paid accordingly for his babysitting services.
He may not hold any records for jet-fast speed, but he’s a champion for soundness and kid-tested sitter approval, which I love him for. Have you hugged your babysitter today?
This column was originally published January 13-19 2008 © Amy Kirk