Take aholt

by Bruce Hoppe

Lanny couldn’t remember when it had first happened to him. When he’d first been on one when it took aholt— like this filly was doing now. That transformative instant when the juvenile pony first moves to block the cow on her own. No need to wait for a cue from him. Then the surge of bulging muscle and sinew against his thighs as she waits, hammer cocked in trembling anticipation of the next move. And no matter how many times since that first time, whenever it happened, whenever they first take aholt like that, Lanny always got a lump in his throat. And that was okay with him. Cowboys are aphorists. They’re a sentimental lot given to laconic musings. To wit. “A woman’s love is like the morning dew. It’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.” That was one that a famous author cribbed for inclusion in a novel. But now, as Lanny sat on this little filly and sensed the keenness in her shiver, he didn’t know anymore. Cutting horses. Horses that compete in a man- made contest by, with little direction from the rider, blocking a cow hell bent on returning to the safety of the herd. A mirror image dance of split-second pivots, spins, and dirt spewing sliding stops. What was he doing guiding her down this path to a life as a competitor? Where she would be measured not by her ardent heart but by the amount of money she won for her owners or worse to sate their vanity appetite for “bragging rights.” Just then the filly locked in, sinking down in a coiled squat and Lanny had to melt into the saddle to stay with her. A swish of a tail or a flick of the cow’s ear is all it would take for her to suspect a move and she was ready. That’s how it is once they take aholt like that, Lanny thought. No turning back now. She’s hooked. And he knew that he’d showed her the way to this, and she’d trusted his teachings. And she would accept them with abiding grace.