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Updated on December 6, 2014

By: Wayne Brown

I hook the stirrup up over the saddle-horn and recheck the girt once more before climbing into the familiar saddle’s soft-padded leather seat. Ol’ Rex shifts his feet about showing his impatience with my slow movements. He knows where we are headed as surely as he knows he smell of fresh oats in the field over the next hill. We’ve been doing this together for a few years now so he knows the routine as well as I do. He enjoys the routine as well. I sense that in his mood and his anticipation. Giving in to his impatience, I move the reins slightly signaling that he can have his head to move out of the corral.

The sun is still starting to come over the ridge line to the east. The coolness of the night still rides on the air as the last bastions of darkness begin to recede like the outgoing tide of an ocean harbor. It’s quiet, so quiet we can almost hear the sun moving up over the horizon as it starts its daily trek to the western horizon. The leather of the saddle gives off its familiar creak as Rex winds his way out across the broad range land cast in front of us. The meadows grow deep in vegetation for miles and miles as the rolling hills undulate their way to the foothills of the mountains off in the distance. The day is coming on strong and so full of life. The fields blaze with a gold texture highlighted by the clear blue of an early morning sky. Shades of pink and orange mark the eastern sky as the sun just peeks above the ridge and says its first “hello”. There’s a hint of dew on the grass which lends moisture to the air and a smell of honeysuckle on the wind. God, it’s good to be alive.


Rex makes his way toward the ridge line at a steady gait. He has been over this ground so many times that I believe that he could walk it blind and go right to the spot that we keep going back to in our morning rituals. I let the reins rest on the saddle-horn as Rex needs no guidance. I talk to him occasionally in a low voice reassuring him that he is doing a good job. I tell him what a great horse he really is and how much I depend on him here on the ranch. He maybe just a horse but he is probably the best friend that I’ve got and he listens to me, never criticizing my ways. A true friend.

We keep up this pace for about a half hour, crossing the stony brook running full with spring’s snow melt then winding our way through the clumps of trees dotting the lower side of the ridge when leads down into our destination, Drawback Canyon. Rex and I found this spot by accident while out hunting strays on a cold fall morning a few years back. Every time we return to the spot, things are the same as they were the very first time. There is that moment when we crest the ridge and look down upon the canyon when the beauty of it all catches your breath and your eyes quickly taken in everything. I never tire of the sight and hope that I never will.

Rex makes his way up over the grassy ridge and the sloping hill leading into the canyon comes into view. I sense the anxious anticipation that is building in Rex as we begin the gradual ascent down to the plain of the canyon. About half-way down, Rex stops as he does each time we come here. There is moment of quiet anticipation and then it begins. Out of the tree line below runs a small herd of wild ponies of every color and hue. Their backs glisten in the morning sun and their nickers and snorts signal their awareness of our arrival. The ponies run full out on the grassy plain twisting and turning, pushing and shoving like children on a playground. Their movement is like a dance…a carefully crafted dance with tails raised and manes flying in the gentle breeze blowing into the canyon. Rex shifts about on his front feet showing his excitement. That is his signal to me that the time has come.

I step down out of the saddle and untie the latigo, releasing the cinch. I lift the saddle and blanket off his back in a singular movement. Rex stands perfectly still knowing that the moment is near but not quite here yet. I slide the bridle strap over his ears and step away. He turns his head slightly toward me showing the blaze streak of white that marks his forehead and nose. I nod and away he runs down the slope toward the wild ponies still engaged in their morning dance. Like a child arriving on the playground, Rex runs right in and joins their merriment as I squat beside the saddle and watch the beauty of these magnificent wild beasts. Even the old stud leading the herd tolerates his presence though he keeps his distance. I suppose age has taught him that. Rex is only looking to mix with his kind for a while, there are no challenges for leadership here.

Seeing these ponies running free, manes flying, hooves cutting up the ground, never gets old. I pull a camera from my saddlebag and snap a few more photos. I then sit and wait for the herd to settle a bit then begin a slow movement down the slope toward the herd. This is a game we play on each visit. As the herd settles to graze, I attempt to move closer and they seem to tolerate it, at least for a while. When the space closes to a distance which violates their sense of danger, all of the heads appear to come up at once and stare straight at me. I must look like a burglar caught in the beam of an unexpected flashlight to them. They stand looking directly at me with their ears standing and their nostrils searching the wind for the odor of this man. I don’t push the point but simply stop where I am and continue to watch. That is not good enough, eyes continue to stay riveted on me making sure that I get no closer to them. I find myself envying Rex’s ability to move freely among them. Even the leader of the herd tolerates his presence. For once, I would love to step close enough to reach out and touch one of them. To extend a hand in trust and feel the warm of their skin upon its palm. That will not happen today but I can always dream.


Time passes quickly and the sun is getting high…far too near the noon hour. The final part of our ritual now will take place. The first time we experienced the sight of the wild ponies and I released Rex to run with them, I was overwhelmed watching the ponies run and frolic about. I sensed that Rex might desire to have such freedom as well. On the spur of the moment, I gathered up the saddle and walked up the slope headed for the crest of the ridge all the time thinking that I just might have to find me a new horse. Once I crested the ridge heading west, I heard the distant sound of hooves. I dared not to look for fear that it was the sound of the ponies departing the canyon with Rex in tow. I continue my walk back toward the horse. Suddenly, I received a shove from behind as Rex placed his muzzle into my back and pushed me forward. It was as if he was telling me, “hey what’s up…you left me back there.” We saddled up and headed home and I felt a lot better about where Rex wanted to be.

So it is today. I gather the saddle and head over the rise on foot wondering if this will be the time when he lets me go and runs off with the ponies. There is always that anticipation. Then I hear the hooves and soon his big nose is once again against the small of my back giving me that loving shove toward the house. I work the saddle onto his back, tighten the cinch, and mount up. Today for whatever reason, I turn Rex slightly back toward the ridge and there standing in a line in full array is the herd of wild ponies. I have never seen them this far over the ridge. Trust works both ways as it does curiosity.

As Rex and I approach the barn, I have a sense of renewal about life, freedom, and friendship. I know that this horse is here with me because he wants to be here and nowhere else as much. And I also know that if the day ever comes when he wants run wild with the ponies that will be okay too…sad but okay. There’s no greater sense of freedom for me that to see that herd of wild ponies and watch them move about. Come next week, Rex and I will be heading back out there to find that experience for the both of us once more enjoying every minute of it to the fullest. That’s what life is about and it’s the freedom that every true cowboy knows in his heart as his faithful pony should know as well.

©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.

6 July 2012



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    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Vincent Moore...I think this is more representative of my own soul crying out for just experience. I've witnessed it many times with others and envied that existence and those special bonds. We should all have that experience in this life. Maybe we forget that we have to work for it! LOL! WB

    • profile image

      Vincent Moore 5 years ago

      Oh to be a cowboy riding the range and seeing what you see. Instead I'm stuck in the concrete jungle of a city. However I'm thankful that I've seen such sites in my trucking days. The wild ponies, the cowboys cow punching and the moon so low one gets the feeling that it can fit in the palm of our hands. You wrote a magnificently stirring story about the bond that exists between the wild and the tame.

      You showed the love and tenderness a cowboy has for his prized possession and friendship of his loyal horse. My friend I was with you on that ride and watched in amazement and splendour through your eyes. Thank you for sharing this bond with all of us. Yes indeed a man's best friend is his dog and horse. Don't let Will fool you in to thinking he doesn't love his cat, he must know by now that his cat OWNS him. ha ha.

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      WB, interesting! I thought a stallion would be a bit possessive- like the bucks around here, who get a bit riled during rutting season. Thanks for a romantic and blissful read.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Storytellerus...This is all fiction inspired by the song in the video at the end which I first heard back in the 90's. As to how a herd would react, I think it would depend much on the lead horse or wild stud. They consider the mares to be their lot and will challenge anything that even remotely thinks of taking it over. Horses, wild or not, are curious and something that curiosity overrides the fears. I suppose they do share a little something with the cat! LOL! Thanks much! So glad that I could bring something forth that struck you with realism. WB

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Wayne, I loved the images, the canyon- I can see it and I know it, living here in the West. I also understand the beauty of a herd of horses running across the landscape. We used to have a herd nearby, but it disappeared when a new golf course was built. I miss seeing them and they were domesticated horses! I wonder, and you probably know the answer to this- would a wild herd actually accept a domestic horse? Would he challenge them? Have you actually done this? (I thought it was a true story until I read the comments, and I found this amazing.) Also, I have a cat and he just walked across my keyboard, simply to annoy me. Will makes a good point, haha.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Dim Flaxenwick....I always know that I've got a good story when I can bring a tear of joy or grief to my own eye...such was the case here. I am so glad you liked it and the video. I loved that song from the first time that I heard it and it inspired me greatly in writing this piece. Thanks much. WB

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

      Oh What a beautiful story. The relationship between a man a his horse, fascinates me. That animals can be so loyal.

      The video at the end was a bonus. I love the sound of a country singing voice.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Gypsy Rose Lee....Sorry to take so long replying....I've been on a road trip and I really do not like texting enough to return comments on my phone. There is a certain romance to horses but they are also high upkeep as well so when one decides to get into that business, they really need to do some research....better to just rent a sailboat! LOL! WB

      @The Frog Prince...And I feel the same about you, Jim. I guess birds of a feather kind of find one another sooner or later...Glad you liked this one! WB

      @emraldwolf...Got by last night and read yours + left a comment. You have a style and talent that will serve you well here...just keep communicating with people and more and more of them will discover your work as you discover theirs. Best of luck! WB

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @drbj...Thanks much, Doc! On the road this week and weaving my way back throughout airport TSA feel ups to get back home better if I was riding' Ol' Rex. WB

    • emraldwolf profile image

      emraldwolf 5 years ago

      I really like how this is written! You are a very good author. please come and look at my hub.


    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

      You are indeed a diverse writer and an unusual individual Wayne. I reckon that's why we're friends.

      The Frog

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and awesome. How I love horses. This was great I felt so a part of it all. Been on a horse only once but wouldn't mind doing it again. Passing this on.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      So well-written, Wayne, I felt I was there watching those wild ponies with you. Thanks for this treat.

      Regarding cats I would like to add it is said that dogs have owners ... and cats have staff!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This reminds me of the trips we used to make to Grayson Mountain in Virginia to see the wild ponies. It is such a thrill to watch these ponies run free. Thanks for the reminder. I enjoyed your story.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      Beautiful tale with a powerful message for me. He's there with you because he wants to be. That's the best. Up beautiful and awesome.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Wayne -- thanks for bringing back some great memories. Perhaps the greatest gift the four-footeds can give us is the "wanting to be with us" gift -- when they actually have a choice. Marvelous read and excellently written. Best/Sis

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @kj force...Thank you. I have loved the song for years. Finally found a way to tie it to something. WB

      @pennyofheaven...Glad I could take you along. My sister tells me that is what she likes best about my writing...she gets to go along! LOL! Thanks much! WB

    • pennyofheaven profile image

      pennyofheaven 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Wow what a journey! No matter whether it is fictional or not. What a beautiful connection you have to the land and the animals, with nature and with Rex. I appreciate your gift and your natural talent to describe a journey with vivid detail that makes me feel like I was part of it. Thank you.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 5 years ago from Florida

      Wayne Brown..loved the story..We have had many horse in our life, both daughters grew up with them. The most magic animal in the world..taking us places we never thought we could go..I have seen the wild ponies of the " west" and also the Carolinas

      Thank you so much for sharing your passionate words with us....

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @billybuc...So glad you liked it. I was inspired by the song "Ponies" many years ago but I could not put that inspiration into words until this week. Thanks, Bill. WB

      @WillStarr....LOL! WB

      @fpherj48....That was one of those moments inspired by the song "Ponies". I think, from that perspective, that might just be the whole story this time. I am working on something right now that I may have to do installments on to publish as it grows ever long...a fictional adventure. I have written a few before and the response has been good so I am moving that way again. I am still trying to decide as this one has the potential to go to book size. We'll see.... Thanks much! WB

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Wayne.....I hope you don't mind, I went along on the adventure with you & Rex, on a horse as beautiful as the magnificent animals in the photos. I stayed pretty far behind and we were as quiet as we could be.

      I just wanted to see the breathtaking visions at Drawback Canyon and watch the herd of wild ponies running free.

      I envy that you get a glimpse of Heaven on these trips with Rex. I believe as you do, if man and his 4-legged best friend have such a bond of love and loyalty....we really can tell what they're thinking.....they speak to us with their actions.

      I was sort of looking for Chapter 2 of this wonderful story.......but, I think maybe it's just perfect from beginning to The End....just as it is.

      Beautiful, awesome and ...Gosh, I feel light and free.........

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "Do you suppose it is inflammatory to cat lovers?"

      I hope not, because my cat is sitting beside me as I type this.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A renewal of life....great line! Great story! I never get tired of your stories my friend!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @WillStarr....Thanks Will, glad you liked it...loved the line about the cat. Do you suppose it is inflammatory to cat lovers? LOL! WB

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I must have cut off the rest :

      Another fine read, Wayne!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      God created horses and dogs with man in mind. Cats prove that He also has a sense of humor.