"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free"
Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

Horse Sense from a Real Roundup

June 14, 2021


Let me set the stage for you. Years ago, I was at the Red Lake Ranch in New Mexico at roundup time. Roundup was a big deal at Red Lake. The ranch would ship as many as 700 steers and 700 heifers each fall. Rounding up that many cattle on this 125,000+ acre ranch, situated in the high country, 60 miles southwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico, required all the cowboys and cowgirls the owners could muster. Thus, there I was, in my late twenties, riding in a real, honest to God western roundup.

The horse I rode was named Quien Sabe. I'm a medium horse rider, but Quien Sabe was a high-grade cattle horse. Why did they give me Quien Sabe? They knew that I didn't know what I was doing, but the horse did. Go figure. Quien Sabe in Spanish means “Who knows?” Or “Who's to say?”

The final stage of most roundups is when the cattle are moved from the shipping pasture to the shipping pens. There the cattle are weighed and then loaded onto cattle trucks. All the riders form a large 'V' aiming the cattle to the gate of the shipping pen. There is one rider who rides what is called "point." The "point" rider is in the middle of the 'V' and slowly drives the cattle into the narrow end of the 'V' and then through the corral gate opening. You guessed it. Quien Sabe and I were assigned the task of riding point. Initially, he did a great job of slowly herding the 700 heifers toward the gate. I was hanging on and enjoying the ride.

What a fantastic experience to watch a real ranch horse do his job. Occasionally, a heifer would try and break out of the 'V' line. Quien Sabe would cut her off and herd her back into the group. Time and time again, the cattle would test Quien Sabe, but he was up to the challenge. Quien Sabe won every time. Then he would look back at me as if to say, “Wasn't that good? I'm hot, hot, hot! Watch and learn, you greenhorn city slicker. You will call me ‘The Precious’ after this roundup.” 

After hours of the stuff that cowboys and cow horses do, Quien Sabe and I were pointing 700 heifers into the shipping pen. However, at the first of the line of the herd was the alpha heifer. She's the leader the herd follows and obeys without question. This time, the alpha heifer sticks her head into the shipping pen and somehow signals to the herd, "I ain't walking down this road. She makes a 180-degree turn, running at full speed, and the other heifers, instantly and without question, followed her lead. Have you heard of groupthink? Heifers do it very well.

Now, Quine Sabe and I have 700 heifers stampeding toward us. I'm right in the middle of an authentic, just like in the movies, no exaggeration, New Mexico cattle stampede. Houston, or Red Lake Ranch, we have a problem! As the stampede races towards us, the only eyes bigger than mine were Quien Sabes. His ears bent straight forward and then up. He hesitantly stepped forward, trying to decide which heifer he was going to take on first.

While I appreciated his mettle, my will to survive kicked in. The unlearned, greenhorn city-slicker riding Quien Sabe made an executive decision. We made a 180-degree turn pronto, and off we went. Quien Sabe never looked back. We ran, full speed ahead, with cattle behind us. And, of course, the 20 or so riders and their horses raced after the heifers and us. Thank God Quien Sabe was faster than the cattle. I imagine our group of riders looked like an octopus on roller skates. There was plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backward, or sideways.

To make a long story longer (cowboys do that), we finally gathered all the heifers up and proceeded to try again, this time successfully. But Quien Sabe didn't seem quite as, shall we say, confident on the second try. Maybe I am humanizing Quien Sabe a bit, but I think he may have learned a powerful lesson. Sometimes it's best not to let yourself get in the way when you ought to get out of the way. It's hard to get off your high horse, but sometimes it's much harder on you if you don't.

The Bible has wisdom for people who are of the Quien Sabe variety and ilk. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” Bible wisdom says that it is our job to humble ourselves, and it's God's job to exalt us. Sometimes, we are like Quien Sabe and try to exalt ourselves. Then God does our job and humbles us. We get exalted when we humble ourselves. Use your horse sense. It leads to stable thinking.

Here's your takeaway: Quien Sabe (Who knows?) now knows that using a little wisdom when facing a big problem probably saved his life, and his rider's too. He now knows self-sufficiency has ruined many a Quien Sabe who refused to get off their high horse when they ought to. Quien Sabe now knows a herd of seven hundred heifers are a lot of cows, and that ain't no bull!

Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do.


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