Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     You ever see one?  Ever know one?  A horseman, I mean.  I have.  I’ve seen one.  There’s a good chance you might see him somewhere too.  At present, he’s riding a big-boned sorrel with legs like tree trunks.  If you do see him, you will know immediately he’s the one you read about in this article.  From the back seat of the car, you will hear your little ones say, “Look, momma, there’s a real cowboy.”  He will be wearing his hat pulled down low, with a long duster hanging off the side of the saddle.  Looks like he’s right out of Australia - which he is.  His name is Joe Guy.  And when I say riding, I’m not kidding.  He’s riding his horse across America! 
     He cuts quite a figure on the shoulder of the highway riding along on the big red - the horse he calls Moose.  If you see Joe Guy, you won’t forget him for some time.  If you stop and talk to him - or get to watch him work with a troubled horse – you won’t forget him for the rest of your life.
     Joe was born in Sydney.  His dad left when he was eight or so.  His mom had difficulties – like all of us do from time to time, and Joe was left to deal with life on his on.  A street - kid at ten, by his on admission, he traveled down some dark paths.  At seventeen, he made an internal decision to change his ways for the better.  Some people do that.  Some don’t.  (Does anybody out there know why that is?)  Always drawn to horses, Joe waded in to his passion and became a “long-rider.”  He’s made the trek on horseback across Australia twice.  Now he’s making a trip across America.
     “Hello, mate,” began the message he left on my cell.  “I’ve heard about you.  My name is Joe Guy and I’m ridin’ my horse across America.  Would like to come by your farm and visit.  ‘Course, I might like to sleep in your barn as well.  Give me a call if you would.”
     Who could resist a message like that?  
     I found him and the big red on a service road a few miles from our farm.  My, they both looked the part.  Both the man and the horse were friendly and gracious, and our visit began.  Turned out to be the best of times. 
     We swapped some songs around the fire.  (He is a fine singer and an even better lyricist.)  Then he said, “Tell me about your horses.”  I explained that Shine and Blue had been with me for years, and that Sherry and I were about to start our three-year old colt – his name is Joe Ben Black – and hoped to begin roping off him this summer.
     “Well,” he said, “in that case, if you don’t mind, I’ll hang around tomorrow morning and see how it goes.”  I said I would welcome the help.  It was only after watching this man work with my horse the next day that I realized how much I meant those words.
     After weeks of winter rain in our country, the Lord must have felt sorry for me, (or maybe He was sick and tired of my whining about cloudy days) so mercifully, He gave us the most wonderful gift…a sunny day.  As I watched the Aussie work with young Joe Ben, I felt like I had moved back in time - back to the time when cowboys first saw and heard Tom Dorrance or Ray Hunt.  Listening to and watching Joe Guy, I saw with such clarity how certainty, confidence, and knowledge in this man elicited remarkably high cooperation from the horse in a very short time. 
     Joe doesn’t have horses jump over barrels nor does he have “gimmicks” of any kind.  He clearly states he is not a horse whisperer.  (Indeed, he snorts when you mention that phrase.)  And you won’t find Joe Guy milking you for money by hiding information while promising more knowledge if you just cough up more money for “the next level.”  Rather he is practical, straight to the point, and tells you the truth…even if it stings a little.
     “What’s the matter with you?” he asks, as I bring Joe Ben into the round pen.  He’s staring a hole in me.
     “What?” I said.
     “Your other horses respect you.  Why do you let that colt bump into you?  He’s walking all over you.  Why do you allow him to do that and not the others?” he said, in a bewildered tone.  I laughed knowing he had found the “weak link” in my chain. 
     “I prayed for a black horse for years,” I answered.  “Almost had him.  Then a divorce.  Then, because of grace, he came back in my life.  So…”
     “So,” Joe interrupted, “you loved him so much, when he was a little baby, you let him get up in the chair with you when he was just a pup, didn’t you?”
     “Yes,” I admitted.
     “Well, mate,” he scolded, “your still doing that.  All that’s good and fine when he’s a baby, but it’s not so cute when he’s weighs a thousand pounds, now is it?”
     I had to agree.  For some time, I had been allowing Joe Ben to get away with things I would never have tolerated in Shine and Blue.  For the rest of the day, we worked on respect, ranking, communication, control, and eliciting cooperation from the young colt.  While Joe was firm, he doesn’t believe in striking the horse - no physical punishment of any kind.  “Never,” he says.  But he does believe in working the mind of the horse. 
     “You can lounge (lunge) him all you want,” he says.  “You can lounge him for thirty minutes, then get on him and he may still buck you off.  It’s not his body that bucks you off…it’s his mind!  People will say, ‘Lope him twenty miles.  Wet saddle blankets are all he needs.’  That’s fine, and that will work – if you are a cowboy; if you are a saddle-bronc rider.  The problem is when the 45 year-old woman gets on him, it’s the first 100 yards…that’s when the horse will buck her off and break her back.”  The truth of those chilling words will cause you to sit up and listen to Joe Guy like you have never listened before.  You just know…he’s speaking the truth.
     He only planned to stay for a day.  When my friends saw what he was doing with my horses, they began to bring theirs and now Joe has stayed for four.  This morning at the café where the old cowboys gather, I witnessed a touching sight.  The men brought Joe gifts.  One brought a leather-bound Bible, another an exquisite knife.  They were trying to give something to Joe to repay him for what he had given them…his knowledge.
     You can see Joe’s book and DVDs at Joeguylongrider.com.  His book is called Living A Dream.  After spending time with this man, he’s given me a dream.  Here it is…
     I want a young child to see me at a roping and to notice how calm and willing my horse is - and how soft my hands are on his reins.  I want him to see me giving my horse water at that roping, and to watch me loosen my saddle when not competing.  I want that child to notice that when I touch my horse with my spur, it’s just that – only a touch, not a jab.
     In short, because of my time with Joe Guy, I want a child to see how I treat my horse, and then turn to his mother and say, “Look, momma…there’s a real cowboy.”

          Michael Johnson


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