Photo Challenge & Poem: Serene

The cowboys I knew didn’t dress like
the movies. No neckerchiefs or fancy
Mexican spurs. They wore easy smiles
under the brim of a dusty hat. Rough
hands with thick knuckles, able to

soothe a horse or build fence or squat
to look a girl in the eye and listen.
The first to offer help, the last to doff
their hat at the dinner table and thank
the cook. Full-grown men, heroes

who live by the Boy Scout code with
humility. Much easier to be like these
men-with-hats who chase horses with
flags, jerking halters in predatory
attack. When the horse finally shuts

down, drenched in fear, the men-with-hats
claim a thing they call respect. An hour
later a small group of men-with-hats, each
carrying sticks with flags, wait to load a
horse too wild to lead. The trainer backs

the trailer to an alley chute. It takes a
couple of tries and the men-with-hats make
small mean jokes, no one offering to guide
her in. The trainer steps from her truck,
head down, an apology for what she knows

they’ve been saying. The men-with-hats send
the horse, an un-handled mare carrying a foal
due soon, into the trailer. The trainer pulls
her rig forward and stops to let her dogs out
to pee, returning with some business in a

plastic bag. Then, putting her diesel in gear,
heads back to her farm, slow on the corners,
taking care with her cargo, while the men-with-hats
slouch in their golf cart and fluff up their pride
with impatience to close the gate behind her.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning summer clinics in Scotland and the UK.
2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. And then I write a poem. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)



  1. And most watching think this is “respect”. So sad to think of the thousands of horses who suffer because of the egos of these “trainers”. Your words always touch the heart in their truth ❤

  2. Well done, Anna! 🙂

    I love the juxtaposition of the two different uses of the word “Respect.”

    Respect is what we give…not what we demand…

    Beautiful! ❤

  3. This brings up so many areas of anger/judgement etc for me. I could rant but instead will say I love the touch of the the trainer letting her dogs out to pee and the little plastic bag–a beautiful space in a hard poem. Glad it turned out okay though…

  4. Respect is what we EARN when we give it. I have to hope that, in time, there will be more cowboys like the ones you knew than “men-in-hats” who need to prove they can dominate rather than guide. Maybe there already are.
    I’m glad the young mare goes to the farm where respect exists. The men-in-hats, sadly, remain with their misguided notion that the definition of respect is really about covering up their own weaknesses.
    Thought provoking poem, Anna.

  5. I LOVE this one. The image of the cowboy squatting to look a girl in the eye and listen will be rolling around in my head for a long time

  6. Yes, LOVE this one – might just be my favorite poem of yours to date – for all the reasons already mentioned above 🙂 Just GREAT.

  7. This makes me crazy. Because we’ve all seen it, we’ve all let it go at times and probably, most of us have tried to make it better — as best we could. You’re right on target, as usual. Thank you, Anna. And for all of us, keep trying.

  8. Coming back to this poem again, today, and reflecting on it.

    My teenage stepson is a rodeo athlete. He loves riding and roping. He loves the camaraderie of the fellow competitors.

    At his age, the lure of the dominating demand for respect is strong. He sees men-with-hats he looks up to riding with hard hands and heavy discipline…and they appear strong and capable. He began imitating their style and it has been difficult to counter…after all…what do I know? I’m no roper…not much of a horseman…and certainly not a bull rider…

    But I’ve been slowly chipping away at the misconceptions.

    The day, a few months ago, when his horse ran all over the pasture refusing to be caught…but came right up to me when I walked in the pasture carrying a halter. It was a teachable moment. A chance to ask, “Why do you think the horse saw you as a threat but saw me as a friend?”

    Then last weekend before the rodeo, when I warmed his horse for him and pointed out how the horse stood calmly relaxed as I mounted…no swishing around or trying to walk off. Then, later in the day, walking back to the trailer, I pointed out his tight reins and told him the horse would appreciate some slack so he could relax.

    “Then he’d trot off!” he said, dropping the reins to show me.

    “Stop him and back him up,” I said. “Good! Now give him slack.”

    Then we had a mini-training session there in the fairgrounds parking lot. I showed him how to catch the horse starting to move off, back him one step, then drop the reins. After about four times, the horse stood still, relaxed on loose reins.

    “Now, just lift the reins about half an inch and lean forward slightly. When he starts to move, just move with him.”

    And we returned to the trailer at a slow walk on a loose rein.

    Respect…it’s something we give…not something we demand.

    And…hopefully in the giving…we can also teach… 🙂

    • Wonderful story Joe – you shared/showed so much in just a few paragraphs. That was a gift, and a story worth sharing with others. In fact, just posted this to my Facebook page (Listen To Your Horse). Thank you.

  9. Coming from a family of working horsemen, these first traits you cite are the ones that I know firsthand to be REAL cowboys. Not to mention, real MEN. Dang, I love me a Cowboy!

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