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Reminds Me of a Story

Reminds me of a Story... If at First You Succeed.

There are some things that come naturally for people. Composing came easy for Mozart, Shakespeare was a prolific storyteller, Ted Williams was a natural with the baseball bat. For most of us, however, success can take years of practice, many attempts before achieving any amount of proficiency. I remember the first time I tried water skiing. I was able to get up on two skis my first try. I thought, heck, this was easy. By mid-morning my tutor said I was ready for one ski. I didn’t get up the rest of the day. The next day I was exhausted and didn’t even try one ski the remainder of the weekend.  If one never tries, one can never succeed. That is a universal truth. As we get older, we are less likely to try things for the first time. That is another truth, though, I witnessed this past month that it is not necessarily a UNIVERSAL truth.


Paula Giertych, a long-time member of ETI 357, and like me, has witnessed the changing of the seasons a few times. I say that with a respectful kinship because I think we are both young at heart. Paula moved here almost 30 years ago from the Midwest. She settled in RSM when the Rodeo was still on Santa Margarita Parkway. That experience watching horses and cows together in sport must have incubated in the back of her mind for a quarter century. But more of that later.

About 10 years ago she met Farmer Beau at the local Albertson’s. Farmer Beau was an icon in the canyon. He had a variety of farm animals- goats, sheep, pigs, minis and horses. She wanted her daughter Megan to work with animals, and Beau put her to work walking, feeding, and overall caring for his menagerie of pets. Paula started becoming involved, and Beau would let her ride one of his horses, a retired Polo Pony named Jimmy Joe. Well, Jimmy Joe ended up becoming her first horse, she joined our Club, and began immersing herself in the equestrian life. When Jimmy Joe passed, she so enjoyed being an equestrian, that she decided to get another and landed a 15 year-old retired Polo Pony, a handsome buckskin named Monte. She’s had Monte 4 years now, and he has always seemed willing and eager to please. Over the last 4 or five years she has enjoyed visiting Circle S Ranch for their Saturday night Cattle Sorting.

A little hesitant to try herself not knowing how Monte would react to the cows, she just kept visiting but buried in the back of her mind were her early days in RSM watching the Rodeo where horse and cows engaged in Rodeo games. In August, one of her fellow boarders, Megan Day, a fixture in the Canyon and probably the rider with the most logged hours on trail every week, was considering going to the Circle S Ranch Summer Buckle Series. Megan’s mare was not a good fit for the festivities so Paula offered that she take Monte and report back how he fared with the cows. Actually, I was there that night in August, and Monte and Megan were very proficient. Monte seemed to catch on rather quickly the whole point of sorting and was not at all perplexed by the cows. The way the Circle S Summer Buckle series worked was that there were 3 nights of sorting. The team with the fastest clean run over the 3 nights would win the Buckles. To qualify to win, the competitor would have to compete in at least two of the three nights of competition. The first night there were 4 clean runs (yours truly had one) out of 55 attempts, and the fastest time was 1:31. 
When Paula learned that Monte performed admirably, she decided she would try over the final two nights to compete on him and see how she liked it. I give her credit for being willing to try something new, something she had never tried. That is a spirit often reserved for the younger set, those young dogs still eager to learn new tricks. But, again, that doesn’t have to be the norm, and Paula was willing to prove that.

She went out there for the first run with two people she had just met and was a little nervous. She took a holding spot on the left side and Monte stood his ground but they were able to get three cows before one went out of order. The second run ended similarly, but both runs were respectable, and took the edge off of her nerves. On the third run, the other female teammate went in to cut the first cow, and they developed a good rhythm, Paula and Monte deftly letting all the correct cows go by and they set a new Series record time of 1:21. It was a full 10 seconds better than the previous posted time! To prove that it wasn’t a fluke, on their next run her team posted a second clean run in 1:37. There were four clean runs out of 45 that night and her team had two of them. The 3rd installment of the series was two weeks later, and if no team could top the time of 1:21, Paula and Monte, in their first cattle sorting event together, Paula’s first ever, would take home the coveted Summer Series Silver Buckle. It was a misty night for the finale, and 9 teams showed up. There would be three clean runs the final night, none even close to Paula’s team’s posting from the preceding week. So, after 3 competitions, 140 runs, 11 clean runs, no team or time topped the 1:21 that Paula posted on her very first night of cattle sorting! Bravo!

The saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” There are really three “trys” in that statement. The first one is giving yourself a CHANCE to succeed. Paula did that, not stymied by her experience, by her horse being a buck the norm, well, that makes you exceptional. Cheers Paula!

And what happens when “at first you DO succeed.” Well, if you have the spirit of Paula, you plan on attending the next Cattle Sorting event, and invite your friend Mary who will try for the first time. That’s what makes our equestrian lifestyle thrive and survive. That is what inspires another to try. That’s what makes Cory at Circle S want to put on more events- to see new people sampling the fare he has invested in. (Thanks Cory). But it doesn’t happen unless we are willing to step out, trysomething new with our horses, spice up our interactions with them.  So I challenge all of us to take a cue from Paula.  It’s never too late and your pants are never too tight to sport a belt with a brand, new, shiny buckle!



See you on the trail!
James M. Iacono
Activities Coordinator Saddleback Canyon Riders Equestrian Trails Inc., Corral 357