“You can’t shoot! You can’t shoot! You can’t shoot!”
And nearer at hand the contented chirping twitter as the covey found itself.
Next morning the Captain decided that he had various affairs to attend to, so we put on our riding clothes and went down to the stables.
The Captain had always forty or fifty polo ponies in the course of education, and he was delighted to have them ridden, once he was convinced of your seat and hands. They were beautiful ponies, generally iron gray in colour, very friendly, very eager, and very lively. Riding them was like flying through the air, for they sailed over rough ground, irrigation checks, and the like without a break in their stride, and without a jar. By the same token it was necessary to ride them. At odd moments they were quite likely to give a wide sidewise bound or a stiff-legged buck from sheer joy of life. One got genuine “horse exercise” out of them.
The Captain, as perhaps I have said, invented these ponies himself. From Chihuahua he brought in some of the best mustang mares he could find; and, in case you have Frederick Remington’s pictures of starved winter-range animals in mind, let me tell you a good mustang is a very handsome animal indeed. These he bred to a thoroughbred. The resulting half-breeds grew to the proper age. Then he started to have them broken to the saddle. A start was as far as he ever got, for nobody could ride them. They combined the intelligence and vice of the mustang with the endurance and nervous instability of the thoroughbred. The Captain tried all sorts of men, even sending at last to Arizona for a good bronco buster on the J-I. Only one or two of the many could back the animals at all, though many aspirants made a try at it. After a long series of experiments, the Captain came to the reluctant conclusion that the cross was no good. It seemed a pity, for they were beautiful animals, up to full polo size, deep chested, strong shouldered, close coupled, and speedy.