One of the most important things in the success of a marriage is spousal training. Many stories exist when a “cowboy type” (male or female) marries someone with an urban upbringing. Usually it is the male heir to the ranch who goes to A&M, falls in love with a city girl and brings her home.

Mom and Dad get a feelin’ pretty quick whether the “tryout” is going to fit in the family. Maybe she’s funny or loves kids, rolls up her sleeves and does the dishes and really appears to care for their lovesick son.

Or they immediately realize they better get a prenuptial agreement to keep from losing the ranch. But most brides are willing to learn something new to please the potential groom. However, there are some limits.

Cary came home with a young horse. He was pretty shiny but not too “civilized.” Cary put a bale of hay in each corner of a square corral to give the illusion of a round pen, haltered the nervous 3-year old and began its training.

By the fourth day Bad News (the horse’s new name) was still not coming along as quickly as Cary had hoped. The horse had been introduced to the saddle, but you could say they weren’t best friends.


Day five Cary asked his new bride of three weeks if she would come and help him with one of the horses. He was keenly aware that she was unschooled in animal husbandry, but it would be a good chance for her to get a lesson in spousal training.

He handed her a 12-foot training whip and climbed into the saddle on Bad News. “Now,” he instructed, “I’m gonna ride this horse in a circle. You stand here in the center of the corral. If he balks or stops you just show him the whip and cluck.”

“OK,” she said, but she was wondering: What was a cluck?

Her training had begun.

Then Bad News stopped. “Now,” said Cary quietly.

She laid that whip across Bad News’ butt like it was a cat-o-nine tails and crowed like a rooster. Bad News went to buckin’. When he got tired of buckin’ in a circle, he bucked over the slip rail, into the boneyard, over the hayrake and through the irrigation pipes.

Suddenly, he pitched forward, releasing the saddlehorn from the waist button on Cary’s jean jacket and fired our spousal trainer into a pile of net wire fencing and cedar posts, where Cary hung up and flipped over a corrugated culvert, banged his head on a rusty disc blade and sank in a pile.

He could hear his wife screaming. “Oh,” he thought, “She’s concerned about me.” Then he realized she was racing for the house, cursing him colorfully, vowing at the top of her lungs she would never help him in the barn again.

Today, 10 years later, he loves her still. They have three kids, she has a job in town, and the spousal training continues: He fixes breakfast and picks up his socks; he’s learned to run the washer/dryer and dishwasher, and they take turns with the 3-year old (child, not horse).

They’ve learned to compromise: she deigns to feed the stock when he is gone but draws the line at holding horses under any conditions – or doctoring Cary if he’s wounded so badly he needs stitches.

A nice compromise. PD