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Snicker is wearing his running shoes, special neoprene pads installed between hoof and shoe, and Bill Wagner says of his horsey teammate, "Pam will tie him up and take off running, and Snicker will stand and watch her go. Then he'll swing around and look back down the trail for me. When he spots me laboring along there, puffing up dust, he'll actually scowl and start to whinny at me, as if to say, 'C'mon! Let's go, dummy! This is a race!' And he'll step around into position so that I can get into the saddle."
According to Bev Gray and her partner, Debra Pack, a ski wholesaler from Park City, Utah, their half-Arabian mare Uinta is as human as any of them. First night at the camp Uinta shook off her tie and sneaked off on a toot. The girls had tracked her like Indians for about six miles before losing her trail. "She came back two days later," says Bev, "maybe a little sadder but wiser, as they used to say about wayward girls. Otherwise, fine." In ride-and-tie races, says Debra, "Uinta loses her sense of horse-ness. She becomes a fellow athlete for a couple of hours."
Mo Sproul, a special projects consultant for American Express, from Weimar, Calif., has designed a special lead so that Raz, her 9-year-old Arabian gelding, can go jogging with her. "We develop a special relationship that way," she says. Last year, one entrant professed to hate Arabians, explaining that his horse was Jewish. "Her name," he told everybody, "is Golda, My Mare."
Texans Ron Norman and Skipper Duncan have done some rodeo riding and calf roping, so they know a human horse when they see one. They're teamed with Lovelock, one of only three quarter horses in this Ride & Tie. Norman suggests that Lovelock is really a nom de horse. "Actually," says Norman, "his really honest name is Roany Good Pony, and he's still about half wild." Roany Good Pony nods as if to confirm this fact. He paws a couple of times.
"Wild? Listen," says Duncan, "this here horse was caught on the open range in Nevada, running with the wild mustangs. He was so wild he was five years old before anybody could get close enough to rope him. Then it was another three years before anybody could slap a bridle on him. I mean, wild."
Roany Good Pony blinks languidly.
How old is he?
"Oh, he's maybe eight," says Duncan. He and the horse exchange glances. "Put down nine," Duncan says.
"Ah, ah, ah, don't stand too close to him," Norman warns. "He's still full of hate."
"Want to know how he trained for this here race?" asks Duncan. "He roped 40 calves last Wednesday and drug 'em to branding, that's how."