Blog: Establishing Softness*

I’m lifting a forkful of linguine slathered with pesto toward my mouth when I overhear a male voice say this:

“I’ll just try and pick her head up right here. But she’ll go down to where she’s supposed to go…”

I pause, mouth open, linguine dangling from my fork, and tilt my head to hear more.

“I’ll accentuate my pressure … a little more pressure … there, she gives it to me and I give it right back to her.”

The neurons in the pleasure center of my cranium ignite like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Fork down, I swivel my head toward where the voice is coming from: a television mounted over the bar at the restaurant where Frank and I are having dinner.

Most of the time when we’re at a bar or restaurant with a TV, I activate the mute button in my brain, preferring (usually) to listen to my spouse instead of a jabbering electronic box. These words, however, are coming through loud and clear on my brain’s speakerphone.

The TV displays a mighty handsome cowboy. He’s straddling a sweat-sheened, head-tossing chestnut mare, and they’re doing a little dance in the middle of an indoor ring. Not only can I hear him, I can also read his words as they scroll across the bottom of the screen.

“No matter where my hands are, I want them to be able to find that spot,” I simultaneously read and hear. “I get to where she starts looking for it instead of begging her to give it …” My heartbeat quickens.

My eyes stray to the corner of the screen. The TV is tuned to a station called RFD-TV. A caption at the bottom tells me the handsome cowboy’s name is Chris Cox. The head-tossing mare, on the other hand, is unidentified.

Frank is nattering on about a recently published study on gut bacteria, but I’m transfixed by Chris Cox and his submissive mare.

“… if she’s getting strong on me, I teach her to keep her left hind foot beneath her,” Chris Cox is saying. Is it my imagination or is the mare blushing? The title of the episode, “Establishing Softness,” flashes onto the screen.

A second glass of wine appears before me. My linguine has congealed on my plate.

I elbow Frank. “Hey, listen to this.” I read aloud: “… and she’s getting a little faster, so instead of just pulling back I pick her up and turn her and take the power away,” Is it my imagination, or are my palms getting sweaty?

“I wish they’d take that television away,” Frank responds, grumpy his lecture has been sidelined by a hunky buckaroo and his saddled partner.

While Cox and his mare pirouette around the ring in a man-on-beast version of ballroom dancing, my mind starts to wander.

Was Chris Cox married, I wondered, and if so, what did Mrs. Cox think of her spouse’s training techniques? When instructed, did she, too, keep her left hind foot beneath her? Perhaps she resented the mare and the softness lavished upon her by her husband … or maybe it suited her just fine that he spent his days and nights in a fragrant, hay-strewn barn with his geldings and bays.

Later, at home, I secretly Google photos of Chris Cox.

My favorite shows him astride a black stallion (what happened to the chestnut mare?), wearing Wrangler jeans and a snap button shirt. A coiled rope rests in his right hand. He has longish sideburns and his jaw appears permanently clenched. In another photo, he’s sporting worn leather chaps; the top two buttons of his shirt are unsnapped and I can just make out a silver chain nestled in his manly chest fur. And in a third, he slouches, facing the camera, an easy grin on his face. His thumbs are hooked into jeans cinched by a belt with a gold buckle the size of a license plate.

And he is indeed married. A website,, features a photo of the bride and groom astride their horses, holding hands. She’s clad in a flowing white bridal gown; he’s wearing a white shirt and a tie with a horse printed on it. They make a lovely couple.

Growing up, I was never a horsey-girl. While I admired their beauty, I feared horses and their flared nostrils and stamping, iron-shod hooves. Now I wonder if it isn’t too late to saddle up. I click on Chris Cox’s website and learn that for $2,499 I can take a five-day “Building Rider Confidence” clinic at his Diamond Double C Ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.

I fantasize about cantering across a western mesa, my hair blowing in the wind beneath a cowboy hat. My horse nickers with delight. The scarlet rays of the setting sun turn the tumbleweeds into fiery hairballs that skitter between cacti. I glance over to the rider next to me. Not Chris Cox, but Frank, yelling something about parasitic diseases of South America.

Like I said, it’s a fantasy.

*Yes, this is the real title of a real episode that originally aired on RFD-TV on January 31. And if you doubt the veracity of any of this, feel free to watch it yourself. Preferably with your significant other or a pint of ice cream.



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