Horsemanship as Cormac McCarthy represents it in his novels of the border Southwest is a variable craft—horsemanship contingent upon the particular needs and practices of the horsemen in each work. In Blood Meridian, the scalphunters use horses as tools to aid in killing. In All the Pretty Horses, John Grady Cole's abilities with horses strain credulity as a nearly chimerical communicative experience exists between the working cowboy and his horses. In The Crossing, Billy and Boyd Parham, who are not professional cowboys, use horses as vehicles, and Billy's horsemanship rests upon an emotional bond to the Parham horses, a bond that is based upon his psychological and emotional ties to the horses. In Cities of the Plain, horsemanship returns to the horse as tool for both constructive utility and extermination, while the working cowboys use horses to eradicate a wild dog population in a bloody excursion that mirrors Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses. Thus, in Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy, horsemanship is a gradation shaped by the means and purposes of the riders as well as the historical locus in which the works are set.

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