The Red Pony takes place on a ranch, so it's no wonder that men and masculinity reign supreme. Carl Tiflin's the alpha male, with a gruff exterior and intense work ethic. Billy Buck's his right-hand man. And little Jody's at the bottom of the totem pole, still a boy, but dealing with some very manly responsibilities here. From Carl and Billy's example, Jody learns that being a man means coping with difficult situations and keeping your feelings to yourself. It may not be the ideal we're familiar with today, but back on a western ranch in the early 20th century, that was the norm.
Carl's manly man demeanor doesn't do much to help Jody come of age. If the two of them had more heart-to-hearts, Jody might learn more valuable lessons from his experiences.
Let's cut Carl some slack. Sure, his gruffness might seem like he's just a mean guy, but by keeping his distance from his kid, he actually helps Jody learn to fend for himself, which is an important lesson.