When I was very young, we had a beautiful horse — a Tennessee Walker named Lady. There are old black-and-white snapshots showing me riding Lady with my grandfather or my dad when I was 3 or 4 years old. Lady was part of the family. She was my grandfather’s horse until my grandparents moved into town. Then she was our horse on the farm.
As I grew older, we purchased a 7-year-old Appaloosa named Jack. Grazing cattle every summer along the winding West Bow Creek, Jack became indispensable in sorting cattle on the creek and bringing them home from summer pasture in the fall.
The West Bow in our area has deep, sharp banks with a narrow, but extremely deep and fast, stream. The creek valley is full of beaver den holes and little springs. It is a beautiful little creek, but it’s full of hazards for horses. Thankfully, Jack was the kind of sure-footed horse that could and would go anywhere, as long as you could hang on in the saddle.
He wasn’t frightened by the rushing water of the West Bow, and had no problem crossing it to chase a stray calf or unruly cow. He loved working cattle and could stretch out into a full gallop in no time. After working him in the pasture during hot summer days, we would curry him down before turning him back on grass for a well-deserved rest. I was always amused with him, because the minute we took the bridle off his head, he found the nearest bare dirt and rolled around in it to his heart’s content.
In later years, because he was so eager at the bit, I was the only person in our family willing to ride him. In the winter, we didn’t bother with a saddle, but simply rode him bareback to check and move cattle grazing cornstalks down on the creek bottom. If a herd bull decided to come near, Jack puffed out his massive chest, pranced in the dirt, ready to take on anything. Jack was more than a working horse for our family. He was family.
That’s how it is with horses on the farm and ranch. They are loved and beloved, especially for farm kids.
My second daughter, Taylor, is a true horse lover. Growing up, she listened intently to my stories of horses on our farm when I was growing up and wanted that same experience for herself and her siblings. Last summer, her dreams came true when a family was willing to part with their older, gentle Quarter Horse, Dancer, and her Shetland sidekick, Squirt. The two horses became part of our family, like Jack and Lady were when I was young. Since then, Dancer and Squirt have been a great blessing around our place.
We don’t work cattle with them, like we did when I was growing up. But feeding and caring for those horses, and riding them when we can, has been a memorable experience for Taylor and the rest of the family.
For me, it brings back fond memories of my youth. For my family, the horses have become this great, crucial force on our farm. We are accustomed to seeing the horses around the pastures near the farm and enjoy talking to them and caring for them every day.
Horses take patience and management, but for many ranchers and farmers, from east to west, horses are much more than another critter on the farm. If you are a horse lover, like our Taylor, they are not only workers on the farm, but also trusted friends.