Colorado fourth grader buys draft horses and starts her own business
April 20, 2017
Shirley Jo Thompson has drive. The 10-year-old also has direction, in the form of "haw" and "gee". Thompson, a fourth grader from Limon, Colo., is a horse-crazy farm girl, much like many girls her age. Thompson, however, doesn't merely dream of horses but purchased a pair of Belgian mares and is Limon's littlest entrepreneur.
Thompson is one of two girls, and a brother, in a family of horse lovers but her riding confidence wavered. During a visit to a friend's home, Shirley Jo drove their pony and cart and it was the beginning of something.
"I decided I wanted something bigger," she said. "Then we went to our friend's in Elizabeth and they have Belgians and I liked them a lot."
Once she met the Freund family in Elizabeth, Colo., she was able to see draft horses up close and personal and was even able to ride on the sand wagon they periodically exhibit at events. Her favorite of the Freund horses, Enis, helped Joey Freund teach Shirley Jo how to harness the horses and hook the harness to the wagon. The Freunds operate Running Creek Ranch, a Limousin ranch that also utilizes draft horses to feed hay during the winter and for special events.
Shirley Jo located a breeder in Midland, Texas, who was offering two Belgian mares for sale. The mares had originally come from an Amish family in Missouri and are well-trained and have dispositions suited to a novice driver.
"He was selling them because he has mules," she said. "The mules walk a lot faster than the Belgians and he likes his fast mules."
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The Thompsons purchased the pair of mares and, shortly after settling them into their new home, one of the mares foaled. The colt, now a month old, is named Bo. Shirley Jo's plan is to breed the other mare so she has a new team coming up to eventually replace the veteran team of Barbie and Goldilocks.
Shirley Jo is marketing her carriage for special events and is giving back to her community.
"I want to take a couple to prom and I want to do weddings and parties," she said. "We want to take it to nursing homes and give people rides, too."
She and her dad, Kurt, are working to refurbish a tractor wagon for the hitch and Shirley Jo is hoping to have the wagon completed and ready for the final day of fourth grade.
"On the last day, they let kids ride their horses to school," she said. "But I want to give my whole class a ride to school that day."
With the help of her mom, Becky, Shirley Jo has created a Facebook page for her business. SJT Drafts documents her colt as he grows, the progress of her wagon, and will highlight the special events she attends with her carriage, wagons and horses. ❖