Fort Collins, Colo.
Funny how the memories come flooding back as we get older. I have gone to work at Jax’s Farm and Ranch in the hardware department and enjoy it because there are so many folks who come in there to buy things needed for the farm and home. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t meet an old friend and get a chance to visit and catch up on what is happening in their life.
The other day I was helping a horse woman figure out how to keep her stallion in a certain pen. We got to talking about keeping stallions in a small operation and the headaches they can cause. Having owned and ridden two different good stallions I began to expound on my personal opinion about the project.
I am not against owning a good stallion but understand the work involved with that kind of project. I explained that you must show and campaign that horse for all you are worth in order for folks to see him and want to breed their mares to him. He can be the best-looking horse in the world but if you don’t show him and train him to be a champion then your stud fees are going to be low and only a few folks a year will want to breed to him.
My first stallion was a Major King Colt and the only reason I was able to buy him was that he had injured his left eye and was blind on that side. It took a lot of work to get him to trust me enough to spin to the left, but we won a number of Quarter horse reining contests. I raised him with my geldings and they taught him manners that made him pleasant to handle and be around other horses without causing a disturbance. This horse spoiled me, as far as being gentle and accomplishing everything I asked him to do. I had spent many hours working with him, which paid off as he got older.
Then one summer I contracted to fight bulls for all the Indian rodeos on the Navajo Reservation. Many times, I would just camp with Earnest Peralta’s crew on the reservation, rather than drive all the way back to Belen and then back out to the reservation a few days later. We put on the rodeo at Luckachukai on a Saturday, and after the rodeo we set camp at the rodeo grounds so we could be ready for the rodeo on Sunday. I found an empty corral behind the bucking chutes and took care of Nugget, then went to eat at the chuck wagon with the crew.
Worry tugged at the back of my mind about the stallion because a number of Indians had shown considerable interest in him and wanted to breed their mares to him. I had read numerous stories about how the Indians stole the white man’s horses back in the 1800s. I knew if they took him, I’d never find him.
When the crew decided to go into town to the dance, they asked if I wanted to come along. I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave my horse. But after dark and making sure every thing was quiet at the rodeo grounds, I decided to go and drove into town.
However, I just couldn’t stay very long because of the nagging feeling about my horse and the fact that I wanted to get plenty of sleep for the rodeo the next day. When I got back to the grounds, everything was quiet and Nugget was eating peacefully. I didn’t think much when I saw a pickup or two pulling out of the grounds so I went to bed.
I forgot about the whole thing, except every time I passed through Lukachukai I could hear Nugget whinnying in the trailer as if his heart was breaking. It wasn’t until several years later, when I met one of the rodeo crew and mentioned it to him. He just looked at me and laughed, “You didn’t know? While you were at the dance, all the Indians brought their mares to the rodeo grounds and bred them to him. He just thought he was coming back to heaven.”
Roger Thompson is a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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