April 25, 2018



Lena is leaving. No, not that Lena. My saddle horse.
I bought Lena, I suppose three years ago. We were trailing cattle north of Killdeer and Russ was riding her. He had saved her from going to the kill pen. A guy had dropped her at his house and Russ was to haul her to the horse buyer a couple days later. She was destined to be a steak sandwich in France.
Russ is a hand and he made her look good as we moved those cattle. And by the end of the day, Lena, who is of Norwegian Fjord heritage, was in my trailer. For the past couple of years she has been a pretty dependable ranch horse. Oh, like in any relationship, we have had our differences, but by and large, she has been pretty good.
The past few years I have developed kind of a pattern. Two or three years of ranching on a horse, and I am ready to move on. They get handed down to the grandkids to be breakaway, barrel, or ranch horses. And I start on another one. Lena’s time is up.
But none of the grandkids really want to back in the box on a mare that is half draft. She is built to pull a wagon, not run around the barrels, or back in the box. So, as much as it pains me, Lena is going to Cody, Wyo., for a horse sale in a couple weeks.
Now people are always leery of buying a horse at a regular auction sale. Cause one time a bad horse got sold at auction. I don’t think it was on purpose. But everyone goes to the sale. They are as much a social event as they are business. People take time off from work. People drive hundreds of miles. People pack their kids and a box of puppies to give away in an old yellow pickup. They crowd in the cafes and in the aisles. A good horse sale is standing room only.
And people go for one reason. To see if they can buy a really good horse cheap. One that Dad can rope a cow on, Mom can get the milk cows in on, Billy can take to the team roping, Bobbi can win the barrel racing on, and the nieces and nephews can learn to ride on.
It helps if the horse is good looking, sound, bred really well, walks fast, trots easy, lopes smooth, runs fast, stops hard, and has good feet. If he is easy to catch, never kicks, guaranteed not to buck, and can cut cattle he’s a keeper. But you have to buy him for about $600 cause that’s what your old killer horse brought when you sold him.
And once in a while you get a good one. Carmen’s horse CC came from an auction in Dickinson. Cost $600 and I cried when Carm turned down $20,000 for him. She’s blonde you know. But, then I guess CC earned a place in our hearts and homes.
But back to my story. Involves a horse trader from Minnesota. We’ll just call him Joe. He was at a horse sale at Billings some years ago. And a rancher bought in an old horse he had retired. Old Buck was 22 years old. Horse’s mane was long, feet were bad, and he was full of mud and cockleburs. The old rancher felt pretty bad about having to sell him. Joe felt sorry for the guy and bought the horse.
Then Joe took the horse out to his trailer. Trimmed his mane. Pulled his tail. Brushed the mud and the burdock out. Trimmed his feet. Put a little oil in his mane to make it shine. Saddled him up and resold him two hours later.
This old rancher gets home and hollers at Ma to come look at his new saddle horse. Best deal he ever got. Sold Old Buck for $600 and got this horse that looked just like old Buck did 15 years ago for $2500. And he’s only nine years old!