The fall of 1994 I started riding colts for the Cow boss at JR’s feedlot out of Grandview Idaho. For the next several years I would start colts for him spring and fall.
As a Crop Duster it was important no to get hurt in the spring riding a colt for a few hundred dollars and have it cost me a flying season of wages. I had opted for a career as a Crop Duster rather than an Airline Pilot so I that I would have part of the year to pursue my other interests, mainly stock cows and horses. Also the appeal of Crop Dusting, Fire Bombing and Back Country pilot had a huge pull.
I was never of a mind to give up my passion for horses and stock cows. I had started my first colt at age 14 and I have never been without a colt to start or bring along at any time in my life. The 3 years in the Marines was my biggest absence from them but when I was home I was always putting a better handle on one or just plain miles making them better.
In 1994 I was 44 years old so no youngster but definitely still capable of starting colts.
Robert the cow boss sent me 8 head one spring and that was probably twice what I had time to ride as we usually started flying in April, 2 of the 8 were Black and White Paints.
Now as far as color on a horse goes I believe in the old saying ‘there is no good color on a bad horse and no bad color on a good horse.” I know there are folks that believe there are no bad horses and I’m not here to change there opinion but if you have ridden enough horses and especially if you have started a few colts you know that some are naturally more willing partners. These Black and White Paints were not willing partners. Aside from that my favorite color on a horse is ‘gentle’. Not sure who said that first but it has always made sense to me.
I tried everything I could think of and a few ideas that I had never employed in 30 plus years of riding colts and I wasn’t making any progress. The Simplot colts had been handled only to be branded and gelded so they figured us humans were no more than two legged predators. There are plenty of ways to get around that but nothing I did was working. I had them roped, haltered and tied up but when you approached them afoot they’d come at you with whatever they could get you with; teeth, front feet, hind feet or a full on rush.
I was having a busy spring flying and had to pull the plug on the 2 Paints and one other horse that fought so hard that he pulled his stifle. I figured the one with the stifle injury would heal up as we had a couple of our own along the way that had done that and time healed them just fine.
The cow boss was plenty unhappy with me as he really liked those Paint Colts. He sent them on to another trainer and I heard later that one fought until he broke a leg and the other one never quit bucking.
The following fall he sent me another bunch of colts and there was a tri-colored Bucksin Paint with them. I asked Robert, the cow boss if that colt was related to the Black and White Paints and he said ‘no’. We both knew he was lying but I never called him on it.
The first ride on the Buckskin my son Scott threw a leg over him as my daughter Jess ponied the horse and I had a hind leg roped. The colt threw himself down and Scott just straddled him until he got up. Surprised that his fit hadn’t worked he wasn’t too ill mannered for that first ride. I was very suspicious that he was going to make a feedlot horse and later on he showed his true colors by rearing up and striking a cowboy in the chest with both front feet. I believe they canned him after that.
It’s hard to say when to pull the plug on a horse. Young horse’s have a full life ahead of them and deserve a good start. My job was to get them where a cowboy could saddle them and ride off and give them a job to do. When you have that nagging feeling that ‘this one’ isn’t going to ‘make it’ it’s always a crap shoot to go on or call it quits. Some warning signs should never be ignored. The Black and White Paints gave me all of those warning signs.