Jan Swan Wood: Bar Nothing Springer: The History behind the horse
The history behind the great horses and the people who raised them is often lost or remembered differently by different people. One sure way of getting the story right, though, is to learn it from someone who was there when history was made.
Bar Nothing Springer, a well known and respected horse in South Dakota and the region, is an important horse in the development of a better standard of horses for ranch and rodeo use. I went to the source, so to speak, to learn all I could about Bar Nothing Springer, and where he began.
Gene “Buzz” Reeves, Eagle Butte, SD, is the son of Art Reeves, and remembers Bar Nothing Springer well. Art Reeves worked for Clyde Miller, Fluvanna, TX, and was there when Clyde brought Bartender, the sire of Bar Nothing Springer, to the ranch. Art started the colts for the ranch and had started a fine mare named Deslena, who was sired by a Remount Thoroughbred stallion named Despot.
When the first crop of Bartender colts were weaned, Miller let Art pick a colt from the crop. The weanling he picked, based on his fondness for the colt’s mother, was Bar Nothing Springer.
Not long after he bought the colt, he moved to another ranch of Miller’s near Trinchera, CO, and took Bar Nothing, as he called him, along. When the colt was a two year old, he started riding him.
“Dad was running an outfit for Miller there in Colorado, and he used Bar Nothing Springer on the ranch and started roping calves on him. He also bulldogged on him,” remembers Buzz. “Three other guys started using him to dog on too. They were Ben Springer, Jim Like and Jim Boyle. They rode him in the RCA (Rodeo Cowboys Association) shows in the late forties and early fifties.”
Ben Springer, LaJunta, CO, Jim Like, Rocky Ford, CO, and Jim Boyle, North Platte, NE, hauled Bar Nothing extensively to rodeos, and the stud was still being used at the ranch to breed mares and for ranch work when he wasn’t on the road.
“Dad was training race horses at Trinidad, Colorado and Benny would bring him (Bar Nothing Springer) by and run those young horses against him. He could outrun most of them, too,” recalls Reeves. “He was like a lot of those horses then, you could do anything on him. They talk about making these horses versatile, well we had them back then.”
The stud’s name around the Reeves family was Bar Nothing, though he wasn’t registered as such. According to what Buzz Reeves’ mother, Frankie Reeves, 97 years young, remembers and Buzz shares, “Between the time Dad started riding him, he was inspected by the Quarter Horse people, and bred to a bunch of mares. By the time he had sired enough colts to get his number, Ben Springer had him and had made a deal to buy him from Dad. That‘s why he was named Bar Nothing Springer and registered in Ben’s name.”
Ben Springer never did get the money together to pay for the stud, but kept on hauling him to rodeos. “He had a family to support and Dad never pressured him any for the money.” says Buzz.
Tragedy struck at a rodeo in Greeley, CO, when the stud was put in a stout pen at the rodeo grounds for the night. During the night, a mare got up against the gate and the stud struck at her through the gate and nearly cut his leg off. His rodeo days were over.
By 1949, the Reeves family had moved from Colorado to the ranch in South Dakota. When Bar Nothing Springer was sound enough to travel, he was brought to South Dakota where he started his career as a full-time stallion. That was in about 1952 or ’53. Buzz remembers, “He was really good to handle. I got to ride him after he was crippled up, and he was really nice. Even after all those years of bulldogging, he was still as calm as can be.”
Buzz remembers the stallion as being about 15.2 hands tall and weighing between 1100-1200 lbs. He was a bright chestnut with excellent conformation and good bone. The stud continued as a sire on the Reeves ranch, establishing them as respected horse breeders at a time when the AQHA was growing and good horses were in high demand for ranch and rodeo.
When Bar Nothing Springer was in his twenties, Buzz remembers that his dad gave the old stud to a good friend who lived south of Newell, SD, by the name of Don Webb. Webb sold the place to a veterinarian and the horse stayed with the place and later died there.
He was an outstanding individual, proven both in the rodeo arena and the ranch, then as a sire. He stamped his offspring with disposition, speed, cow and agility, and his offspring have kept the Reeves family and many others mounted for generations.
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As a routine management matter, the Teddy Roosevelt National Park plans to remove a few horses from its herd.