A lot of heart: North Dakota team provides horsepower for ranch tasks
Spanning the test of time and the elements of winter bliss and tribulations, the feeding teams of the Fredrickson family of Upham, North Dakota, are a staple to the history of ranching across the plains.
The multi-generation ranch has used teams of horses ranging from Percherons to Belgian horses, acquiring a masterful skill of feeding their herd of cattle through blizzard and negative temperatures.
Proving their invaluable employment worth through hard work, stamina, and heart, the feeding team of horses that Jesse and Katelyn Fredrickson alongside Jesse’s father, Larry, and his father, Charles have passed on the tradition that is an essential element at the ranch.
Katelyn’s grandfather, Kenny Anderson, from Glenburn, was longtime friends with Charles and they raised Belgian horses together back in the day.
“A couple of years ago, Larry Fredrickson bought a new tractor. Lo and behold the DEF fluid froze and the new machine wouldn’t start. The teams are the only form of transportation that always start in the cold,” explained Katelyn Fredrickson, “One year, the UPS truck got stuck and the team came to the rescue, pulling out the precious cargo carrier.”
“These horses need to have a lot of heart, that’s what it takes to have a good team,” said Jesse Fredrickson, “Not only can some teams go down when the sled gets stuck but their mentality has to be slow moving, more or less, to do their job efficiently” added the rancher.
The heart and soul of taming the Dakota territory stems back to the 1900s when homesteaders depended heavily on their horses and cattle. Horses were the first choice of North Dakota pioneer farmers for doing their field work.
The Fredricksons use their horses to feed 13 large round bales a day with a pick and roll. Tons of piled silage is also loaded in the wagon and shoveled off, scoop by scoop, while Fredrickson talks to his team- hands free- only because they are tied to the shovel. “The team knows where to go when feeding. Jesse can cluck to them for going forward, says the word, ‘ho’ to stop and ‘back’ to put the wagon in reverse,” explained Katelyn.
The family is passing their tradition down their seven-year-old daughter, Kallie. “Kallie goes with us to do the chores. She has her own shovel and her dad has her count her shovel loads of silage from the feed wagon,” Katelyn added.
The annual family Christmas tree tradition is all made a reality thanks to their team of horses. Every year they drive the team to go hunt and chop down a tree, and transport it back to the home place.
They also use the team to spread manure and haul wood for the wood stoves that heat the house and barns. And when there is time, they are used for recreational purposes, occasionally for a toboggan or sled ride through the pearl white crystals that grace the land.
The team is treated as any valuable employee should be. The Fredricksons have them kept in a heated barn at night, fed very well, and are put out to roam and roll in the corral during the day. Summertime is the season of rest for the priceless animals. “They need the summer to be just turned out to pasture and recuperate; they work very hard and this lets their bodies and minds have a break,” added Fredrickson.
Retiring their latest teams consisting of Thelma and Louise, Molly and Dolly, Lee and Reynold-the Fredrickson’s now have Big Jake and Big John who are six years old Percherons.
Jesse and Katelyn Fredrickson are also active and legendary competitors in the sport of rodeo across the Dakotas and beyond. Jesse holds state championship titles as a team roping heeler; Katelyn in the barrel racing. The duo, along with their daughter, Kallie, train and raise horses and cattle and continue the tradition of hard work and the soul of what North Dakota is made of.