Around the world and back again:
When a young man grows up in the heart of ranching country in a family of horsemen and cattlemen, it’s natural that he would strive to become one himself. Some will travel to neighboring states, and some prefer to stay within the comfort of the fencelines they knew growing up.
One though, has traveled to places on the other side of the earth, as a cowboy and horseman. Ty Hotchkiss, 28, jokes that he’s getting closer to an idea of what he wants to do when he grows up, and though his skill level would be sufficient for some, he feels he is finally getting on the right trail. He developed an affinity for starting colts and taking them on to finished horses. A quiet hand with cattle, he developed into a stockman while working and riding on the home ranch at the foot of the Slim Buttes of Harding County, South Dakota.
When he finished school and could go out on his own, he worked in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Texas and Kansas, starting colts and riding horses for clients in those places, all the while caring for cattle. His experience with both horses and cattle grew and his good reputation with it.
In 2012, a client he had worked for in Texas had sold some horse to people in China. “I’d started colts for those folks for quite a few years, and I was graciously invited to go to China with the barrel trainer and her family. It ended up that they couldn’t go, so I went alone,” says Hotchkiss.
From mid-May to early September, he lived and worked among the Chinese. “I actually worked in two different places. While the horses were in quarantine southeast of Beijing, I stayed there and rode horses for them. I rode whatever kind of horse they had, some with only a few rides, and I worked to put a handle on them,” says Ty. “Some of the barrel horses were pretty young and most of the Chinese riders, while often experienced riders, were more used to the Mongolian style of horsemanship or flat racing,” he said. The horses learned quickly the green horses needed a fair amount of tuning and work to keep their minds together through the process. They were the teachers for many of the Chinese riders. “Fortunately, I got to stick to training horses instead of riders.”
“I also rode Standardbred pacers and Thoroughbred race horses while there. There were three categories of horses: barrel horses, reiners and racehorses,” adds Hotchkiss.
Once the horses were out of quarantine, Ty moved with them to Inner Mongolia, which was a different kind of country. More of a high desert area, it would rain hard and move on. The weather was similar to Ty’s home country for that time of year, though the days could be really hot. “We would ride until it got hot then ride some more after four or so in the afternoon,” explains Ty.
Hotchkiss trained horses at the “ranch” in Inner Mongolia and rode in some shows. “The people were very friendly and curious, very hospitable. They would come to the shows and there’d be tons of photographers there with big lenses snapping pictures all the time,” says Ty. The sight of a real American cowboy no doubt caused quite a stir, as they are a fairly rare commodity in Inner Mongolia, though there is a strong traditional horse culture.
“The Mongolian people have a lot of horses and graze them in big, open country,” says Hotchkiss. “It was really interesting to see their native horses. they’re not very big, but they are tough and sturdy.” Hotchkiss rode a few of the Mongolian/Thoroughbred crosses, as well as Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds while there.
Upon completion of his work in China, Hotchkiss returned home to the sparsely populated northern plains. His foreign adventures weren’t over, however, for after working for Grassland, LLC, U.S. in Montana, he was given the opportunity to go to one of the other Savory Institute projects in New Zealand.
With his good friend, Ty Thybo, Reva, S.D., already in New Zealand, Hotchkiss took the opportunity and from January through the end of March 2014, he worked in the Lee’s Valley, which is northwest of Christchurch, New Zealand.
“It’s a great big valley that looks as flat as a table right to the base of the mountains. There are really no foothills, just flat country and steep mountains, really pretty though,” explains Hotchkiss. “We moved cattle a lot, as there were about 300 paddocks that were grazed in a rotational grazing system.” There were also sheep, which is what the station had been set up for initially.
He and Thybo put together a band of station horses for them while there. They had to go out and buy horses and there were many different types. “We had Thoroughbreds and one Standardbred off the tracks. There were many Clydesdale cross horses too, but mostly we bought the Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.” He explains further, “The stations often have Thoroughbred/Clydesdale cross horses, about 1/8 Clyde, and still use the Clydesdales for farm work.”
“There is also quite a bit of rodeoing there too, so they’ve imported Quarter Horses for that. Mostly though, we just eyeballed the dog tucker horses, which are horses that aren’t going to make it running and can be bought pretty cheap out of the slaughter pens,” adds Hotchkiss.
He and Thybo spent time training the horses for “ranch” work on the station, so that they could be used by the people who would be there after they left.
Returning home to Harding County in time for calving and spring work, Hotchkiss isn’t going to let his passport get stale. In Mid-July he headed for Scotland and will be there until the middle of October. He met the Scots while working for Jamison Ranch in Kansas, where he was riding horses in preparation for their annual horse and bull sale.
“I’ll be starting some colts and training their Appaloosa horses for them. They raise registered Herefords and Romney sheep in the southwest part of the country along the coast. I’ll be helping them learn to work the stock with the horses they have,” says Hotchkiss, “I’ll be giving them riding lessons as well as training horses, as they want to compete in a western riding show in early October.”
When it’s all said and done, Ty Hotchkiss can’t think of anywhere he’s really rather be than home. He is on the ranch with his folks, Dan and Sandy Hotchkiss, and his sister Jessie Hotchkiss. Undoubtedly one of the prettiest ranches in the country, with good neighbors and friends, it’s no wonder this young man always returns home. He states, “One thing about traveling is that you appreciate what you have at home. I’m pretty content right here in Harding County.”