Kids and colts learn together
October 30, 2015
Being a kid raised on a ranch is about more than missing basketball games and riding the bus for hours each day. The opportunities to learn and experience life in the real world gives country kids a strong sense of responsibilities and a sense of achievement.
Some ranch kids in eastern Meade County in South Dakota have worked hard to achieve a goal, learning a lot in the process.
The Lyle and Darcy Long family from the rural community of Marcus, South Dakota consists of eight kids ranging in age from one year to 12. The ranch raised, home-schooled kids work and play together alongside their grandparents, Paul and Laurel Schultes.
The kids who are the focus of this story are Shyann, 12, Skylee, 10 and Stetson, 9.
In 2013, the family took a nice pony mare to be bred to Red Owl, South Dakota neighbor Tom Miller's gray stud Double Newton. She foaled a nice gray stud colt in 2014 who earned the named Frisky and quickly became the kids' pet. He was gentle and had no choice but to become comfortable being handled.
At some point in time following this, Shyann and Skylee fell in love with two of Tom Miller's then weanling colts. They wanted the black colts bad. Their Grandpa Paul, also known as Papa, talked to Tom about the colts. Tom wanted a nice price for the colts and Papa Paul was just too tight to pay it. Then he got to thinking that maybe those two kids ought to earn the money to pay for those colts themselves. He figured those colts ought to be worth what a weaned calf would be, so he presented the idea of a trade to Tom and the deal went through. Papa turned a couple of baby calves over to the two girls to raise on the milk cow. The deal was that they had to do all the milking for the family and feeding of calves themselves with a provision in place in case they were gone for the day. So, the two calves were on their way to being trading material for the two colts.
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One late summer day in 2014 Tom asked Paul when he was going to come and get those two colts and soon, the colts came home to the Schultes ranch. The calves would be delivered when they were big enough.
So the story begins of the adventure for both the kids and their colts. "The colts weren't halter broke or anything, so the first thing we had to do was get them where you could get your hands on them," says Papa Paul.
The Miller colts are by a Streak Of Fling/Double Rude bred horse named CC Blue Ten and out of Double Newton mares, so they are double bred Double Rude with some speed thrown in for good measure. Not just everyone's idea of a kid horse.
"Some people think these horses are pretty snorty. They are a little, but they're just really quick horses. They like people fine, they're not bad," says Tom Miller.
Stetson wanted to start Frisky, so the girls started handling their colts, Shotgun and Phantom, as soon as Papa got them roped. There were some pretty wild moments, but the black colts figured it out right along with the kids. "Dad is the one who initiated this whole thing. He has monitored it all along and helped them with it," says Darcy. "He told them he'd take them to ride in the parade in Faith during the Stock Show in August if they got them going well enough, so they really dug in."
"The colts haven't been a problem but trying to teach the kids to handle them was sure a challenge," laughs Paul.
"The biggest thing was getting the colts to respect the kids since they were bigger than the kids. Kids don't have the timing and don't know when to get after one or when to quit. They got one of them so mad one time that the colt chased the kid up the fence! We had to get that worked out and then it was fine," says Paul.
Darcy, as a Mom, always has concerns. Thankfully, she doesn't see everything that goes on and says "When I go up to the barn they are all excited about everything their colts did. Sometimes it's bad enough that I was glad I wasn't there! I don't want to instill my fear in them, so I have to just listen to it all.
"Those colts are sure sacked out though. The other kids are always around them driving their trucks and tractors in the dirt, playing with the flag whip and running around. Kids do things with colts that a grownup wouldn't but they sure learn a lot," says Darcy.
"Dad's done most of it with them, but a lot of other people have helped them out and then this summer they went to a Buster McLaury clinic and rode their colts through that."
Paul confesses that he sometimes pushes the kids too hard and feels kind of bad when he does. "The first time Stetson was riding Frisky in the arena he was getting along really good. We had been messing around doing shovel races with a group a day or so before and the shovel and rope were still propped up against the wall. I told Stetson to drag that around the barrel so he dallied up and rode away. When that shovel scraped the ground that colt was out of there! The rope would touch him on the butt and he'd kick up and run harder. I kept telling him to drop his dallies but he wouldn't so they went several laps around the arena!" says Paul.
"A couple days later I suggested he drag that shovel again and he said NO pretty fast. That's about the wildest thing that happened with them."
"Skylee's colt Shotgun bucked the first time he was saddled and Shyann's colt Phantom bucked after he had a couple rides on him but quit when she picked his head up," explains Darcy.
"When things go south the kids are usually just not explaining it to the colts right and have to figure out how to get it across to them right." All three colts came right along for the kids and they spend hours on them. Playing tag on their colts brings on a lot of chasing, maneuvering and handling when trying to touch the other rider.
"They have also tried to trick ride on them but don't know what they're doing, but they are sure having fun trying," says Darcy.
Stetson took on the job of trimming all the colts' feet the first time and they did just fine. He had learned a lot from watching their farrier and just set in and did them one day and when done, the farrier Laramie Opstedahl, looked them over and approved of the job.
When the Faith Stock Show parade was imminent, Paul tried to claim he was too busy in the hayfield to go with them. "The kids held his feet to the fire though, and made him take them in and get into the parade," chuckles Darcy.
"The parade was really something. Those kids rode those colts through that parade without a bobble and they never spooked at anything," says Paul, adding "The kids thought it was really funny that it was my horse that acted up and was being silly. Of course, he was fat and hadn't been ridden all summer by a bunch of kids!"
"Those kids sure got a lot done with those colts," says Tom Miller. "They rode them pretty hard for yearlings, but they're little so it'll be fine. It goes to show you what these horses and kids are capable of."
Paul says, "Taking kids that young and teaching them to handle a horse right and start them right was quite a challenge, but they sure came along fast. I'm proud of the kids and the colts." He may not be done with this job for quite some time either. According to Darcy "All the other kids think they want to start a colt themselves too and are just waiting for the time they can trade Tom out of a colt!" Ranch kids have the chance to do things that other kids don't, and the sense of accomplishment they derive from starting a colt themselves is only part of the equation. The partnership they'll enjoy for years to come on their horses will be an even bigger reward for all the time and effort they put in.