Lange clan making good horses with miles, wet saddle blankets
Ranching with his folks on the White River about 15 miles north of Oglala, S.D., Brad Lange grew up cowboying and in turn grew to quickly appreciate good horseflesh. He is pleased to have found a life partner, Stacia, who shares his passion. Raised in a ranching family and sitting atop a horse since he could walk, it’s no surprise that Brad Lange chose to make his living and life in the horse business.
The Langes run mother cows and use horses for everything that can be done horseback. Daughter Jayden (4) and son Austin (3) work alongside their folks whenever they can and are being raised in the same tradition as the Langes before them.
The ranch also runs a band of around 25 mares; the numbers are down considerably from when they sold weanlings at a production sale some years ago. The bloodlines of the mares are predominately cow bred with the blood of Okie Joe Glo, Nostalgical, Docs Prescription and Colonel Freckles coursing through their veins.
The stallion battery on the ranch includes sons of Miss N Cash, Freckles Playboy, Smart Chic Olena, and Wimpys Little Step, plus they use a son of Sonnys Sugar that belongs to Jim Leach.
“I always look forward to next year to see what we can raise,” says Lange, adding “I may not breed as many mares this year though, so I can do more with the colts that we raise. It’s time to cut down since we want to ride them instead of selling them as weanlings. “
The work and time that goes into raising a horse from foal to riding age horse is a factor for all breeders, and with just Brad and Stacia riding them, it’s hard to get it all done. “Dad’s always saying we have too many horses, laughs Brad, “This horse deal is just a disease and you don’t get over it very easy!”
The first colt that Brad ever broke to ride was a yearling that he started when he was eight years old. “He was a good colt but he unloaded me a lot of times while we were learning together,” says Lange with a chuckle. “I’ve sure ridden a lot of colts since then. Back in the day when I was riding for the public I took some horses that maybe weren’t the nicest horses that came through the gate and made something out of them. I learned a lot from those horses and different ways of doing things. Mostly I learned patience.”
“It’s kind of a cowboy thing that, ‘yeh, sure I can ride them,’ but now I want to make them good too,” Lange explains. “I’ve turned a few down and sent a few home, because sometimes you just have to realize that not every horse is going to be what you’d like them to be.” He pauses, then adds “Not getting hurt is a consideration always.”
When Brad really “went to school” and focused on the cowhorse training was when he worked for Don Ulmer who lived at Smithwick, S.D. “I rode for and with Don a lot and learned so much through that,” says Lange.
“I’ve learned from so many people. It’s all part of the process and you just keep learning,” says Lange.
The show pen also played a role in Lange’s experience. “I like working multiple events,” states Lange, “I get kind of burned out if I keep doing the same thing over and over and I think the horses do too. I really like all of the events we showed in.” Those events are reining, working cowhorse, team roping, and calf roping for Brad plus barrels for Stacia. “We’ve shown quite a bit in the past, though we haven’t much for about five or six years now. We just focused on the regional and local shows and didn’t get too far from home,” explains Lange. “Sioux Falls and Douglas (Wyoming) were about as far as we went. We still had work to do on the ranch so just didn’t go far.”
“We liked having our show horses riding good and looking good and have each horse ready to be successful at any time,” says Lange, “Some days you still win without winning the class.”
“Nowadays we just do our own thing with the horses. When there’s time to work them they get worked, but otherwise they’re just working cattle and being used on the ranch,” says Brad, adding “There’s some horse that gets worked in their stage of development here every day though. Whether they’re a baby colt or an older horse.”
“We like to get them started as two’s, even fool with them as long yearlings if we can,” says Lange. The ranch and the work to do there does keep it from being a steady thing for them though, as Lange explains “Whenever we get them started, we get a few days on them and then it might be a while before we get back on them. When we do, we cover all the basics again and then progress on from there.”
“I start the colts but when they get a little further along, Stacia takes some of them and rides them too. She’s got a full time Mommy job, but she really likes to ride, run barrels and rope too,” says Lange.
Riding all the colts they raise and having them ready to sell later is time consuming, but it makes it easier to fit a horse to what his job is going to be in the future. “I’m pretty picky about what I sell and try to make a horse fit the bill for what people ride these days,” says Lange. “My biggest deal is time, patience and consistency. No matter what age a horse is, a little bit at a time is important.”
Lange continues to explain, “You can ask for a little and get a lot if you take your time. A horse will let me know where they want to be so I don’t always take up where I left off the last time. The biggest thing is to keep on their schedule instead of mine. It’s a lot more fun for all of us that way too and I enjoy it more these days.”
The horses from the Lange ranch have grown up in the rugged country along the river, so they are physically sound and used to handling the rough terrain. The horses also aren’t babied. They believe in letting them grow up on native grass pasture, hay, salt and mineral. “We think it’s good for them to hustle for a living and it kind of sorts the strongest ones out too,” says Lange. The only horses that get grained are horses that are being shown or prepared for a sale. “When we start riding them steady then we will do more for them,” says Lange.
“I probably take better care of their feet and their comfort than I used to,” says Lange, adding “I’ll take one to have a massage to keep them from being sore. If they’re sore they don’t like to work and can’t tell us what hurts. We also use chiropractors to help them. I’m a big believer in both the massage and chiropractics because I’ve had a lot of horses worked on and knew how they felt before and after. It’s like night and day. Keeping them happy and comfortable has brought me a long ways.”
The horse that the Langes are focusing on right now is their consignment to the Black Hills Stock Show sale. They’ve used him a lot on the ranch, roped on him and he’s been ridden pretty steady. “He’s a big horse and is really doing some neat stuff for me now. I didn’t blow his mind trying to do it early on before he was ready,” says Lange. “Lots of miles and wet saddle blankets have contributed to the horse he is.”
The eight year old gelding is a dapple gray by the cow bred stud Playlight and out of a Docs Shady Blue mare. At about 16 hands, he’s a stout horse that has a nice disposition and travels well. “You just don’t have to worry about him. He’s solid,” says Lange. “Both Stacia and I enjoy riding him and we’re not afraid to pack one of the kids on him with us either. I think about anyone that can ride will get along with him.”
Turning out a horse that can go about any direction is the goal of the Brad and Stacia Lange’s program. They’re bred to work a cow and make a living on a ranch, plus can go to the show pen or the rodeo arena. From birth to that point takes a great deal of time and effort, but it’s all worth it to them when they sell a horse and it goes to the right home and can do a good job for the new owner. The satisfaction of raising that horse is just icing on the cake and it doesn’t seem likely that the “horse bug” will be shaken for a good, long while.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News