Friday, May 31, 2024

Horsing Around

Often in life, it’s not about what you know, but about who you know. Well, I know Paul and he knows a lot of cool guys. Like Todd Seeley, who knows a lot about raising horses. Paul's been talking about him and his operation for a long time. So we took advantage of a free day and blew over to Sundance to see Todd and his horses.

The Seeley Ranch surrounds the town of Sundance WY, which is just on the western tip of the Black Hills. In 2020, Todd decided to take up his father's linage of raising horses. He first bought a few mares from Belle Fourche SD, that had blood lines tracing back to his father's horses. Later, he acquired a stud or two and a couple more fillies to get his ball rolling. These guys are three year old studs. They are broke to ride, but will likely remain herd studs. 

We started our venture out by seeing his working arena. His dad built this barn in the early 80's and Todd has made it adaptable to a riding arena or a horse starting facility. Recently, he had this round pen set-up built at his place. It is all made out of floating tarps and rises up to the rafters when you want to use the arena. He's got this nice funnel system that can easily walk an un-haltered horse into the pen. 

Once in, the door drops down by winches and pulleys. There is also a metal frame that rests on the ground. One of the greatest perks of this set-up, is that if a horse slides into the wall, it simply absorbs the pressure and the training goes on. 

This cadillac feature allows Todd to lower all his tack into the pen when he's ready to saddle a colt.  Seems fancy, but when you work as many horses as he does, it's quite practical. 

Next, we went out to see his new born colts. I bet there were 15 broode mares out there, with a good ten colts on the ground. 

So interesting, he keeps a mule around to protect the new born colts. Ole Whitey, knows what her job is and is very grandmotherly to all the horses. Mules are naturally protective and would have no problem stomping out a mountain lion if one came roaming around. 

This little guy is about five days old. He'll probably be a buckskin in the long run. 

This is one of the original mares that Todd bought. Beautiful sorrel. 

He does a good job making sure all the mares are gentle. Some are broke to ride and others aren't. But you can walk up and pet them all. This little guy asleep in the grass is only a day old. Mom's pretty proud. 

Having gentle mares makes for gentle colts. 

Little square-head is about as friendly as they come. 

Hey buddy. 

What's fun about raising colts, is that you never know what you are going to get. Baby isn't necessarily going to look like mama. On top of that, you really don't know what shade of horse they are going to be until they have a year or so on them. This little guy is still a mystery. 

Mom's don't have an abundance of milk like a cow, but enough that the babies don't get to far away. Horses have an 11 month gustation period and you can breed them one year after another. 

After that thrill, we traveled over to the west end of the ranch to check out his moms to be. 

These horses were all raised on the ranch and will be the full-on beginning of Todd's horse raising legacy. They are twos and threes, and will probably be bred when they are four. 

Such a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. 

One thing they all have in common, though, is that they're friendly. It'll sure make for a good selling point when you can show the quality of a colt's mother to a potential buyer. 

Life is good. 

Now, that's Ranchin'!

What a privilege. Paul and I were super thankful for the opportunity to see horse raising at its finest. They say a man's horse is indicative of his person. Definitely true here. Todd is as honest and friendly as the horses he raises. All I can say is, keep up the good work, pard. You are well on the way of providing America with the quality stock needed to keep her cowboy. The world could use a few more good men like Todd Seeley. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Texas Goes Cowboy

The beauty about being Catholic is that everyone is family. The fun part of that is meeting new members. Carson Kitaf is a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas. Being from a rodeo family, he reached out to me seeking some advice on how to handle seminary. I shared with him some stories from the road and we've kept in touch ever since. Now that school is out for the summer, he took a little vacation through Wyoming and stopped to see me along the way. 

We started out by running the mission circuit. Three Masses in seven hours, spread over 220 miles. We moved our last Mass up so the People of God could more fully enjoy Memorial Day weekend. 

With the extra time, Carson and I ran up to Bonnie and Jason Kuhbacher's ranch north of Biddle Montana, to get a jump on the following day's branding and enjoy a little camp out. 

After hobbling the horses for the night, 

We got a campfire going. This fire pit was made by the 6th grade class at JPII Catholic School with the help of Ms. Abby Deprey. It was auctioned off at the annual spring fundraiser and purchased by Ryan and Alissa McGrath who in turn gave it to me. Thank y'all so much! We will do our best to enjoy it.  

Once we got a good bed of coals going, we put a grate over it and started cooking some LB T-bones. 

Mighty fine. 

Then we set up camp. Carson went with a tent. 

While I opted to sleep in the nose of my trailer. 

After a good night's sleep, we were saddled and at the first branding site by 7am. 

Once all the cowboys arrived, Jason gave us our marching orders. 

So we hit the trail to go gather the critters. Carson rode Ole Reliable. 

While I managed Mollie the Mare. 

Pretty picturesque. 

After the different bunches were gathered, we started the stampede. 

Being no stranger to this game, Carson fell right in. 

Once penned up, the boys kicked out the cows. 

But before the fire was started, we had a little breakfast break with Bonnie's infamous breakfast burritos. 

Then got to work. Sam and his dad jumped right into action.

So did Carson. 

After getting calf wrestling down, Jason sent him into the pen to rope. Good work. 

After Carson got Chief warmed up, I jumped in. 

Snagging a handful. 

And dragging them to the fire. 

Happy campers. 

We branded at three different spots. Breaking down the corral each time and moving it to the next one. Thank God for high school kids. 

Up here is what I call professional brandings. There is one opening into the corral and the wrestlers stand on each side of it. As a calf is drug through the gate, the next wrestlers in line run to it. 

Ideally, the calf is double hocked, roped by both hind legs. With the brand going on the left side, the guy or girl on the right goes for the tail and the one on the left goes for the rope. 

With a choreographed flip, the wrestler on the tail then grabs the front leg. 

Once down, they kneel on the neck and fold the front leg back on itself. This really makes the calf lie still. 

The guy on the rope goes for the hind quarter. To hold it tight, he strings out the upper leg with a good grip and pushes the lower leg in with his foot. Works good. When it comes to wrestling calves, it's not the size of the man in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the man. 

The roping styles in the branding pen are varied, as well as the saddle horns cowboys use. Most common is a smaller horn with rubber around it. One dally around and the rope stays tight.

Another style is a slick horn. These are usually bigger and require an extra dally or two. But when done right, they allow the rope to slide if the rider wants to let off some slack. I'll just say, they take an extra set of skills to use well. 

By 3pm we were all done. 

And headed back to the ranch to dine. 

Definitely not disappointed. 

This could quite possibly be my favorite day of the year. Any time I can spend horseback and chase a cow or two, I'm a happy man. Put roping and wrestling calves on top of that, then life is good. This year was extra special because I had a Texas Catholic Cowboy riding along side me. Fun time. Keep up the Good work, pal. The world could use more Catholic Cowboys. And the Church could really use some more cowboy priests!

St. Anthony

 Pray for us!