Cowboy: Why were the indians so angry by the time the reached the battlefield?
Me (glaring): I don’t know. Why?
Cowboy: ‘Cause they had to ride paints the whole way there! (Hysterical laughter)
Me: That’s hilarious… (Sarcastic. Kidney punch Cowboy.)
People, there is an epidemic in Cowboy America and it’s even in my own household: discrimination and prejudice towards and about Paint horses in this country. But in all seriousness, my love affair with Paints goes back twenty years and is much deeper than even Cowboy knows. One of the most influential people in my life has been my stepdad, LJ. He is equally parts rodeo hero, artist, and horseman – which is a dynamic and dangerous combination. No wonder my mother has been deeply in love with him for nearly 20 years, no wonder I picked a man than shares his charisma and class. If there are two things I know about LJ, it his ability to talk to anyone and his impeccable taste in horses. LJ has introduced many things into my life over the years but none more influential than horses, especially paint horses.
LJ’s parents bred and raised Paint horses for decades, for showing, ranch work, and in the later years, for racing. I can’t speak for every single Paint Horse in the world (obliviously) but I can say this about the Paints LJ raises: 1) they are NOT the same thing as Pintos, 2) their conformations and dispositions are equivalent to that of the very best in Quarter Horse racing (because they are Quarter Horses with paint coloring), and 3) if you’re not the type of person who likes attention, don’t ride a good looking Paint. It’s the same argument as to which is better: green tractors versus red tractors, Ford trucks or Dodge trucks, red states or… well, red states.
Same as Cowboy learned how to pull a calf in a blizzard before he could tie his boot laces, LJ taught me the horse business. Bloodlines, dams and sires, speed indexes, conformation and disposition, all those things meant nothing to my young brain until LJ came around. By age 8, I could recite the pedigrees of all of our 50 head of horses, plus the top 20 racing Quarter Horse stallions in country and in history. I knew more than any one 6th grader should know about hand breeding, heat cycles, AI-ing and embryo transfer, and I could hold my own should a conversation about “hetrozygous vs. homozygous” color traits break out. I was heavily enrolled in the LJ School of Equinomics. There was not a horse that came onto our place that I wasn’t involved with. All of the colts (the correct term is foals but at LJU, all babies are called “colts”, regardless of sex) were heavily handled by yours truly in their first few hours and most eventually made it into my showhorse/4H training and grooming program. As assistant trainer, which was an unofficial title but LJ had no choice, I was literally on his heel all the time. I was in the middle of the action constantly and sometimes that was an interesting place to be. For the record, my Mom usually objected to most of this stuff due to the risk of being trampled, stomped, kicked, bucked off, etc. – but that didn’t slow me down at all. Also for the record, I was trampled, stomped, kicked and bucked off a lot, so perhaps Mom did know a thing or two back then. I was driving and lunging two-year-olds long before I was driving a car, I put first and second rides on more colts than I ever put on a bicycle, and I skipped a lot of sleep overs with friends because I had to get up early to go to a horse show, horse sale or a horse race. My absolute favorite thing about school was when Mom & LJ would pull me out early to go to a horse thing, even if that meant driving all night to New Mexico just so three stud colts could qualify for a Futurity.
Eventually, school, boys, friends, and sports butted in on my horse-obsessed life, but Mom and LJ always made sure I had a horse around. In the last couple of years, I have dabbled in reining, wrangling, and ranch work, mostly on solid colored Quarter Horses. This year is going to be different. After officially retiring my horse Brown to Mom’s use, I declared to my Cowboy that I would be riding a LJ Paint horse from now on – and he would be too, at least part time. And yes, my kids will all be riding Paint horses someday too.
Photos courtesy of my Mama, The Ponderosa Queen.