angle-left Ranching Blog: Colt Starting

Ranching Blog: Colt Starting

Enjoying the Art of the Cowgirl gathering, and a nice colt to start.

A woman starts a young sorrel colt in a western saddle and halter, and is loping the horse around a round pen. PHOTO: CJ Garland

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By Jenn Zeller

The 2020 Art of the Cowgirl event was certainly an event for my record book! One of the things I love most about the horse industry is the close-knit group of folks that are in it. I may not personally know any reining or dressage trainers, but I know a lot of barrel horse trainers, a lot of ranchers and breeders, and some lovely individuals from other disciplines, as well.

People from all these disciplines came together at the second annual Art of the Cowgirl event in Phoenix in January. The opportunities that the people in this industry have given me are so plentiful I don’t even know where I’d start. 

Last year, after everyone who’d worked the event had had a moment to catch their breath, Tammy Pate, the founder of the event, and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, asked me how I wanted to be involved. I told her I really wanted to start a colt with my other half, Zach. She agreed and it was set. I had a year to dream about the event. To sweeten the pot, we got to bring a home-raised filly from our program to start.

I’d never started a colt in front of anyone other than family here at the ranch. So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous leading up to the event. One thing that certainly helped quell my fears was that I know we raise gentle, trainable horses. We got there, got into the arena and I couldn’t do anything but focus on “Miss Paisley,” registered as DX Strait Taylor Maid. 

To be honest, “Paisley” was the best of our 2017 foal crop, and we were thrilled with the idea of taking her to Arizona, because if you don’t take your best to town, you aren’t really doing your horse program right. When we decided to sell her in the Elite Ranch Horse Sale, because we wanted to support our amazing friend, Tammy, in all she’s doing for the western industry it assuaged any misgivings I may have had. The money raised from the sale commissions and the event support the fellowship opportunities that are provided through scholarships that the Art of the Cowgirl organization puts together. 

Our little filly was such a champ. Nothing bothered her. She did our program proud. As we stressed to the audience, we were starting her like we would at home. On the first day, she saddled like a broke horse, so we worked on getting her to move comfortably with the saddle. The second day, I was on her within minutes, following Tammy around on her saddle horse. The third day, I got the privilege of having Lee Smith help me with my ride. And gosh dang, did I learn a lot from her.

Sunday afternoon came too fast. I was ready to cry when I walked her into the ring to sell her. We’d told the audience that we would take her home and ride her for the summer so that they’d be getting a well-started colt. The only thing that made it better for me, however, was knowing that my friend Terryn had told me she’d gotten permission from her husband to buy a horse at the sale if they found one that fit into their budget. After seeing the filly’s progress on Day 2, she told him that she was buying our horse. 

And wouldn’t you know it, Terryn got that filly bought. I didn’t know what was going on – who was bidding, or what. I was just supporting my horse out there, while they talked about her. When they ended the bidding and our crew in the stands was cheering, I knew something good had happened. When I found out that Miss Paisley was going to Terryn, the tears flowed, because I knew Paisley was not only coming home with us to get more riding, but that she’d have an amazing forever home.

I’m eternally grateful to Tammy Pate and Art of the Cowgirl for providing the opportunity to start a colt – in a setting where I never thought I’d feel comfortable. But when you’re surrounded with positive people, who want nothing but the best for you, it’s hard to feel anything but success. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m thankful to the late Wayne Ducheneax for creating this incredible horse program (that we are now tasked with not screwing up). He’d have been proud and thought that we represented his vision well. 

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer, freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com.