We are Tied Together

Our animals tie us together in the ranching tradition.

Ranch Horse Journal

Kim Lindsey and Cooper McCleskey flank calves at a Bell Ranch branding. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

At the final branding of the year at Silver Spur Operating Co.’s Bell Ranch division, I was allowed the privilege of helping flank a few calves. My flanking partner was 13-year-old Cooper McCleskey, the son of Silver Spur/Bell Division employees Elwyn and Pam McCleskey.

 It got me to thinking about how close knit the ranching family is. Twenty three years ago, I had the privilege of working with this young man’s mother, who worked for me and my husband for several summers while we were managing the Bradley 3 Ranch in Estelline, Texas. She was a hard, hard worker. You could tell then that this young woman was on the path she would follow the rest of her life. I see that same dedication to hard work in her son.

Elwyn manages the Bell’s broodmares and trains its young horses. Pam takes care of the Mule Camp country, which has about 320 head of mama cows and 300 replacement heifers. Together they are raising two wonderful sons. 

Cooper also has his parents’ talent in the show pen. I attended my first Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships as the AQHA director of ranching last year, and was so pleased to be able to give Elwyn the first world champion gold trophy in the cowboy division. Pam has also been very successful in the show pen, and has been on a champion women’s ranch rodeo team.

At the Ranch Horse Association of America Finals, held in May in Abilene, Texas, Cooper was third in the Wrangler division and won the Zinn Lindsey Rising Star Award aboard the Bell Ranch-owned One Eyed Reflection. The award is given by Mr. Craig Haythorn in memory of my son, and is awarded to a young person who shows hard work, determination, dedication and talent. 

Zinn was born the same year Pam started helping us, so she knew him when he was little. Zinn was a two-time RHAA world champion on his Ranching Heritage-bred horse, Judys Ten.

I find it interesting how the horse and the cow keep bringing us all together. All of us in the horse industry know how the horse has brought us all together, but in the ranching community, it’s both animals – the cattle as well – that tie us together. This is an example of how this huge ranching industry is really a close-knit family. 

I got to watch Cooper show his mare successfully back in May, and then I got to watch him use her during this branding. This is what it’s truly all about to me – and I’m privileged enough to be able to witness it. 

To me, what ranch competition is about is keeping our ranching tradition alive, bringing these great horses out from the ranch to the show pen to showcase them where more people can see a piece of our heritage. This continues to be my goal here at AQHA, to keep that ranching heritage alive, to showcase this kind of horse and the true way of ranch life. 

This is the best job in the world. I am getting to see so many different traditions in different parts of the country, but the one thing that stays the same is that it takes everyone to get the work done. We ask our ranch horses to be versatile – just like we are. Our horses must be able to do multiple tasks on the ranch and even in the show pen, just like the families and people on the ranch. Everywhere I go, I see everyone willing to do any job necessary, and that’s what it takes to make a ranch run. That’s what keeps our ranching heritage strong.

Kim Lindsey is the AQHA director of ranching. Have a comment? Contact Kim at klindsey@aqha.org. This column originally appeared in the Fall Ranch Horse Journal. Subscribe now!