DOC WEST – Steel Dusts

Illustration by Dave Elston.

Doc West returns with his sage advice for the lost and lonely gunsel.

Q. Doc, an old-timer friend sometimes refers to my Quarter Horse herd as a band of “Steel Dusts.” What does he mean by this term? 


A. There was a time where the horses that we call today, Quarter Horses, were known simply and generically as Steel Dusts. In the mid to late 1800’s most westerners referred to “speedy, low, stocky, well built, well-muscled, and high spirited” horses as Steel Dusts or Steel Dusters or Steel Dust horses. It was the horse everyone wanted when the West was still the West and the horse was still the horse. Steel Dusts were versatile, friendly, tough, cowy, and best of all, they were fast. They were as equally coveted by jockeys running a quarter mile on a dirt track outside of Dallas as they were by the cow puncher running a thousand longhorns up to the Canadian border. The genesis of the ‘steel dust’ prototype is said to trace its roots to the legendary stallion Steel Dust of which little is known, but sufficiently augmented by cowboy lore as to enjoy a prodigious and loyal following in the Quarter Horse world.

It is believed that Steel Dust was foaled in and around 1845 in Kentucky although Missouri, Tennessee and Texas are also possibilities. He was the son of Harry Bluff, the son of Short’s Whip by Big Nance – a Thoroughbred who traced her lineage back to the legendary Thoroughbred, Sir Archy. He was taken to Texas as a yearling or two-year-old and matured, by the most reliable accounts, into a blood bay stallion of 15 hands and 1,200 pounds, (although other sources reported he was as compact as 14.2 hands up to a rangy 16). The only point of minutia on Steel Dust of any consensus was his blinding speed – one old timer stated that Steel Dust could run a quarter of a mile in 22 seconds “any time” (keep in mind modern day racing Quarter Horses are running the 440 in about 21 seconds). Mares were brought in by prominent racing breeders from hundreds of miles away to breed to the equine phenomenon for a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

Texas cowboys whose palate was not satisfied by riding hardy but ratty mustang types, brought in their cow pony mares to improve the stature of their stock. By the later part of the 1800s Steel Dust’s lineage was so ubiquitous in the then emerging Quarter Horse breed that many just referred to the “heavily muscled horse, marked with small ears, a big jaw, remarkable intelligence and lightening speed up to a quarter of a mile,” as Steel Dusts. By the early 1900s many great Quarter Horse sires would trace their bloodlines once if not several times to Steel Dust – the horse Peter McCue and his son Hickory Bill (the sire of the famous King Ranch foundation breeding stallion “Old Sorrel”) had significant Steel Dust lineage, as did many other bloodlines such as Billy, Cold Deck and Rondo. In fact, as recent as the 1930s so many lines of Quarter Horses were traceable to Steel Dust that breeder Jack Caseman wrote an article for the Western Horseman magazine titled “Why a Steel Dust Stud Book?” in support of the registry which would ultimately become the American Quarter Horse Association.

Today, with the passing of time, the moniker “Steel Dust” has fallen from common usage as the Quarter Horse has continued to mature as a breed. Competitive events such as reining, cutting and pleasure have further evolved (some might argue devolved) the Quarter Horse into a specialist that over time falls further and further away from that gritty, jack-of-all-trades which could cut a cow in the morning and run a race match after dinner. To your question, the reference to your herd as a band of “Steel Dusts” from an old timer can be nothing short of a compliment, an admiration of equine specimens built to the Steel Dust prototype – low, powerful and fast; and perhaps at the same time it’s a pining of sorts, for that West which existed once, where a man only had one horse but needed one horse – and that horse ran through time like Pegasus unshackled.

Have a question about western culture burning in your back pocket? We welcome you to direct it to Doc West at editorial@westernhorsereview.com.

War Horse

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

BY DEBBIE MACRAE

The year was 1914. The man was 42, a doctor, pathologist, soldier, teacher, artist, writer and more. The gift – a chestnut gelding, schooled for fox hunting with an admirable conformation.

This is their story.

John McCrae was born in Ontario, the son of a military family, with strong spiritual values and high principles. He was passionate about animals – any animals, but especially cats, dogs and horses.

He was brilliant – and interested in the military. He was the first Guelph student to win a scholarship to the University of Toronto. He joined the cadets at 14 and his father’s Militia field battery at the age of 17. He was unfortunately plagued with asthma, and this condition forced him to take a break in his studies. During his time away, he still managed to teach Mathematics and English.

He courted a young woman who was the sister of a friend, but sadly she met his interest with disdain. He remained a bachelor the rest of his life.

He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree and then turned his studies toward medicine. McCrae had a fondness for children, spending his third year as the resident physician outside Baltimore, at a children’s convalescent home. He mentored other students, and it is noteworthy that two of his students would become the first women doctors in Ontario.

McCrae’s military career progressed, becoming a gunner in Guelph with the Number 2 Battery, then Quarter-Master Sergeant, Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant. He became Captain of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

He graduated his Bachelor of Medicine degree and received the gold medal from the University of Toronto medical school. Then he interned at the John Hopkins Hospital, working with his brother, Thomas. He was awarded a Fellowship in Pathology by the McGill University in Montreal, but felt obligated to fight in the South African War of October 1899. He requested a postponement of his fellowship and left to lead D Battery, of the Canadian Field Artillery. McCrae resigned from the military in 1904 after being promoted to Captain and then Major.

In 1910, McCrae was invited by the Governor General, Lord Grey, to be the expedition physician on a canoe excursion between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson’s Bay. He was an avid outdoorsman.

But now the year was 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had been assassinated in Sarajevo, and the Great War had begun. Britain declared war on Germany, and Canada was automatically at war as a member of the British Empire.

Bonfire was the name of the fine Irish Hunter, given to McCrae as a gift for his enlistment by his friend Dr. John Todd. The horse was a deep chestnut, gentle, playful, and charismatic soul. He was playful – greeting people by whisking off their hats or blowing waffle kisses. McCrae wrote to his sister, ”I wish you could meet [Bonfire], he is one of the dearest thing in horses one could find… he puts up his lips to your face and gives a kind of foolish waffle of his lower lip that is quite comical.”

Bonfire was delivered to the already established Camp Valcartier, a tent city in Quebec where soldiers were being recruited and trained for overseas duty. Although McCrae already had a horse, he was happy to choose Bonfire, after getting the opportunity to ride him.

The Surgeon in charge of the medical services for the Canadian troops, General Jones, had already decreed that as a physician, McCrae had no need for a horse. However, as the second in command of the First Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, a mount was requisite… yet McCrae would be reminded again and again, that he should “not get too fond of Bonfire.”

But he was, and so he would remain. McCrae would send letters, ‘written by Bonfire’ home to his nieces and nephews and signed with a hoof print.

The mass assembly of man and beast commenced in October of 1914, as troops, animals and supplies were transported via the Saxonia from Canada to Europe. 632 animals were stabled in the hold and on the unlucky 13th day at sea, a massive storm assaulted them, injuring both man and horse as they were tossed about on the water. Seasickness assailed them, and the hold was vulgar with stench.

Once they arrived on British soil, incessant rain pounded them for 98 of the 123 days they were stationed there. McCrae was able to piece together a small shelter for Bonfire – only because he was a senior officer, but the majority of horses were exposed to the weather, the rain, the wind, and their health was deteriorating. All requests for shelter were denied in the wake of the war effort. Even shelter in the nearby forest was rejected. On December 2nd, a massive windstorm blew down Bonfire’s shelter. The sicker horses died on the line, and as a result, 200 of the remaining horses were granted shelter at a nearby farm.

McCrae’s love for animals reached out to the other victims of war. Miss Kitty was a black and white cat who came to visit Bonfire in his shelter. She stayed behind in England when they moved on to France.

On the way to France, Bonfire injured his leg; believed to be the result of a kick by another horse. John rode him to the billet in France in an effort to try and work out the injury, but that meant maneuvering around the corpses of dead war horses, a task that challenged both McCrae and Bonfire’s sensibilities.

As Bonfire learned to trust, McCrae, equally, sought the support of Bonfire’s stability and companionship. They were on the frontlines, where the constant battering of the troops, and the calls to treat the wounded, were wearing on his composure. Returning from the front, McCrae would seek the solace of Bonfire’s shelter where he could regroup before retiring.

At the Battle of Ypres, McCrae was exposed to the sting of poison gas – and his asthmatic lungs battled the effects of the gas and the elements. He was told to move north of Ypres and “dig in”, and he did literally just that – by digging a trench eight foot by eight foot so he could treat casualties – both men and animals, even contrary to orders. Mules and horses suffered terrible anguish. He said, “There is nothing I hated more than that horse scream.”

On one occasion a big grey dog with beautiful brown eyes, came running in panic. “He ran to me and pressed his head hard against my leg. So I got him a safe place and he sticks by us. We call him Fleabag – for he looks like it.” There is no further record of Fleabag.

At virtually the same time, Bonfire was in a pen with another horse at a nearby farm when the farm took a direct hit. That horse was killed and Bonfire bolted in fear. He was not found until several days later, but McCrae rejoiced in their reunion when he was recovered.

Shortly thereafter, after much controversy, the new McGill field hospital was established to care for the sick and wounded who were fighting in France and Belgium. McCrae was to be the new Doctor in Charge of Medicine for the Canadian Army Medical Corp under General Jones. Jones continued to warn him not to get too fond of Bonfire, and at one point an attempt was made to take Bonfire away from him. Sir Sam Hughes, Canada’s Minister of Militia and Defense, intervened, and McCrae and Bonfire were transferred to the Jesuit school near Boulogne where more comfortable arrangements awaited.

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

They soon became friends with a French spaniel named Bonneau, and another dog whose leg had been shattered in battle. His name was Windy, and he was not fond of people who were not in uniform. They remained a regiment of four, until Windy succumbed to being poisoned, likely due to his unpopularity.

It would be only a short time later that McCrae, too, would succumb to the ravages of the harsh conditions he lived and worked in. For respite and his health, he would take long rides on Bonfire through the countryside.

Now believed to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress, McCrae could not justify staying in officers’ quarters when his soldiers were relegated to tent cities or worse in the trenches. The long working hours, his asthma, the gas exposure and subsequent bouts of bronchitis had taken their toll, and he became very ill with pneumonia and meningitis. Still, McCrae would soon learn that he had been appointed as the consulting physician to the First British Army – the first time a Canadian had been so honoured.

Five days later, John died. He was buried with full military honours, just north of Boulogne. Bonfire led his funeral procession on a beautiful spring day, his bridle laced in white ribbons, saddled, with McCrae’s riding boots reversed in the stirrups.

Courtesy of Guelph Museums, McCrae House.

John’s death was widely grieved; as a friend, a mentor, a doctor and an intellect. But we will forever remember him as the man who penned a poem for Lt. Alexis Helmer, the friend that he lost, In Flanders Fields.

Before he died, John knew that his poem had been well-received. After its publication, it became the most popular poem about the First World War. It was used to advertise the sale of Victory Bonds in Canada in 1917 with a target of $150,000,000. It raised $400,000,000.

Due in part to the references to the poppy in the first and last stanzas, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead.

Bonfire was to have been returned home to the Todd family in Quebec after the war – but, he never arrived. After McCrae’s funeral, Bonfire disappeared quietly – and it is conjectured that McCrae’s friends wanted to honour their friend by secretly retiring Bonfire to the pastures of France – away from the world of war and suffering.

The casualties of World War I were estimated to be about 40 million; men, women and children consumed by the ravages of war. Over 8 million horses died. Bonfire was a survivor.

Special acknowledgment to the Guelph Collection at McCrae House for the photos, Veterans Affairs Canada, references from Canada’s Great War Album, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, and special thanks to Author Susan Raby-Dunne, for references in her book Bonfire: The Chestnut Gentleman.

Read our book review of Bonfire, The Chestnut Gentleman

Competitive Edge

Megan Resch with a Saffire Miniature.

Every successful nutrition program starts with science. And that science may translate to success in the barn. Such is the case for Saffire Miniatures.

Sandy Resch of Lousana, Alberta, is a busy lady. As the wife of professional pick-up man, Jeff Resch, and a mother, Sandy has a full schedule. However in addition to all that Sandy works alongside her mother, Verna Cundliffe, at Saffire Miniatures, a breeding / training / showing operation exclusive to Miniature Horses. Along with her daughters, Megan and Haley, Sandy can often be found throughout the year showing at national and international levels of Mini Horse competition.

Verna Cundliffe and granddaughters, Megan and Haley Resch with their numerous awards at the Canadian National Miniature Horse show.

When it comes to the health and nutrition of their Miniature Horses, Sandy says Praise™ hemp is giving them the competitive edge they need.

“We started using Praise™ hemp as a permanent part of our feeding program early in 2017,” says Sandy. “Since using the product we have seen a very noticeable difference in the shine, finish and bloom in all of our horses. They have a dappling throughout their coats which they never had prior to using Praise™ hemp and maintaining that perfect body condition is so much easier using this product!”

 

Imprint Phantom Eagle Heart – the 2017 WCMHA Hi Point Country Pleasure Driving horse and the 2018 Canadian National Reserve Grand Champion Country and the Western Regional Reserve Grand Champion 32″ & under Country Pleasure Driving horse. Owned by Saffire Miniatures.

Ribbons won by Saffiire Miniatures from the 2018 AMHA Canadian National Horse Show.

Sandy’s daughter, Megan won a large number of championships in a number of disciplines with Candylands Pattoned Payday this year. This included the 2018 Canadian Grand Champion Classic Pleasure Driving Championship. They also won AMHA Honor Role Championship buckles in 2017 for Showmanship and Youth Classic Pleasure Driving and they won the 2017 WCMHA Hi Point Performance Horse, High Point Youth, and AMHA Superior Gelding Performance Champion as well as numerous other high point awards last year.

Megan Resch and Candylands Pattoned Payday t won a large number of Championships in a number of disciplines with their Garland for winning the 2018 Canadian Grand Champion Classic Pleasure Driving Championship.

“We have had long time, prominent Miniature horse people comment on the condition and coats of our horses. All of us here at Saffire Miniatures are very strong believers in this product and will never go without using Praise™ hemp  in our feeding program,” Sandy declares.

This buckskin gelding from Saffire Miniatures has won numerous Classic Pleasure Driving Championships and was the 2017 WCMHA Hi Point Classic Pleasure Driving Champion. He was also  the 2018 WCMHA Hi Point Hunter Horse.

For more information on Praise™ hemp, please check out their website here.

Lessons in Liberty – Part 2

STORY & PHOTOS BY JENN WEBSTER

If’ you’ve been reading along in our blog series with Jim Anderson, you may have caught our last installment. If not, you can always catch it here! In the last blog, we revealed 2014 Road to the Horse Champion Jim Anderson’s foundation principles of liberty training. In this blog, we take those notions a step further and build on the first exercise of moving the horse’s hindquarters, to more advanced techniques of body control with the horse in a halter and lead.

“When we put these first four exercises together, we’re laying the foundation of our communication with our horse,” the trainer says. “At liberty, you need this so badly because eventually, we won’t have a halter or saddle or bridle on the horse. If they don’t want to to be there with you, they not going to be. However, if you can train your horse through these basic exercises, there’s never worry nor fear from him – so he wants to be with you.”

The tricky part is teaching a horse the contrast between yielding exercises and “joining up.”

“There’s a big difference in teaching a horse how to yield away from you, but not run away from you,” Anderson explains. “When you put pressure on the horse, they should yield from the pressure – but with confidence. If they yield out of fear and you took the halter off – the horse would be gone. I need to be able to use my giddy-up stick and have it mean certain cues to my horse, without it ever implying to him ‘Leave me.’”

Often, people don’t mean to teach their horses this, but it happens unintentionally.

“It’s one of the most important points of liberty training. Pressure is something that signals to the equine they should remain with us, not leave us. Horses in nature use pressure but they’re actually still joined up. They can put pressure on each other, but they still want to be together. That’s what we need to figure out as riders or handlers. Well-trained liberty horses understand this – they don’t take it personally.”

TOOLS YOU’LL NEED:
• Rope halter
• Soft lead shank (0.5” thick, 16-feet long)
• Giddy-Up stick (On average,a four-foot dressage whip – depending on the horse.)

First Exercise: Yielding the Hind Quarters. Again, you need to read the first blog in our installment for this exercise.

Exercise #2.

Second Exercise: Get the Horse’s Shoulders Yielding Away From the Handler. The horse may yield away from us, but they must remain focused on us as they yield away. So when you yield the shoulder, the horse must always have one eye looking at us.

 

Exercise #3.

3rd Exercise: Softening of the head and neck. Softening it laterally; right and left. And softening it vertically; being able to set the head and neck down. When you can put the head wherever you want, it means the horse really has confidence in us as the handler. It’s an exercise that helps to bring the focus back to us.

 

Exercise #4.

4th Exercise: The Ribcage. When the horse circles on the lead line it arcs its ribcage around us. The horse has to give its ribcage and arc its entire body around yet, their whole focus is on us as they’re still kind of yielding away. They should hold a perfect circle around us and they should not push into us at any point. The horse must keep the same radius around, with the ribcage arced to the outside.

When I point my giddy-up stick at the ribcage, the horse should bend it outward and actually give me one eye or two. When the stick goes to the ground, that’s when he should yield his hindquarters away, but come to me. This is why it’s so important for the development of subtle cues – learned through the repetition of exercises one through four. When we are successful in all of them, I can merely bend my giddy-up stick at my horse and he does what I am requesting. The important point here is that my cues are incredibly subtle.

 

Visionaries of the West – WWI – Winnie

Winnie, as a cub, with one of the Sergeants from the CAVC – Photo taken 1914 Source: Library and Archives Canada.

BY DEBBIE MACRAE

It is August 1914, and World War I has only just begun. The 34th Fort Garry Horse Division is on its way eastward by train from Winnipeg, when they stop at the small community of White River, Ontario.

Harry Colebourn, a young Lieutenant in the Fort Garry Horse Cavalry regiment, is a veterinary surgeon, and encounters a hunter who is selling a female bear cub for $20. She is very young, orphaned, and is domiciled or “socialized” to human contact, likely by the hunter who killed her mother. Harry’s veterinary conscience embraces the young cub, realizing her prospects for a long life are not good. He purchases the bear, which he names “Winnie,” after his adopted hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Enroute to Valcartier, Quebec, Winnie accompanied the horse regiment to report to the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, where she became the mascot of the Fort Gary Horse Regiment.

Incredibly, Winnie would travel from White River by train to Valcartier, and then overseas from Gaspe Bay aboard the S.S. Manitou, to England, providing entertainment and amusement to the troops with her keen intelligence and endearing affection. Unfortunately, she wasn’t always a favorite with the horses, and she was often blamed for some of their unregimented behaviours. Just her scent was enough to agitate some of the more hot-blooded.

Winnie was to remain with Lt. Colebourn at the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters, however, faced with the reality of the front lines, the well-being of the animals, and the overwhelming obligation to defend and protect, Lt. Colebourn was forced to make an emotional decision to find a home for her at the London Zoo when his regiment was sent to fight in France.

Harry Colebourn and Winnie. The Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives.

Harry would often visit Winnie while on leave. His intention was to take her back to Canada with him to the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg at the end of the war, not realizing it would be four long years before the First World War would come to an end.

Fortunately for Harry, and more so for Winnie, she became a celebrity bruin at the London Zoo, with her amazing personality and gentle demeanour. The zoo-keepers even allowed children to play inside the confines of her pen, bringing a breath of fresh air, and a symbol of hope for those children living in the shadow of a frightening war.

As she grew more and more popular with the children, now Captain, Harry Colebourn resolved to donate her to the London Zoo as a gesture of thanks for the care Winnie had received during her stay. In 1919, the Zoo held a dedication ceremony and erected a plaque dedicated to Captain Harry Colebourn of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps for donating her.One of the more frequent visitors to the zoo, who often entered Winnie’s cage to feed her condensed milk, was a young lad by the name of Christopher Robin Milne. His interest and enjoyment in visiting Winnie would result in his father’s publication of the well-known children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.

Winnie was an inspiration and a symbol of hope for London’s children of the war, as well as a diversion and a source of entertainment for those servicemen dedicated to the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps.

Lt. Colebourn was a visionary in his own right – with the vision to ensure that Winnie should not be maintained in a life of imprisonment – and with the clarity of vision that comes with realizing that moral support can come from the most unusual of sources.

As we approach the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War 1, we remember also, the sacrifice of the animal soldiers and mascots who supported our troops.

Roll of Honour

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.

A memorial panel inside McGregor Armoury in Winnipeg, hosts the Roll of Honour for the Fort Garry Horse. The Regiment was formed in 1912, and this memorial commemorates the servicemen who dedicated their lives to service during both the peace time and the war.

Canadians Bring Home World Paint Title

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Photo by Larry Williams Photography.

Big congratulations goes to Sandy McCook of Buck Lake, AB, and We Should B Friends (a home-bred and raised Paint filly) on their recent WORLD TITLE in the Open Class of the Amateur Yearling In Hand Trail at the 2018 APHA World Championship Show held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, TX!

McCook raised the filly (and her momma too), and then the filly was sadly orphaned at eight-weeks-old.

“She’s just such a cool filly…. takes everything in stride and so after going to a couple APHC shows, we decided to take her to the APHA World Show. We went early giving her time to acclimate. I won the Amateur Yearling In Hand Trail and then Jesse Jones showed her to a Res World title in the open class.”

Congratulations to all! Way to make Canada proud ????

McCook and We Should B Friends in action.

 

Show Photographer Larry Williams Photography: larrywilliamsphotog.com

Visionaries of the West – John Ware

John Ware and a team of horses at Red Deer River. Glenbow Archives.

BY DEBBIE MACRAE

Legends are like the wind. You hear them; you feel them; you see their strength; you know their direction and their magnitude; you feel their gentleness and see the lasting effects of their force. They are traditional stories, historically related, told and re-told because of the power of their influence.

Such is the legend of John Ware.

Born into slavery on a cotton plantation in South Carolina in 1845, John was the middle son of a family of 10 children with four older brothers , three younger brothers and two younger sisters. At the age of eight years he was picking cotton with his adult counterparts, and childhood dreams and aspirations had no place in the desensitized world of human trafficking. Human rights were unrecognized, and education was reserved for those with aristocratic backgrounds or potential for more profit. Educating a slave boy wouldn’t make him a more valuable slave.

As a child he was robust, with muscles developed like a plantation mule. He was athletic with the ability to out-run, out-lift, and out-jump any child his age. It was very common for plantation owners to entertain guests with gladiator-style battles among the slave boys; pitting endurance against brawn. The consent of the boys was not an option. Fight rings were roped off and guests were seated in comfortable ringside chairs in the shade, while young Negro boys about 12 to 16 were pitted against each other like roosters in a cock fight. The prize was usually a pair of shoes, and the only rule was that the last “man” standing won only if his opponent stayed down.

Those contests often ended up with John flat on the ground; not because he wasn’t good enough to win – but someone else usually needed the shoes more.

His reputation grew with his stature, and so did respect for him. Over the years, John’s training both in and out of the ring, moulded a giant of a man who would eventually make his way to Canada down the cowboy trail.

John was 20 years of age when the Civil War ended. Most of the southern slaves were uneducated, illiterate, and unfamiliar with the freedom they had suddenly gained with emancipation. Most of them had never travelled beyond the confines of their plantations, and certainly not beyond the swamps of their territorial boundaries. The only thing they knew about Canada was that it was a faraway place at the end of the underground railroad, if they had ever heard of it at all. John was no different.

John’s family had been slaves for at least three generations – living, working, breathing, like work-horses, guaranteed only of limited food and clothing. Education was not a commodity. A man’s future was garnered only by the dirt on his hands and the desire in his heart. With the defeat of General Lee’s Confederate troops at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, the yoke of slavery was lifted, but the weight of an uncertain freedom was almost as heavy. Tensions in the South were high and masked night riders preyed on superstition and fear. Violence prevailed even in the wake of freedom.

John decided that freedom meant heading “out West”, and “out West” meant travelling to Texas. Leaving his sorrowful parents and family, he left in a pair of ill-fitting shoes, remnants from a Yankee soldier. For the next five months he walked, and worked his way west, until he reached the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas.

Trading labour for food, John started to work for “Old Murph” Blandon and for the next several years, worked on a Texas ranch, cutting hay with a scythe, riding horses and mules, and racing – building stamina and strength, experience and ingenuity, and training for the biggest opportunities yet to come.

John wasn’t a cowboy in the traditional sense. He was big, with long legs, and had no formal training as a cowhand. His first big chance to ride herd on a cattle trail came in 1879 – from Texas to the Far North in Montana – where new cattle ranges were being stocked. Inexperienced men always started as “drag men,” trailing in the dust behind the cattle, prodding the slow and lazy as they snaked their way across the prairies. In an industry where Negro riders were not accepted, John earned his way out of the ‘drag’ with his hard work, unrelenting determination, muscled control, and unsuspecting sense of humour. He named the winner of the first trailside longhorn bull fight, “Abraham Lincoln”, at the same time proclaiming “General Lee” as the loser.

He was the level-headed one when the men went into town to celebrate. While the others visited saloons and dance halls, he was the one who assumed the responsibility of the herd. At one point he single-handedly warded off a disastrous night stampede by attacking Sioux – racing to the point of the herd and shooting to turn the lead cows back to their grazing range. After nearly 2,000 miles and four months of eating dust, the cattle arrived at their destination in Montana’s Judith Basin.

At the end of the trail, one of the cowboys, Bill Moodie, announced his intention of heading to Canada while they were so close. Ware’s response: “Wheah is Canada f’om heah?”

From there, John and his Moodie continued to the Virginia City gold rush, working the gold mines without success. Moodie returned to Idaho as a cowpoke, and in 1882, John sought his company once again, after losing his faithful horse. A black man without a horse trod a precarious trail in the wild west, and John knew he needed another mount to work. He knew Moodie would help him get one, and John proposed they ride the long trail back to Texas. However, fate intervened in the form of Tom Lynch, Canadian cattleman extraordinaire and the face of Canadian ranching would never be the same.

The Ware family.

After the Land Act received Ottawa’s approval for 21 year leases in southern Alberta, cattlemen moved their herds north and west to the Cochrane Ranch, the Bar U, and the North West Cattle Company. Tom Lynch was looking for dependable cowhands and tried to persuade Bill Moodie to join the group. Bill accepted on the condition that he also hire his friend, John Ware. Lynch was cold to the concept – a Negro without a horse. But Bill was adamant; “take both of us or neither”, so John was hired to peel potatoes and ride night herd. He sang while he peeled, and he sang while he rode, and he was paid a well-earned “dollar a day and grub”.

John was given an outlaw bronco to ride, and perhaps furnish some amusement, as no one except Moodie believed he could handle a real horse. At the end of its violent bucking demonstration, the horse was subdued, and Ware’s comment was, “Thanks Boss. Ah’ll keep this hoss – if it’s ahwight with yo.” He had earned his respect and was promoted to a new position. Never again was he asked to ride night herd.

Along the Marias River, John again earned renewed respect when he single-handedly captured two cattle rustlers and recovered the stolen cattle, leading the rustlers on foot at the end of a long lariat. They were released on foot, without their guns, and thanks in part to John, they weren’t hung in traditional Montana fashion.

September 26, 1882, John hired on with the North West Cattle Company along the Highwood River in southern Alberta, now known as the historic Bar U Ranch. He stayed with the Bar U until 1884, when he joined the Quorn Ranch.

In 1885, he participated in a cattle round-up, rounding up strays, lost, and unbranded cattle – which cattle were divided among their finders. By 1890 he had amassed 75 head of the bovine critters – enough to register his own brand 9999, and start his own ranch, known as the Four-Nines Ranch.

He was known for his self-sufficiency as one of the first ranchers in Alberta to utilize irrigation techniques to ensure a successful hay crop. He had his own milk-cows and butter station, and milked his own cows – not exactly a cowboy tradition.

He met his future wife, Mildred Lewis, formerly of Toronto, Ontario, in 1891 after meeting her father at the I.G. Baker supply store. After several Sunday afternoon dinner invitations, John came to call on Miss Mildred with a borrowed team and democrat buggy. During the visit, John hitched the team to the Lewis’s democrat with double seating benches, so he could take Mildred, and her friends, the Hansons, for a leisurely ride. The afternoon flew delightfully by until thunderclouds opened-up on them. Lightning and thunder continued to assail them, until a bolt of lightning struck the team, killing them instantly in their harness. A stalwart gentleman to the end, John separated the horses from the gear, picked up the tongue of the democrat and, with the strength of the Biblical Samson, pulled the buggy and its passengers the three or four miles back to the Lewis home.

February 29, 1892, “Mr. John Ware of Sheep Creek and Miss Mildred J. Lewis of Calgary, were united. In Holy Matrimony, according to the ordinances of God and the Laws of the Dominion of Canada, in Calgary.”

The Ware homestead in the Millarville, AB, district before the turn of the century.

In the spring of 1892, he spontaneously demonstrated the first cow wrestling display at the Walrond Ranch, albeit came of necessity in the form of an enraged longhorn. His instinctive act of self-preservation would be applauded and repeated, as ‘steer wrestling,’ for the next 125 years.

In 1900, John moved to set up a new ranch near Brooks, Alberta. That move was short-lived, as he was flooded out in a spring flood two years later. Undeterred, with typical John Ware perseverance, he rebuilt on higher ground. But in April, 1905, his dreams collapsed with the death of his young wife. Grief-stricken, he sent his young children to live with their grand-parents who had moved to Blairmore, Alberta. Less than six months later, he too would die, in the most ironic of deaths. John Ware, the man of whom it was said, “The horse is not running on the prairie which John cannot ride” would die; his horse stepping in a badger hole and falling on him.

His funeral was the largest the City of Calgary had ever seen. He left behind five children, helped establish Alberta’s beef industry and bequeathed a living legacy; the John Ware Society, dedicated to the preservation of the traditions of the Old West; John Ware Ridge, Mount Ware, and Ware Creek in Kananaskis country, John Ware Junior High School, the John Ware Building at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Four Nine’s Cafeteria, and a legion of admiration and respect for a man who refused to be tried by the color of his skin.

The Minister’s funeral tribute imparted a fitting farewell; “John Ware was a man with a beautiful skin. Every human skin is as beautiful as the character of the person who wears it. To know John Ware was to know a gentleman, one of God’s gentlemen. Never again will I see a colored skin as anything but lovely. He leaves me with the thought that black is a beautiful color – one which the Creator must have held in particularly high favor because He gave it to His most cheerful people. Make no mistake about it, black can be beautiful”, as is the legend, John Ware.

Much of the research for this blog was obtained from the book John Ware’s Cow Country, written by Grant MacEwan. Inside this particular book is a signed note from the author.

 

 

Lessons in Liberty

Jim Anderson was recently featured on a television feature this past weekend. It’s all part of Equus: The Story of the Horse airing Sunday nights on The Nature of Things at 8 PM on CBC-TV. Photo by Jenn Webster.

STORY & PHOTOS BY JENN WEBSTER

Did you happen to catch Equus, Story of the Horse on CBC (The Nature of Things) this past Sunday on TV? In this beautiful documentary that will feature over three hours with anthropologist-turned-filmmaker Niobe Thompson, viewers are taken on an epic journey across 11 countries and back in time to the mysterious beginnings of thehorse-human relationship. Thompson also spends a day in the Canadian Rockies with our friend and  “extreme cowboy” Jimmy Anderson, a professional trainer who has many accolades to his name. Anderson has left the old idea of “breaking horses” behind and he showcases his concepts in the TV feature.

We’ve featured Jimmy in many issues of WHR before, but back in 2016 we had the opportunity to spend a whole day with him, his wife Andrea and their horses. On this very special day, we got an inside look at some of the very first steps in liberty training. As the equine world is constantly shifting, those lessons learned back in 2016 are still applicable today. A well balanced seat and effective discipline-specific skills are no longer the only pursuits of the western rider these days. With the desire to create an even deeper connection with their horses, many western aficionados have turned to liberty to enrich their horse-to-human communication.

Jim and Andrea Anderson.

In unrestrained, free environments accentuated by the absence of tack, a handler can take one’s horsemanship to a new level with liberty. It’s a discipline limited only by a handler’s imagination and it’s reached through a willing partnership.

With a collection of exercises from the 2014 Road to the Horse Champion, Jim Anderson that we’ll detail in a dual-part blog series, you too, can achieve a higher level of learning and ultimately, an increased state of “brokeness” with your horse. Upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that the underlying foundation of liberty is no different than that of any other discipline – it simply allows for a little more creativity upon execution.

TOOLS YOU’LL NEED:
• Rope halter
• Soft lead shank (0.5” thick, 16-feet long)
• Giddy-Up stick (On average,a four-foot dressage whip – depending on the horse.)

It’s important to note a horse must first have an understanding of your cues while still haltered and on your line, before you can turn him loose. If not, your horse will not easily find the answer you’re hoping he’ll reach because he doesn’t understand. Once you’ve laid the foundation for him how to learn, your horse can be successful with liberty. In fact, you are setting him up for success by keeping him on line until he understands your cues 100 per cent.

PREPARING THE HORSE TO LEARN
“When we put any kind of contact or pressure to a horse, he will automatically look for a release or a reward,” says Anderson. “If the horse doesn’t know any better, when you first put pressure on him, his self-preservation kicks in. He will react with fight, flight, a kick or a bite. It’s only after we’ve first taught the horse how to learn and built a foundation for learning, that we can go towards liberty.”

Anderson explains that in order to prepare a horse for learning, a handler must first show the horse how to look for his reward.

“What’s important is that you set the foundation so when your horse is faced with a task, his self-preservation doesn’t kick in and we don’t create worry and fear within him,” the trainer says. “We don’t train for liberty through pressure and punishment – we train through reward.”

He clarifies that the horse will operate from its “self-preservation brain” or from its “thinking brain.” A handler aims to get the horse thinking from the latter so he’s always looking for a reward and not worried about pressure or punishment. After that, you can begin to incorporate body control into the training.

“It doesn’t matter which discipline you go to eventually, it’s all put together by several pieces of basic body control into one maneuver. An example of a higher degree of difficulty maneuver would be the lead change at liberty. In it, you’re asking the horse several things at once. But instead of the horse worrying, he has learned how to think his way through your instruction. You do this by starting with very little, simple things.”

Holding the lead in one hand, you want your horse to walk or trot in comfortable circles around you.

EXERCISE #1
Yielding the Hind Quarters
Working with the horse in a halter on the line and a Giddy-Up stick, the very first goal of liberty in Anderson’s program is to teach the horse how to yield his hindquarters. This exercise is twofold in that it teaches the horse how to physically move his hind end on your cue, but it also brings both of his eyes back to you as the handler – an essential component of liberty. When the horse has both of his eyes on you, he doesn’t have one eye looking out to the pasture.

“In liberty it’s not enough for the horse to be attentive and focused on us – we also need to be attentive and focused on him. With a horse, the focus leaves first and the feet follow. If we don’t have halter and shank attached to it, at liberty the horse can just leave. We have to focused and attentive on our horse, so we keep his focus. We need the ability to divert his attention back to us at any time. That way, we can also join his feet up to us even more,” Anderson explains.

“When the horse’s focus is on you 100 per cent, the join up and the bond between you and the horse becomes really strong. That’s the whole foundation of liberty,” he says.

Hold your Giddy-Up stick in the opposite hand, pointed away from the hindquarters until you are ready to move the hindquarters.

 

“When I want the horse to yield his hindquarters away from me, I hold my inside hand (the one holding the lead) up near his eye and direct my Giddy-Up stick towards his hind feet.” – Jim Anderson

“The goal is to get him to swing his hind end away even just one step, but the main key is to have him put both of his eyes on me as a result.” – Jim Anderson

 

When he does, I relax both my Giddy-Up stick and my focus and reach towards my horse to pet and reward him.

*NOTE: It’s important to note that there is a balance between yielding exercises and joining up. There’s a big difference in teaching a horse how to respond to the Giddy-Up stick, rather than running away from it. It’s normal in horsemanship to train horses to go forward or faster when we longe them – increased pressure from the stick means “go faster” or “move out.” In liberty, a handler must refine the concept with the horse somewhat and teach him that we will put pressure on him with the stick, but when the horse yields away from the pressure with confidence, he is rewarded. He’s still joined up with the handler and not reacting in flight mode. When the horse isn’t worried about pressure, we can finally take the halter off and he won’t leave. Utilizing a Giddy-Up stick should never indicate “leave the handler” to the horse. It’s only after we’ve established exercises like yielding the hindquarters plus other basic body control concepts, that we can then advance into more intermediate liberty concepts. Stay tuned for our next blog and until then – keep your halters on!

Meet our Models

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Have you seen our September/October issue of Western Horse Review yet? Photographed by the talented Shelby Simmonds of Twisted Tree Photography at Webster Ranch, WHR put together one of our most elaborate fashion shoots to date. Focusing on fall fashion, we had several wonderful people come together to bring this shoot to life. This includes the make-up talents of The Aria Studios and hair by Amber BigPlume. We also shot some amazing Food of the West dishes for future editorial – but we’re going to have to share those with readers in the future. So stay tuned!

For now, we’d like to introduce you to the lovely models seen in our Sept/Oct. fashion spread. Priding ourselves on featuring real people of the horse industry, we thought you might like to get to know them a little bit as well (if you don’t already).

Wearing a couple of outfits from Cody & Sioux, plus modelling some fantastic jewelry designs by Scott Hardy was Wendy Nelson. Wendy owns and operates Wendy Nelson Reining and Performance Horses – a training and breeding facility near Cochrane, Alberta. Wendy has been an active part of the Equine and Reining Horse Industry for 25 years throughout Canada, Europe and the USA. She has bred, trained, and produced many Reining Horse champions and finalists in Futurities, Derbies and Aged events. Wendy has accomplished year-end championship titles in NRHA Germany, Ontario Reining Horse Association, Reining Alberta, Alberta Reined Cow Horse Association, AQHA, and Reining Canada as well as being in the NRHA ‘Top Ten.’ Her coaching skills have led many of her Non-Pros and Youth to the same success.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

 

Next we have our youngest models. Wearing the new EQ3™ helmets from Back on Track and some lovely  back-to-school fashions from Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack these two cuties kicked off the shoot. Both girls are avid riders in real life and can be found playing around with their Miniature horses, or taking in a trail ride on their senior mounts whenever the opportunity presents.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

 

Next we have have Maggie Short. Maggie was the 2016 Calgary Stampede Queen and an avid show jumper. (Check out the past blog we ran about her here!) Besides the “Blake Lively” look she has going on, Maggie is one of the kindest people you could ever get to know and is always eager to help. For instance, on this shoot we had Maggie helping with everything from picking wildflowers, to looking after kids, to picking up our photographer, to packing up clothing at the end. And then, she steps in front of the camera and absolutely nails the shot…

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

 

Next we have Amber BigPlume, who has helped us with a few WHR fashion shoots already. Amber was the 2013 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess and helped spread the word of Indigenous communities in trouble, during the torrential floods Alberta witnessed that same year. She is a talented musician and has been a performer in the Trans Alta Grandstand Show. She is additionally a very skilled hair stylist and has helped us create many looks for WHR fashion spreads. As if that weren’t enough, Amber is a fabulous model and always helps us bring the entire feature together.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

 

Sporting a Smithbilt hat, neckace from Cody & Sioux and a belt from Scott Hardy is Whitney Watson Wilson. As an accomplished competitor in the reining and cow horse competition arenas, Whitney is making a name for herself on the professional show circuit under the guidance of Clay Webster Performance Horses Inc. She recently won the Int. Open Hackamore at the Alberta Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity held in Claresholm, AB, and took the championship of the Level 1 Open Derby at the Equistro Cowtown Derby earlier in the year. She helped us saddle and prepare horses for this shoot and although she’s never had to model for WHR before, she pretty much killed it.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

 

You won’t see this shot in the magazine, but we’re so glad it was suggested that Maggie try on one of our signature Skijor shearling coats, created by Janine’s Custom Creations. We think it was the perfect way to end the day. Stay tuned for some more behind-the-scenes looks from our autumn feature!

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.