Leo Horse

My first memory of Leo is my Dad telling me he found a new horse. My Great Aunties used to raise all of our own horses on this ranch. Of course, as a small child I didn’t realize how amazing that was. I just knew their were lots and lots and lots of pretty horses for me to play with and look at. My Dad promised me that soon, he was going to take me to meet this new baby horse that was to be his.

Leo as a two year old – learning how to be a horse.

When I was a little girl all ranch work was done on horseback. This was back in the early 1980’s, we didn’t have polaris and 4-wheelers like we do now. If you wanted to check on your cattle, you had to saddle up and take off at a high trot come back, get lunch, get a new horse, and take off at a high trot*. Everyday (it’s not as romantic as it sounds, trust me, there really is something to be said for a 4-wheeler). But that was why we had a lot of horses. Plus every time my Dad would get a horse good and broke, the Aunties would sell it. It was a point of contention for my Dad.

My buddy

When Leo was born, my Dad decided he liked him. My Dad kept an eye on the colt as he grew up, and would occasionally go feed him an extra flake of hay, just to say hi. As yearlings, all of our colts were put in this field called the Century Plant Field. They were put there to ‘make them into horses’. This field has rocks, cows, wild animals, mud, streams, hills, basically a great place to learn how to be a worldly horse. And that is where I met Leo for the first time.

He was a pretty big horse.

It was a grey winter day, and I remember I got to spend the day with my Dad for some reason. As a treat, my Dad took me out to meet Leo. As we drove the hay truck out into the field, Dad told me to stay in the truck until he opened a bale of hay because Leo didn’t know me yet and I would scare him. I remember thinking that was absolutely ridiculous because every horse that I had ever met in my short life just loved me! I was the official ear scratcher and treat giver on the ranch.

Even the bottle calves had the crap scared out of them by Leo.

My Dad parked the hay truck and the colts came trotting over. I couldn’t stand it and popped out of the cab and into the back of the truck with my Dad, causing a lot of snorting and shying away of the colts. My Dad was right, they didn’t like me. But he opened up the hay bale and started tossing flakes out and they came back over again. Leo even allowed my Dad to scratch his ears and rub his neck.

It was a big deal for me to ride Leo when I was little. I mean Leo was MY DAD’S HORSE and very powerful and fast. This is Leo telling me I’m not doing it right – he was really good at that.

Since my Dad knew he was going to keep Leo, Leo got sent to an actual horse trainer, instead of being started here. The trainer fell in love with him too. She even entered him in a few horse shows before she would give him back, and he did really well. Once Leo got trained and people were normal to him, he turned into a big love-bug.

As Leo got older he was perfect for evening rides with my friends.

Leo and I became good friends as well. He liked to be loved on and given treats and that was totally my thing! I found out that if you sat on the top of the fence (which I wasn’t supposed to do), he would come over and put his head in my lap for pets! To a five year old, that is pretty much zen.

I taught ex-boyfriends who wanted to be cowboys how to ride on him

Leo was my Dad’s horse for the first 10 year’s of his life, they roped, they cut, Leo was the ultimate cow horse. Indeed if a cow or calf started falling behind Leo had no problem reaching over and biting that cow. Even out in a field, if a cow got too close to Leo, he would bite or kick. Leo took his cow-horse job very seriously.

He was great for photo sessions! Thanks http://jldphotographblog.com!

My Dad has slowly become the bionic man (ranching is tough work, kids), and riding is no longer comfortable for him, so Leo slowly become a guest horse. He was the type of horse you could let a greenhorn ride and they would generally be ok. Leo’s only vice was if he knew you would let him get away with something, he would. But once you became friends with Leo he would be your pal and take good care of you.

Or a quick ride….

Leo had some accidents during his lifetime, his hoof almost got cut off when he got stuck in some wire. He had pigeon fever really bad,  he gained a lot of weight really fast in the spring, always causing us to panic. And an accident involving a nail and his chest – some ugly stuff. But he made it through and soldiered on for 30 years.

Daniel and Leo spent a lot of time together this spring. Leo loved the attention.

Leo died today. My Mom came and got me this morning because Leo was in distress and couldn’t get up. He went very quickly after we both said goodbye. He seemed to have waited until we were all able to acknowledge he was going. We had a scare with him last winter. That’s why we knew we needed to get Joe a friend, so Sue got adopted. We knew Leo didn’t feel good yesterday. But it really seemed as if this morning he wanted to be with us as he went. What a honor, but that was the type of horse he was. He thought of his people and his pasture friend before himself.

Leo is the last of a golden era on this ranch and for this family. As I look through pictures of this family dating all the way back to the 1800’s our horses have always been very prominent and proud. Leo is the last horse from that era that was bred, born and died here. Thank you Leo. Thank you.

I gave Leo lots of extra treats this summer. Including a bunch of peaches, he loved peaches!

We were very lucky to have Leo in our lives for the past 30 years. I have so many wonderful memories of him and my family. Right now it feels a bit like we have lost a family member. Thank you Leo, you will be missed very much.

*So my Dad says.


Filed under Ag, Beef, History, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

15 Responses to Leo Horse

  1. Sharon Halsey Brown

    Thank you Meg for your tribute to Leo. It is tough to say goodbye. He will be so missed. I’m so sad today and my heart hurts. I can’t focus on doing anything constructive, just my thoughts regarding our dear Leo.

  2. Leo reminds me a lot of a mare I used to have. I really enjoyed this post — your writing is wonderful… A terrific tribute to Leo! I’m so sorry for your loss, though.

  3. You were blessed to have such an animal.

  4. Susana

    I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad you got to have quality time with Leo in the end and all through his life. A couple of my childhood horses died about 5 years ago (some similarities with your story – ranch-bred, my father broke them for me, we did 4-H together). The one that was most special to me I hadn’t seen in years when she died, and I really regretted that later. We’re nearing the end of an era too of those childhood ranch horses.

  5. Rob Larson

    Very good article, I can tell you where very passionite about this horse. Horses like that only come along once in a blue moon you are lucky to have had such a horse.

  6. Megan, I remember Leo. Thank you for your tribute to all he gave to you and your family over the years. As you told of the years with him I too remembered all the horses that have helped shape my life and because of them we are all better people. Aging animals give me such an appreciation for the whole process of life, to slow down, enjoy the clover or snacks and the scratches given by little girls and grown-up girls and watch sunrises and sunsets more often. Very moving..again thank you.

  7. I am very sorry for your loss of Leo. He was beautiful and I am wondering if he was Leo bred? I bought a filly barely 3 in 1983 and she was a beautiful filly…her name was Lottie which was short for Shez Alotta Leo…she was triple bred Leo and a combo of chestnut and sorrel….white semi blaze on her face and three white socks…about 15.1 or 2 and the biggest eyes and dainty ears and oh so much heart. I loved Lottie with every breath I took for almost 20 years…she was already trained for cattle which came natural to her and she had the nicest butt..she could drop and turn so fast that if you were not hanging on you were on the ground….she could spin and do a full run down the fence with a sliding stop…I loved her so very much. The day I lost her broke my heart…she was the very best and went everywhere with me….she entertained my Dad in later years when he was not well…she would get bored and herd the cows around in her pasture and push them into a corner and then wait for one to break and then she would go to cutting it….so funny. She is buried here and the horse you see me hugging is Hobby…I lost her after Lottie and she is buried next to Lottie…someday I know I will ride them both again. My heart goes out to you as loosing a horse hurts so deep…we have such a connection to them and they to us that when we loose them it goes deep. He was incredible and right now I can invision Leo hanging out with Lottie and Hobby eating very green grass pastures:) Big hugs and lots of prayers going up for you and your family.
    Love n Hugs,
    Hot Rod Cowgirl….or MJ…or Marcy

    • OMG. Your post made me cry. They are just more than horses, it does hurt so deep! My Mom dug Leo’s papers out tonight, I’ll post them. I know he was a Leo, and his cow sense was out of this world. I’m sorry for Lottie’s and Hobby’s loss too, it just sucks so hard. I can’t wait to see them all together eating and fat! Love and hugs to you as well!

    • Candace Smith

      Your lovely Leo story made me cry. We just lost our ‘first’
      horse friend at the age of 29, a lovely copper chestnut
      thoroughbred mare. We still feel the loss & probably always
      will. Just like with people, we are always richer for loving & being loved by an animal.

  8. Brandi

    My heart goes out to you Meg – I don’t want to imagine the pain that you’re feeling. At least you’ll always have the pictures and the memories to keep forever.

  9. Oh Megan, I send my condolences! Losing an animal, especially one that you could have a sense of partnership with, is so hard. I can’t imagine how much harder it is after having shared your life with an animal for 30 years!

    You’ll always have those fond memories of Leo. This post is a lovely tribute to him and a wonderful glimpse at the special relationship that people and horses can develop. May Leo enjoy that big pasture in the sky!

  10. Jeanie Alvidrez

    That was nice Megan very well put together!!!!
    Tony The Devil

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