The Natural Horseman – They choose us, we don’t choose them.

By Steve Stevens

The first cool morning we have had since before last ApriI, got my mare, “Justina” out of the pasture for the farrier. She was overdue for a trim, her mane and tail were a mess and she seemed a little surprised I was asking her to do anything.

Unfortunately, we have kind of become like the mechanic whose own cars are always broke and never fixed. We get so busy training other people’s horses that our own horses get put on the back burner.

The farrier had messaged me that he was half an hour behind schedule. So I took Justina in the round pen and just hung out with her, groomed her mane and tail and just spent time with her. It made me feel good and I realized how much I miss hanging out with her.

While I was scratching her butt, (which she will back over you like a semi-truck to get her butt scratched) I reminded myself of how I came about getting Justina and how inheriting this stout, bred to buck, grey draft cross would change my family’s life path.

Justina, while inside her mothers’ womb, could have no idea what her life would become. A month before Justina was born, her mom was bucked out in the saddle bronc riding at a local rodeo in Northern California.

You could say Justina was destined to be a bucking horse. She was bred to buck.

Her mom was bought at the bucking horse sale at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). Her granddaddy was out of a Verne Franklin stud called Mojo, an NFR bucking horse. She was bred to a Harry Vold stud out of the great NFR bronc Kojack.

Justina’s bucking horse lineage goes on and on, with relations to the great bucking horse, Bobby Joe Skoal.

Justina was born on a small ranch Northeast of Sacramento. No one knew exactly when she was born, because no one was around for her birth, due to the fact that her owner, Justin Denton, (my best friend) was severely hurt in a horse accident the night before at a rodeo nearby. Justin had been either thrown off and kicked in the head or got thrown off and hit his head on cement in a parking lot next to the rodeo arena. He was trying to help a barrel racer with a problem horse. He was put into an induced coma and we were told he probably wouldn’t make it. Justin was tough and survived because he is a fighter. He came out of it with severe brain trauma.

He lost his ranch, his rodeo company and his family. He is doing well today in a special home. He is still 100 percent cowboy, but it hasn’t been an easy road.

A little over a year later, Justin’s wife called and asked if I wanted the little mare that was born after Justin’s accident. I said, “On one condition.” I wanted to name her Justina.

She was lucky to survive the trailer ride home from Northern California to Southern California. She was wild as the day is long and fought the trailer all the way home. When we got her to the barn where we were going to board her, it was late and in the moonlight with all the scratches and cuts, she had looked like she had been attacked by a bobcat.

I took the training slowly with her. She fought everything. Months later, when I finally saddled her for the first time, she bucked and bellowed for quite some time.

As one could imagine from her lineage it was quite the show. She started growing quite a reputation around the stables. She continued bucking day after day with just the saddle. This lasted almost a month. The boarders started making bets if I would ever get on her.

One day, after many days of working away, I saddled her and she didn’t buck.

So that was the day I would attempt my first ride.

The crowd grew at the round pen as if everyone had waited for this moment and wanted to watch the rodeo. I climbed up on Justina’s back, kissed to her and she walked, then trotted and loped off, never missing a beat. She never jumped, kicked or bucked that day.

As I had waited till she was ready, it all worked out.

That day may have changed our lives forever. A few days later, the owner of the stables asked if I wanted to train a few Quarter Horses she had just bought at a sale. A day after that, a lady with a nervous thoroughbred asked if I would ride her horse. Within a week I had two Quarter Horses, a thoroughbred, two fjords, a pony and a 17-hand Percheron colt in training.

It didn’t take long to realize I had bit off more than I could chew. Though I had been around some great horseman and rode and started some young horses, I became humbly aware I didn’t know squat about training horses.

These were pushy horses, horses that would bite and kick at you, pull back, rear, wouldn’t load in the trailer, run off. You name it. I saw everything.

It was then and there that I decided to dedicate my life to studying horsemanship and how to solve all these different problems. Ten years later we have a full training business here in Weatherford, Texas, teaching people and horses how to be safe and live healthy lives together.

If not for that wild little filly coming into our lives, I am not sure where we would be or what we would be doing. Justina single handedly gave me and my family a life with horses.

Justina today is living the good life, running her herd of horses out in the pasture getting fat.

It is amazing how just like when you meet the right person, or horse in this case, with the right timing it can take your world and send it in a completely different direction.

That’s just one horse. I have seventeen on the property. Think of the possibilities.