Equine Superstars & Everyday Heroes – A Mare Simply Called Elsie

Blackwell running barrels on Elsie at Iron River, Mich. in 1973. (Photo by Chris Brandt)

By Janis Blackwell 

When I was discussing with Jessica what I could write about this month, she suggested I write about one of the many good horses that my husband, Jess, and I have owned over the years. That sounded like a good idea and a chance to recognize one of our own equine heroes.

Although there are three exceptional horses out of the many that would qualify as equine superstars and/ or heroes, I decided to go with the one that was an all-around horse and grossly unappreciated at the time we were using her. That horse is a half Thoroughbred bay mare simply named Elsie.

When in college, Jess had worked for Dr. Cutter Burrus, a Wichita Falls veterinarian. Burrus had taken the bay mare in on a debt he was owed. His secretary’s name was Elsie and for some reason “Doc” decided to name the mare after his secretary since she had come with no papers and her real name was unknown. Ultimately, Dr. Burrus decided to give the mare to Jess who was college rodeoing at the time and in need of a calf roping horse.

Jess began the roping training on her, which she quickly picked up as well as hazing in the steer wrestling, team roping (either end) and (when I entered the picture) barrel racing. We were young and short on finances on which to rodeo, so two horses had to fill the bill for everything. We hauled a gray Hancock bred bulldogging gelding whose registered name was “Pepper’s Hancock” (and yes, you guessed it, we called him Blue because he was blue as a young horse) and Elsie for every other event.

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Jess Blackwell hazing off Elsie. (Photo courtesy of Janis Blackwell)