Posts Tagged ‘Big Un’

Turning the Mares Out

Posted on: July 1st, 2012 by Lisa Hampton 1 Comment
Hank enjoying some green grass

Hank enjoying the green grass we have right now.

It’s no secret that I love photography.  The problem is that with these digital cameras now days, I take so many pictures I often forget to go back and look at what I’ve shot.

Today I had to go take a quick couple of pictures for our insurance agent (Hi Johnny!) of a horse trailer.  Seems like a simple enough request.

But as I went back towards the house the sun was so pretty that I found myself out in the pasture taking pictures of the horses.

Big Un, at 35 still enjoys a "fresh green salad"

Big Un, at 35 still enjoys a "fresh green salad"

Then, when I got back to the office and diligently went to upload my insurance pictures I ran across these.

They are from late in the spring when we turned a few mares out into the pasture with a stud to be bred.

The "mares"

These are "the mares", Molly, Lexi & Tink

R.W.’s job was pretty simple; drive the little bunch of ladies across one pasture and into another with Mr Studly and three other mares to make a little band.  Normally herding a few mares is not too bad of a job so R.W. chose to ride our son’s gelding that morning as he was in need of a “tune up” from Dad anyway.

Headed West

Headed West

You would think that the “girls” would go for this romantic relocation and pasture vacation.  But no!

Molly trying to duck out

Molly is trying to duck out on R.W. & Chester to o back to her beau.

Ms Molly the head mare decided that morning that she was in love with Ethan’s old gelding Big Un.  (For more about Big Un, what his job is on the ranch & how old he really is read my previous post “Babysitter“.)  

Free again and headed East.

Lexi & Tink are free again and headed East.

Big Un of course was across the fence encouraging her love with nickers and whinnys.

Sisters... could you tell?

Sisters... could you tell?

And so, R.W. set out on his quick job only to find out that once he got the mares almost to the gate across the pasture old Molly would split from the group and cut back on him back to Big Un.

Love is so blind.

Lined out once more...with the help of a little cowdog.

Lined out once more...with the help of a little cowdog.

R.W. did finally get his “girls” headed in one wad through the gate to meet their new suitor in the next pasture over and wouldn’t you know it, Molly forgot all about Ol’ Big Un the minute she met Mr. Studly and I’m pretty sure from the ensuing activity that we may have another cute colt next spring, maybe three if we are lucky.

Meeting this year's Mr Right.

Meeting this year's Mr Right.

Fickle women.

Gathering up his new harem.

First order of business: Gathering up his new harem.


Big Un who???

Big Un who?

Now, back to emailing those trailer pictures… I wonder where I saved them?


The Babysitter

Posted on: April 11th, 2012 by Lisa Hampton 21 Comments


Ethan and Big Un, Summer 2011 

Every ranch family has probably had one at some time. They are kind, calm, tender and loving, reliable, gentle, unfettered, and usually become a beloved family member in short order. No, I’m not talking about nannies, aum pairs, or even the girl next door;  I’m talking about a horse. In particular, the horse you trust with your most precious valuables, your children.

We have had several over the years but our current “Babysitter” is a big bay gelding named “Big Un”. He came to us 8 years ago as a kind but older reliable ranch gelding who was in his “last years”. He was 26 at the time, stood over 15.2 hands and was in excellent health but hadn’t been used much in the past few years. Our friends from the next county over had owned him since he was 2 and he had raised all their boys. Now the boys were grown and gone, and Big Un was just out in the pasture. They knew we were looking for a horse that our 4 year old could learn on and suggested we try him out.

Being the over-protective mother that I am, I warned R.W. about the value of free horses… I knew from experience that more often than not you would get what you paid for as the saying goes.

But Big Un was different, he was still in great shape and carried little Calvin Danner around.  He was also the ride of choice for most of our various vistors here to the ranch for a number of years. You could still go rope a steer or mad momma cow on him but he was kind and gentle enough that he quickly earned our trust with the boys.

Big Un and one of his "babies"We found out early on that Big Un loves babies. For the past eight years Big Un runs with the broodmares in the spring and by the time the babies are ready to wean they are spending more time hanging out with “Uncle Big Un” than with their mothers. When the mothers are pulled out of the pasture in the fall Big Un is there to keep the little ones company until they are big enough to run with the young riding horses, and their mommas have new babies for Big Un to play with. 

Calvin Danner with Big Un, Colfax County Fair 2006

Calvin Danner gradually went from being led on Big Un to riding him by himself here on the ranch, then he began competing in local kid rodeos and playdays on him until he finally out-grew him and passed him on to our youngest, Ethan.

Big Un is about to turn 35 this spring, which is quite a feat for a horse. You would never know it looking at him under saddle. But this winter he really started to show his age and honestly, although he is healthy, I’m worried.

Ethan has never known a day without Big Un around. His first rides as a wee baby were double on Big Un out in our pastures sitting in Mom’s lap. Four summers ago while in transition between both boys Danner would ride and at the end of the day Ethan would be led around in his big brother’s saddle, dressed in his baby chaps, his little boots and of course his cowboy hat. The first thing you noticed were his little fat legs sticking straight out to the sides as he shook the reins with all his might crying “ye-haw” in hopes of speeding his mount up. But of course ol Big Un wouldn’t break out of his walk for he knew Ethan wasn’t ready.

Two summers ago we could turn the two of them loose in the arena at the end of the day and the same sceene would play out until Big Un got tired of walking in circles and would just stop in the middle of the arena and no amount of cajoling on Ethan’s part would make him move.

Ethan encouraging big Un to move faster

This past summer Ethan had graduated from being ponied (or led) by Dad on our adventures to riding Big Un solo. His legs had grown enough to reach the stirrups of the kid saddle his brother had grown out of, and if kicking didn’t do the trick to motivate Big Un, Ethan quickly learned how to take the tail of his rope and give him a “swat” on the butt which would elicit the desired response for more speed. Of course Big Un always seemed to know just how fast his little cowboy could handle and I swear more than once I saw him trot right back underneath his rider just as I was sure he was about to bounce out of the saddle to one side.

Making the first barrel at the Mverick Rodeo in July 2011

It’s rare to have a horse live to 35 years old, it’s even rarer to have one in good enough condition that he can be ridden, even by a child, but this week we saddled him up once again. We are always watching for the day he starts to stumble, the day his weight drops off, the day he doesn’t lift his head and come trotting in when we show up at the barn. I know that day may come, or we may find him in the pasture in his final peace some morning. Life for Big Un has been good so for now we are enjoying every day we have with this member of the Hampton family and we will forever be grateful to our dear friends the Clays for giving us one of the most precious gifts we have ever recieved.

Because of Big Un our children (and now grandchildren) love animals, they trust horses, they trust themselves on and around horses, they know love, gentleness, kindness, respect and responsibility. These are gifts that not every pet can give, not every horse can provide, but a good babysitter is worth his or her weight in gold. 

We have a lot of good horses but  Big Un is by far the most valuable horse on our ranch.

Big Un with the boys

Were you raised by a “babysitter” or have one on your ranch? What are your fondest memories of riding as a small child?

We love to hear about the horses that have shaped you, so please share your stories too!