Every Child On a Horse, Rodeos in the Wild and Remote West
Kids raised in the wild and remote west areas like Rangely back in the olden days were outdoors, playing with horses in the mud, taking "reasonable risks" they wouldn't normally engage today. We thought you'd enjoy the excerpt from "Every Kid on a Horse: Junior Saddle Club, Little Buckaroos and Gymkhanas," an glimpse into the era of early rough riding and rodeo. Found in Volume 2 Issue 4 of Western Colorado's Home on the Range (ly) - a journal of historic and contemporary life in the wild and remote west, you can read the entire story here.
Since the 1940s, the Rangely Saddle Club had given men and women a way to sharpen their roping skills, families a place to share the day’s news, and the community an event to rally around in the Rangely Days Rodeo. For the children darting through and around the legs of adults at a Saddle Club steak fry, it was only natural that some branch of the Club would evolve for them.
Through the 1950s, parent leaders and kids gathered for trail rides downriver or overnight stays up Chase Draw, where even the youngest riders could reach their destination.
“All the kids rode at that time,” says longtime Rangely local Patty Powell, whose four children grew up into what would become the Junior Saddle Club. “When my folks (Mossie and Ray Percifield) owned the Ace Hi, kids would ride up to the kitchen window, holler at Mom, tell her they wanted a hamburger and she’d pass it through the window.”
Though the Junior Saddle Club wouldn’t exist by that name for years or always be directly affiliated with the adults’ organization, the group planted roots early on to explore the surrounding country, give kids hands-on experience with horses and, above all, have fun.
As it evolved, Junior Saddle Club drew anywhere from 25 to 40 children from kindergarten through high school. For ranch kids, it was a natural extension of home life minus all the chores. For town kids, it was a way to ride horses without having to own one. And from the adults’ perspective, it kept everyone out of trouble.
Janet Mackay (Steele) joined Junior Saddle Club in late elementary school, when her family moved from Bonanza to their ranch just northeast of Rangely, and stayed involved through early high school. While the Club didn’t see much wintertime activity, tubing parties weren’t
uncommon during the snowy months. Even better were those days when Mackay’s parents, Ben and Irma Steele—longtime supporters of both Saddle Club and its junior counterpart—invited Club kids to their 200-plus acres of hay fields.
“Dad and Ben would get them old car hoods and you’d tie a couple of lariats together,” says Dennis Slaugh, whose father Clyde and stepmother Sonny ran Junior Saddle Club from 1967 to 1977. “You’d tie those to the car hood, kids would jump on and the horse would take off. It was smooth going all around those fields.”
Other articles in The KID issue include:
- Free Range Kids
- What Kids do Now
- Nuturing the Future
- Making the Best Better
- Overcoming Adversity