Working Arabs in the Northwest

by Ralph H. Smith (Western Horseman Apr ’51)

We fellows up here in Montana and Wyoming have a yen for good horse flesh, the same as they do in Texas or California, especially after the jeep can’t cross a washout or take up through the timber on a mountainside. Most Northwestern ranchers run cattle, sheep or horses on summer range in the Forest Reserve high in them mountain ranges, adjacent to our valleys and flat lands. Cattle and horses especially are left to rustle for themselves in the lush high mountain meadows and seek shelter in the canyons or timber. Seldom are they seen during the grazing period. Sheep, of course, have a year round herder. When these stock are gathered in the fall, believe me, it’s a job for a horse with plenty of lung capacity. Working from daylight till dark in timber, over rock, fallen trees, up cut banks, down steep canyons and sometimes at high speed up mountain sides, this takes a top horse. Here is where we find some of the outstanding Arabs at work. They are noted for their hard feet, endurance, will to do and adjustability. Just any ordinary ranch horses have been worn out at noon, their feet broken up and sore. Arabian blood, call it “hot” if you want to, has what it takes when endurance is desired, they go places the jeep bogs down, and much smoother.

This natural group of events and terrain has brought a good many Arabians into use here in the Great Northwest, (the mountain states) Montana and Wyoming. Arabs have been brought in to use as well as to breed up our ranch horse. It has been found, on many large ranches, that our horses were going soft. The Arab has proven his worth by putting tougher half-Arabs on the range (thanks to the U.S. Remount stations who placed some of the top Arabian studs in these states years ago, back in the 30’s).

No. 1. Gamhuri AHC 1776, sire of many good range Stock Horses. Owned by Cross-U-Bar ranch, Big Horn, Wyoming.

Gamhuri AHC 1776 (see illustration No. 1) was one of these Remount Arabs that left many good half-Arab ranch horses in the wide-open spaces around Lavina and Roundup, Montana. The late L.G.Mason, of Lavina, was a rancher who knew good horse flesh and always had the best for his boys to work several hundred whiteface, winter and summer, in the river bottom, foothill and plains country. L.G. told me that when Gamhuri was first used to bring in cattle, he soon caught on to their tricks. One day he was running some steers to head them into a north pasture; L.G. and Gamhuri came to a wide wash, and much to L.G.’s surprise, Gamhuri went sailing across the cut, landing at top speed on the other side. He was smart enough and game enough to risk his front quarters and neck as well as L.G.’s to out smart and out distance the steers. I later acquired Gamhuri and experienced this same thrill, but it took me 10 minutes one day to get him to walk through six inches of water, 7 or 8 feet wide; he didn’t want to spoil the water for drinking (an inherent characteristic of Arabians). He’d jump it and never touch a drop, if allowed to. His offspring are on the range, in the city, and many can be found in the stock yards working cattle and doing someone a service. Gamhuri now stands at the Cross-U-Bar ranch, Big Horn, Wyoming.

No. 2, Borkaan AHC 1383. Owner Jack Hammans, Shoshoni, Wyo., up.

Borkaan AHC 1383 (see illustration No. 2) is another little dandy, belonging to Jack and Alice Hammans. Here’s a stylish Arabian that can look like a million bucks after a week’s work in the hills, carrying either Jack or Alice, through brush, up mountain sides, into timber, through the Yellowstone river or any place they say to route out a cow to get her into the bunch; he’ll bring in a bum calf on the saddle along with his rider, if necessary. Borkaan has sired hundreds of fine Stock Horses for the ranchers on the Yellowstone near Livingston and Pray, Montana. He’s 14 years old and is still doing the job for Jack on his big cattle spread in Wyoming, near Shoshoni. Incidently, Jack and Borkaan are always a threat in the little home town fair contests for horses. Anything Jack decides he’s going to do with Borkaan, it’s generally done well, such as a quarter or mile race, hazing, calf roping, bulldogging or steer busting, for Jack has used Borkaan for a general purpose ranch horse.

Olnatar AHC 2628, another Western bred purebred Arabian, is developing into a using horse at the Smith Arab ranch on the Yellowstone. He was foaled at Ft. Robinson, Nebraska, Remount, served the Cross-U-Bar at Big Horn, Wyo., for a few years, where he left and scattered many pure and half-bred Arabs for using stock around some of the large northern Wyoming ranches. He has good prospects of becoming one of the top Stock Horse studs in Montana. Bookings for 1951 season show his general acceptance among using horse and pleasure horse breeders alike.

Ahanab AHC 1099 of the O.T.O. ranch, Livingston, sired many good range horses, even though he was small. He seemed to put the right stuff in the right place if the mare had anything. His colts were nearly always larger than he was. The same is true of Ptolemy AHC 2012, who stood at Springdale, Mont., for Hershey Roberts for years. Both these little fellows sired Stock Horses, trail horses, and many pleasure horses for the Yellowstone country. Chan Libbey, former owner of the O.T.O. ranch, has retired Ahanab, and Hershey Roberts takes Ptolemy along just like a member of the family. The last we knew they were in Bozeman, Montana.

Barab AHC 2512, up at Bigfork, Mont., on the Walter Robbin Hereford ranch, earns his keep three ways every season. He works cows and calves for Walter the year round, and on Sunday, Neta, Walt’s wife, takes her pleasure ride around the pastures and hills with him. Here’s a horse that puts the best to shame when it comes to working mountains. His feet are black and like flint. He can carry 250 pounds all day in the mountains and come in like a colt. I know, for it was after one of these days’ work that I first met Walt and Barab. He has the respect of the ranchers in his area.

Rifzadin AHC 1953, in the Lambert, Mont., area, left a good many fine half-Arab Stock Horses. His fine colts were ideal for the small wheat and cattle ranchers because of their easy keeping ways, gentleness and willingness ot work at any and many jobs on small acreages. He was a Remount horse with good breeding that passed on to his foal.

No. 3. Kodama AHC 1070. Owned by Quirk Ranch, Billings, Montana.

Kodama AHC 1070 (see illustration No. 3), tall and lanky, stood on the Wilbur Quirk ranch near Billings, Mont., for two seasons and left some very desirable results in cow horses from some of the top grade mares in this area. All are busy helping the drylanders tend a bunch of cows and horses. He’s another Remount horse from Ft. Robinson, standing 15-3. His foals are very attractive and will be fast using horses.

Khaldi AHC 3137, at Missoula, Mont., owned by H.O.Bell, is being trained for stock and ranch work because H.O. has a large cattle spread up near Ronan. He is young and will be very useful in the area because most of the horses are not too good quality (mostly Indian ponies in bred, out bred, off bred and cross bred.).

Ras-El-Fedawi AHC 1129 stood in Montana for years to improve the Stock Horse in many parts of the state, before he sold to a Wisconsin farmer and later died. I watched this fellow work in the sale ring. He responded to the slightest signal, turned on a dime, had a sliding stop second to none and could swap ends faster than the cook could flip a flap-jack. We got a bet on as to what he would sell for. My friend, Ed Wakely, said he wouldn’t go over $750. I bet him he’d go close to $1000. Sure enough, Ed paid off, he sold for $960 at age 10. We watched stockmen pay $250 to $500 for his colts during the morning sale. His Montana reputation will never be forgotten. Arthur E. Boswell, Vermillion ranch, Billings, Mont., who owned him, will never forget him either.

Wartez AHC 1953 and Azloumah AHC 3562 have just recently been brought into the upper Missouri river basin to help build up our range horses. Wartez is at home on the Crouch ranch out of Great Falls, Mont., while Azloumah stands at Big Sandy on one of the largest cattle spreads between the Missouri and Milk rivers. Both these studs are using horses on big spreads where even the men are not spared. The prairies are extended as far as the eye can see and the days are long, so the job for a horse requires endurance and stability.

No. 4. Dakar AHC 2132. Owned by Mackay and Mackay.

Dakar AHC 2132 (see illustration No. 4) came to our country last year from Reno, Nev., off the Hadley Beedle outfit. He sure got put to work on the Mackay and Mackay ranch near Ismay, Montana. Bill and Eva Bradshaw run this spread for the Mackays, and it consists of about 27,000 acres in the breaks and hills off the Yellowstone out of Miles City. They have 10 or 15 individual pastures for well bred Hereford cows, and it requires lots of riding. Here’s what Eva says about Dakar:

Although we have not had Dakar very long, we feel that we could not have found a better Arab for improving ranch stock. He is a wonderfully rugged Arabian, very well quartered and muscled, travels straight and can get out and get over the country. He is taking considerable interest in the stock work, and I can take him out and cover 20 to 30 miles in a day at an easy gait. You see, the ranch takes in about 27,000 acres and runs about 1,000 head of cattle, so we have to have horses that can get out and cover plenty of ground in a day and work on the way. Dakar can hit a walk close to five miles an hour, or he can hit a wonderful elongated trot which really eats up the ground. He has a nice canter in which he bounces along so easily that one hardly feels him touch the ground. He knows what to do with a cow or calf on a rope or otherwise, too.

No. 5. Bad Boy, half-Arab by Babyat AHC 460. Owned by Cross-U-Bar ranch, Big Horn, Wyo., S. Watts Smyth up.

Down Wyoming way at Big Horn, S. Watts Smyth uses a half-Arab for his ranch work in the shadow and on top of the rugged Big Horn range. It’s a sight to see this guy Watts come down down out of the mountains with a band of horses; sometimes there are about as many buck deer as mares, all coming at top speed with Bad Boy and Watts close on their heels (see illustration No. 5). Here’s what he says about Arab blood.

This horse is by Babyat AHC 460 (Ybabi’s sire) and out of an imported Irish Hunter mare. He stands 16-1 and weighs about 1250, and certainly fills the bill from a using standpoint. I formerly had two half bred Arab geldings as my personal mounts (now retired on account of age), but since breaking this horse have found that he takes the place of both my older horses. Bad Boy has been trained exclusively in the handling of other horses, wrangling broodmare and foals, moving horses to and from mountain pastures, along highways, as well as cutting them in corrals. He does not get ‘hot’ when running large numbers of loose horses in large pastures and has the speed and endurance to turn them in the roughest kind of country. A horse that will do this and still remain calm is to my mind harder to find than a typical cow horse. As you know, we don’t run many cows, but when he is called upon to handle them it seems child’s play to him after his usual horse work.

No. 6. Faram AHC 1043. Owner Jerry Angell, Cheyenne, Wyo., up.

Faram AHC 1043 (see illustration No. 6) is an oldtimer in the Cheyenne country and has plenty of land marks still running the long plains range in the form of top Stock Horses. He works for his keep on the Angell ranch out of Cheyenne where cows and Arabs make the life worth living for Gerald and Vera Angell. Incidentally, Vea Ward Angell used to entertain the rodeo crowds years ago with her stunt riding, so she picks the horses, uses them, and Gerald brings up the rear on a top Arab, too. Read what they say about Arab Stock Horses:

Faram is short coupled, well muscled, with excellent body conformation, having long, sloping shoulders, deep through the heart, powerful quarters and well formed withers. He is larger than some, standing 15-1, but size and height do not detract from his beauty, brilliant action and regal carriage. He has won several high honors and many grand champion trophies. He works stock with speed and knowhow. Endurance and level-headedness are two of his many attributes.

We understand young Joder at the Joder ranch near Cheyenne is training Rafflind AHC 4319 for stock work so he can help Doc with the roundup and branding.

Someone says: “How do the Arabs stand the severe northwest winters?” The answer: They do just as well as other breeds and on less feed. We only figure to feed half the normal amount of hay and grain or allow half the winter pasture per head of Arab as we customarily used to figure per head on other horses and some cattle. Dr. Crouch says:

We purchased Wartez in San Antonio, Tex., a southern horse, shipped him to Great Falls in the winter, unloaded in zero weather, and he never batted an eye. He took it in his stride with no trouble in adjustment, grew a coat of Montana winter hair and went about life without even so much as a sniffle.

None of the Arab people have much in the way of box stalls, barns or the shelter afforded the high pedigreed horses of the show ring. We look at it this way: “If they can’t take it, we want to know it now.” This is no country for a sissy!

Old Santa Fe AHC 882 was reared in the south and came north at the age of 21 and has foaled two fillies, one in February 1949 and another in April 1950, nine below zero for the first one and a late blizzard for the second. She’s coming 24 this spring and is in foal to Ybabi 2580, to drop her foal early in May this year. We’ll probably have a cold, wet rain with wind then, but she can take it. We don’t pamper them, and think they are rugged individuals, adaptable to any job, any climate, any person and any feed or pasture situation. In fact, they are the purebred horse from the deserts of Arabia and are the foundation of most of our good horses here in America. They really are the all around “doing” horses.

There are a great many more purebred Arabs, with good reputations that are outstanding, to help build good using horses in this great Northwest. It is regrettable that their history isn’t better known by the writer, because a good many deserve mention here. My apologies to those fine Arabians that have done so much to improve Stock Horse blood, which we have been unable to mention for lack of detailed information and pictures.