Mid-May the ideal time for foals to be born in Elk River Valley
Nothing compares to a newborn colt
Steamboat Springs — Shooter Jennings was on the radio singing something about “the country” as I left Mad Creek Village on Friday and rolled into the lower Elk River Valley, scarcely able to believe what I was seeing.
The grass in the hay meadows was growing right before my eyes. At least, it struck me that way.
“Are you ready for the country,
Are you ready for me?
Are you ready for the country,
ain’t that a sight to see?”
You’re darn right I’m ready for some country. And there’s nothing like a newborn foal to reassure a body that spring has finally arrived, and the world is good.
When I learned that a new generation of performance quarter horses was being born this week at the Kurtz Ranch, I wrangled an invitation to revisit some of the prettiest ranch country in the American West. And that’s where I met a two-day-old colt named Squirt (when he’s registered, he’ll receive a new, permanent name).
Pete and Mary Kurtz, their son Andy, and his wife, Alisha, raise performance quarter horses on the ranch and have recently completed an indoor arena. Squirt’s destiny is to grow up to be a “reined cow horse,” assuming he has the necessary talent, cow sense and attributes to be an elite athlete.
However, Andy Kurtz, who is a horse trainer and clinician, is in no big hurry to put Squirt to work. He wants Squirt to be able to spend the summer bonding with the other horses and learning from them. Training can wait.
“We want to be around them and touch them,” Kurtz said. “But he needs to be with his mother and be a horse.”
In the case of horses that are intended to become athletes, Kurtz said, it’s best they don’t get too close to their human counterparts too soon, lest it become difficult to establish boundaries later in life.
Friday marked the first time Squirt had left the barn and the stall he was born in. At first, the pasture, the fences and the presence of other horses — including one-month-old Bugs — appeared to confuse the colt, but that didn’t last long. Within 15 minutes of leaving the barn for the first time, the little colt was testing his independence and making short dashes around his mother, Red Bell Pepper.
Squirt was bred to have powerful hindquarters that someday will allow him to support his entire body weight on his hind legs. This ability will enable him to make the athletic pivots and wheeling motions demanded by the three disciplines that make up a “reined cow horse,” including herding, reining and fence work, or cow work.
“Horses work off their hind end, naturally,” Kurtz said. “It’s the motor that drives them.”
The colt has a bright future, but first, he’ll spend the idyllic summer ahead of him in the Elk River Valley.
So, how about you? Are you ready for some country?
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