I have already told you about me, my husband and our horses. And you already know I have a Barb stallion who I have started endurance with. I have given you a quick history lesson on what we know of the Barb horse and how it came to be. When I am out at events with JB, he always catches someones eye which leads to the discussion of what the Barb horse is. I am often asked how I came upon the Barb as a breed.
This is Riata’s story.....
When Tom and I first met in 2001, we could not have had more distinct types of the horses that we each kept. I had thoroughbreds and warmbloods. He had 2 Lippitt Morgans and one little Spanish Mustang named Riata he had acquired along the way. When we got married we had 7 horses combined. Little did we know, little Riata was the key to what our future held.
Tom acquired Riata through an older man who somehow acquired her from a known SMR horse trader in the area known as Bobby. The older man was just looking for a good home for her and Tom came along through an ad. The little information the old man had of the filly , he passed on to Tom. The extent of that was that the filly was a Jack Slade bred filly. In the SMR world, this is a fairly well known foundation line. We have no idea if this was true or not. The mare had no papers that came with her. Tom didn’t really know much about SMR at that time and he didn’t really care. He was interested in her strong Spanish features. She exhibited the dorsal stripe , the shoulder striping and the leg patterns of striping. Tom did make an attempt to track Bobby down to try to get more info on the filly but he didn’t have much luck. Apparently Bobby was purposely difficult to find due to a bit of history with not caring for her horses well.
Riata was a tiny thing and standing next to my 16.3 hand thoroughbreds, she looked even tinier. We hoped that she would at least mature to about 14.0 hands so that Tom could use her as a riding horse but after she hit 4, it wasn’t looking promising. The idea of Riata growing tall enough to be his riding horse was kind of slipping away butTom remained interested in the Spanish type horses. Now I have to point out, Tom isn’t all that concerned about having to ride big huge horses, in fact he prefers a smaller horse but sometimes you just have to be realistic! He is just over 6’1. A horse that stands 13.2 hands was just a little on the shy side for him!
That Spring of 2001, we began shopping for a new mount for Tom, something Spanish and something over 13.2 hands was the initial criteria. We weren’t really sure what we would do with Riata when we first began looking. Maybe find her a home as child’s mount or the possibility that I might use her. Height wasn’t an issue here!
After looking at a few horse sale websites, including various SMR breeders, we ran across the website of the Quien Sabe Ranch in Midvale, Idaho. Shortly thereafter, we were in contact with Robert Painter who owned the ranch. We were quite interested in the horses and Roberts account their history. While we suspected some of his stories were a bit tall at the time, we were still impressed by what he told of their abilities. It seemed like this was the kind of horse Tom was looking for; strong, sturdy, sensible, and with some fairly prevalent Spanish features. After some back and forth emails, phone calls, videos and pictures of available horses he had we decided it might be best to take a trip to the Quien Sabe to see the horses for ourselves.
It was still early Spring, I believe April when we made the trip. Picking out a horse at the Quien Sabe is not like any typical horse buying experience. At the time, Robert had well over 100 horses, and most were untouched by the human hand, running wild on several hundred acres and could not be approached. It was difficult to view any horses this way but with the help of Roberts specially designed stock trailer we could get a little closer to them but due to the fact that these horses were not the least bit tamed, touching them was limited at best.
In addition to Tom’ s preference of a Baroque or Spanish featured horse, Tom’s requirements also included; something untouched ( not a problem at Quien Sabe) , had to be at least 14.0 hands with fairly heavy bone ( remember, he was a Lippitt Morgan breeder) and he decided he would prefer a gelding.
At the time, Robert didn’t have any geldings he wanted to part with. There were two we really liked, Sunrise and Surefire, but were told that they were not for sale. He did have two other horses that were still stallions that he was willing to part with. I had to wonder, all of these horses, well over 100 at the time, and he only had two that he was willing to part with?? That seemed odd but Roberts explanation was that he was building depth within certain family groups in his breeding program. He could only let certain horses go at this time.
Nonetheless out of the two we had to choose from, one was known as Double Star and the other horse, was taller but a little leaner structure. I don't recall this horses name. Both were of similar bloodlines lines. Both were stallions and 5 years old. Tom looked Double Star over for quite some time. It was difficult to get a true feel for the horse because you could barely lay a hand on him. Double Star was contained by the man-made squeeze chute in Roberts’s stock trailer. Wide eyed, full of fear and every muscle in his body rippled with tension, he was like a caged cat. It was difficult not to want to stroke his magnificent, gleaming neck but one could see the horse’s fear of our close presence. He was ready to leap from his containments at any given moment.
We spent the rest of the day looking at mares and foals in a separate pasture. When we left the ranch , our plan was to give it some thought and return a call to Robert on our decision. One week later, Robert indicated that he was possibly interested in Riata as a trade, Riata for Double Star but he wanted to see pictures first. Discussions of a trade with Riata during out visit had only come up briefly. We were not expecting his willingness to trade for her, given her questionable history.
After sending him photos and videos, he said that Riata would fit his breeding requirements based on her ‘type. While she was unpapered and we only had sketchy information on her history, he said he was certain, based on her body type, that she would fit his breeding program. I did wonder about his decision, but then again, who were we to question? He had been breeding these horses for 40 plus years. I had to assume he knew what he was looking for.
After some thinking and discussing, Tom and I decided to make the trade, Riata for Double Star. We felt confident that Riata would have a good home where she could run on acres and acres and raise babies. We were thrilled at the time. We assured Robert that we would take Riata back if he ever changed his mind. A couple of months later, we met Robert at the halfway point and took Double Star home and sent Riata with Robert. And so the story goes; this was how we came to love the Barb Horse.
Double Star stayed with us for a couple of years. We spent most of that time working on ground work. We were able to make some great progress with him including haltering, handling and trimming his feet, trailer loading and we even had a saddle on him a few times but he was the most fearful horse I have ever met. We found that he could never quite allow himself to trust people 100% and at times was unpredictable, even after two solid years of working with him to gain his trust. His flight response was very strong.
He certainly seemed to be his own horse and we had to work everyday to gain even a piece of his trust. Keeping in mind he ran wild for 5 years as a stallion, getting gelded late in his 5th year, he had developed some fairly strong instincts.
Once we were able to routinely catch him we began to introduce him to the rest of our herd. For several months we struggled to get him acclimated into the existing herd of 6 horses. It didn’t go smoothly at all. We tried to introduce him to the herd in a variety of ways, putting him out with one horse at a time for a period , then add another horse and so on. We had five acres for them , and while it may be just a wild theory on my part, it almost seemed that Double Star was so used to roaming in a much more vast area, that 5 acres was not enough for him to sort things out with the other horses. He would bond with one other gelding we had and time and time again, put the run on the others. It got to a point that he was injuring the other horses routinely and we were fixing fence on a regular basis. Several vet bills later and ongoing attempts to get Double Star to accept his new herd; combined with Tom enrolling in his Master’s program, we realized we had to make some changes. We decided he was a horse that was going to require much more time but also much more room that we could offer. We could not keep him isolated in a corral for the rest of his life. We found a suitable home for him and Double Star now lives in Canada with the son of Adolf Hungry Wolf. Last we heard he was doing well. Double Star was the most amazing athlete of a horse I have come across. He was truly all horse; he was extremely sensitive and he taught me patience and the subtleties of communicating effectively with these animals.
I did say that this was Riata’s story. Riata went on to live at the Quien Sabe for some time and we received updates fairly regularly from Robert on her. This instilled some comfort to us. She was adjusting well by all accounts and Robert was enjoying having a horse around that he could lay hands on easily. Robert planned to have her bred the next spring when she turned 5. We missed her terribly but there was some comfort in knowing she had what appeared to be a fairly good life down there, running on acres of land. It was a bit later in Riata’s story that things changed.
We lost contact with Robert shortly after our trade. The loss of contact came for variety of reasons that would require a completely separate post. During that time, regardless of the reasons for our loss of contact, I attempted , on various occasions, to send an inquiry of Riata via email to Robert . I did get a responses back on occasion, but the question pertaining to Riata was never answered. Of course, Tom and I began to wonder, and in our hearts we knew it was likely something had happened that Robert was unwilling to tell us. But what could we do? It had been over a year that had passed since the trade.
Only a year or so ago, we came to understand through other sources that Riata never did make it as a broodmare with Roberts herd. It was heartbreaking news. Apparently, he kept Riata for a while but eventually he took her to the auction. I can only hope that someone other than the canner bought her. I guess Robert had a change of heart as to her quality. I guess he had his reasons, but my only wish is that he would have called us first. We told him at the time we would take her back if she didn’t work out. He assured us he would. We would have driven down there to get her in a heart beat and gladly given him payment for her. If he would have just asked.
Unfortunately, Riata’s story is not unlike many others horses that once roamed the Quien Sabe. With the high cost of feed these days, Roberts age, and lack of help to run his ranch, we have come to learn that more and more of these special horses are going the auction way. What Robert has spent a lifetime creating is now disappearing. While I don’t agree with how he is handling his situation, I can understand it. In my humble opinion, I think he has not done these horses justice in marketing them and is now facing the consequence of that. I don’t know what he has left for horses currently but I do know that he did not have much of a foal crop last year. It seems as though the future of the Quien Sabe is uncertain and the day will come when the Barb horses running on it’s land are no more
While there are only a few of us that have been lucky enough to acquire one of these Barbs, I do hope that we can continue to promote and preserve them to the best of our ability. My resources on land, time and the green stuff is certainly limited, but I hope to do my part by promoting JB and his abilities, in the hopes that people will opt to breed their mares to him, to pass on the unique genetics and qualities that he can offer. Genetics that are not found in many other horses today.
Sometimes, as I stroll out to the corrals to feed in the misty moonlight of morning, I can see the shadows and hear the foot falls of Riata and Double Star when they come home to visit Acer Farm.
Stay tuned for Part 2 on our visit to the Quien Sabe, including how we came to acquire El Gato Rojo JB.