Springtime at the Koppenhafer's
by Terry Allen
May 20, 2016
I got to know EJ by her telling me she liked my stories about Wyoming life. I learned that when she was a little girl of about four, her Mom would often find that she had run off to the barn and figured out how to get up on the back of whatever horse she could. Eventually she kept surviving so her Mom gave up and got used to it.
So one morning when I went in to get a breakfast burrito at Oboís, EJ saw me and rushed over with a big fork in her hand. "Hey, Terry," she said. "My mare is getting ready to foal and I thought that might make an interesting story, what do you think?" Well, I liked that her idea had nothing to do with the big fork and I told her it was a great idea.
"The only thing is it might come in the middle of the night," she said, and she looked at me to see what I was made of. Getting a call to film a colt being born sounded fantastic to me, so I gave her my card so she could wake me up.
I planned for taking pictures in darkness. So I took a daylight drive out to their place so I could find it at three in the morning. I selected a lens for the low light of a barn. I made sure my muck boots were in the back of the truck. I packed a survival bag with snacks and water in case it was a long delivery.
Then I waited. Every day I went in to Oboís and got a burrito or a bacon croissant and got a status report.
Finally, the colt came during the day and we all missed the big event. But, I did get out there about eight hours later and found the colt taking a snooze under the watchful eye of Mom, a quarter horse, otherwise known as Sassy, out of Playboy Buck Fever.
The new colt was comfortable with EJ and leaned in against her. In fact, if EJ had stepped away, the little guy would have fallen right over. Freckles the Dad with a family lineage up thru Playboy Buck Fever and China Sandman made himself known on the other side of a fenced in enclosure by banging around a bit. "We canít let him in here," EJ said. "Studs donít like other studs. They are known to kill Ďem and make sure they are dead."
Let go of by EJ and safe from Dad, the colt found his wake up health food snack where it was located on Mom. After the snack, he spent quite sometime sticking out his tongue and moving it around like he had peanut butter stuck to it. Then it was time for a little snuggle against Mom. Mom took a good sniff of his little butt. "They can tell if a colt is in good health by sniffing," said EJ.
I visited again a week or so later and the colt was in a much more robust attitude. He was curious and ran around the enclosure liked he owned the place, but still ran back to Mom frequently.
Warren led the mare and colt out of the barn and kept up a steady stream of information. "This colt was sold before he hit the ground," he said. "In the fall when he is weaned, heíll be going across Pole Creek road to his new home. The colt doesnít have a name yet because the new owner wants to spend time with him, so he can pick out a name that fits."
"When Dad was alive we had about 70 horses," he said. "That meant we were always the helpers. When he had his accident we had to take the lead and that meant we had to reduce the amount of horses to be able to do things right."
Warren had all his horses out tied up in a row to the corral fence so when Mike Frazier the farrier came out to shoe all the horses it would move along efficiently.
Mike works on an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico for two weeks then has two weeks off. He brought his wife and kids out on his shoeing rounds and set to work like he had no time to waste. "It takes between forty-five and sixty minutes to shoe one horse so Iíve got a pretty big day," he said. Daughter Brooke held her new Blue Heeler Jules as she watched her Dad work.
Mike is a very sturdily build man and from the looks of things it takes a lot of muscle to keep a firm hold on a horse leg and hoof. "Just shoeing doesnít keep me in good enough shape to shoe," he said. "I used to be a weight-lifter and I still have to do some to stay in good enough shape so I can do this job."
Bob Bing and a friend pulled into the yard to watch the shoeing and to say hello to the son of his old friend. Rambo, Warrenís Blue Heeler was keeping the horses at the corral in check. Mike was pulling nails out of his lips and pounding them into a new shoe, and little Brooke and Wyatt Frazier were at the corral with their hands out making friends with a curious new colt under the watchful eye of his Mother.
Such is everyday life in Wyoming. Just close your eyes and put your finger on a map of Sublette County. Drive out to that spot and you will find folks who have a connection to the land and the people who have chosen to live here. Stop and say hello, and chances are youíll end up talking with a friend.