Ralph Nester: There are Horsemen and There are Not

While managing Penowa Farms, I needed help and hired people in summer to mow fields, muck stalls and do general farm work.  My brothers were excellent at driving tractors, trucks, backhoes, dump trucks, cement trucks, hay trucks and anything that had a motor.  We’d even driven teams of horses on the farm in Virginia, so we could pretty much steer and drive anything.  We never climbed on any piece of equipment we couldn’t master in just few short minutes.

We’d even steer piece of roofing tin that had blown off a barn of one of the old coal mining town houses we lived in…we’d bend the front up so we could ‘sleigh ride’ down the hundred foot tall coal slate piles.  In the summertime, it was ‘shaley’ and we could pick up some real speed in dead of summer, we didn’t have to wait for snow.  We got some nasty cuts doing that, but we flew down those slate hills.

My brother, Pete, came to work for me at Penowa Farms and he was doing all kinds of chores,  mowing the fields with a tractor,  cleaning stalls, driving the tractors through the barns as we mucked stalls and hauling them to the manure pit and unloading them.  One day, we were in a hurry to get the horses in for the day and I asked Pete to bring in Chester and Willy. They were Tennessee Walker horses used in field trials, bird dog field trials, which the owner,  Mr. Sasso frequented.

Anyway, it was first day of fall with a nip of coolness in the air.  We brought in the Tennessee Walkers.  We walked them across a sloping grass embankment alongside the roads from the paddock to the barns.   I told my brother Pete to just hop on Willy and lead Chester and they’d take you right to the barn.   All we used on them was a rope lead shank…well, Pete hopped up on Willy with Chester in tow.   With the brisk air and Pete being a first time rider, I was proud of him.  When he went across the ditch, Chester broke into a quick little bucking move which excited Willy and then Willy bucked and kicked at Chester and Chester kicked back and squealed and kicked Pete in the leg.  That was the first time I ever saw more than a walk, slow at that, out of either horse.  Anyway, Pete jumped off Willy and said, “Brother, some people are cut out to ride horses, and I know that I am not.”

Every day, I would saddle up Willy and my six-year old twin daughters, Janet and Jayne, would ride him all over the farm.  I’d go about my business and they would just go where they wanted.  Only instructions I ever gave then was not to go on part of the farm near the colt and stallion barns.  There was never an incident.

Willy never bucked again, ever and Chester kept moping around being Chester.  I blamed the fresh fall air then, but I believe now it was them knowing Pete was never gonna be a horseman.  Pete was 17 at the time, and I’m sure he never got on another horse.   I guess some people are just not meant to be horseman.   Pete turned out to be a top welder and boiler maker, owns his own welding company now.

Willy, one of the Tennessee Walkers pictured with my twin daughters, Jayne and Janet.



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