BIG SANDY, Mont. – It happens every year, but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier.
“It’s terrible,” said rancher Stan Weaver of Weaver Quarter Horses. “It's a tough go right now. We just started calving. We've got 11 calves. Just like everybody, you get up every two hours and look at them. A guy puts in a lot of hours when the weather's like this.”
Snow followed by an Arctic cold front brought temperatures all over Montana down to as low as minus 40 with wind chill.
“The cows are in real close so we can keep an eye on them all the time,” Stan said. “It was 24 below last night and I think the high today is 12 below. We’ll check about every two, two and a half hours, 24 hours a day…Everybody's kind of living with their cows; it's just the way it is.”
Stan’s been at it so long – his whole life – he doesn’t have to set an alarm to tell him to get up.
“You're worried so you just don't rest much,” he said.
The Weavers have a spacious heated calving barn, which allows them to get the calves in good shape before sending them back outside.
“That’s the one thing about the calves, once they get dried off and suck, boy they're tough,” he said. “When it's like this, I like to keep them in two or three days, but you get down into later in the month when you're getting 10, 12 calves a day, then, you know, you kind of got to keep turning them out all the time.”
Stan and Nancy recently returned from Fort Worth, Texas where they attended the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Celebration of Champions. The event features top horses and riders from eight geographic regions competing for titles in 14 events. In the signature event, the World’s Greatest Horseman, horses compete in four contests in one bit: herd work, rein work, steer stopping and cow work.
Stan, president elect of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), handed out awards to the top NRCHA stallion and the top mare at the annual banquet.
“They’re just so well trained and, you know, they’re just awesome,” he said. “That horse has to do four events. They have to be pretty versatile, like for the reined cow horse, and they have to be ‘cowy’ enough to do the cutting, and they have to have the mind to do the reining, and then they have to have the speed to do the cow work. So, they've got to be a pretty athletic horse to do it.”
Stan knows the kind of training that goes into a horse that excels at so many events.
“Once you get them trained for that, they're so well broke they can do anything,” he said. “I look at the rider and the horse together. The only way those horses get that good is if somebody puts the time in with them.”
Stan and Nancy will return to Fort Worth for the March 12 AQHA Convention, where Stan will be sworn in as the organization’s president.
“I do enjoy visiting with horse people and talking with them and hearing their concerns or problems and then trying to help them with them,” Stan said. “I've been able to help a lot of people with their problems, mostly with association problems or registration problems. That's a good thing; a guy can do that.”