In between all her ranching duties, Jena finds time to take pictures that document her way of life.

HARRISON, Mont. – Although Jena Madrid never really grew up around horses, they have quickly become her lifeline. It’s late in the evening, long after dark, by the time Jena pulls up in the truck and trailer, finally ready to unload her horse for the day. There is a tinge of defeat in her voice.

“Nothing really went well today,” she stated.

Jena is no stranger to hard work or setbacks for that matter. She does an excellent job taking it all in stride, but sometimes when you are freezing cold and exhausted, perspective can be hard to keep track of.

The Madrids have been working tirelessly during the month of November to back-ride their BLM permits and gather up the last remaining cows and calves that have straggled behind. Hunters had spotted two pairs up on one of their leases and after hearing the report, Jena saddled her trusty horse and trotted out after them.

She found the pairs, but one of the cows had terrible foot rot. Jena assessed the situation and knew there was no way she was going to fight this cow all the way down to the trailer. The decision was made that she and Chris would go back up the next day, give the cow her much needed medicine, then let her rest and heal for another week or so.

Just before Thanksgiving, Jena, with her horse and dogs, once again took off in search of the missing pairs, but this time, all that could be found was the one cow she and Chris had doctored earlier. Jena rode all day, crisscrossing the BLM permit, but as darkness approached so did a snowstorm, so Jena had to head back to the trailer empty handed.

“It got cold quick and you don’t really have any idea how cold it is until your cotton gloves are soaked through and you are still miles from the trailer,” Jena lamented.

When those calves are your yearly paycheck, being short two of them can make a difference. Hopefully another day of riding and searching will prove more successful. The thing about ranching is you can’t get too bogged down with one defeat, because there are thousands of other tasks that need to be done, especially with winter just around the corner for good.

Jena and Chris turned clean-up bulls in with the heifers they recently AI’d. Jena has been keeping a pretty close eye on them and was happy to report she only saw maybe five or six that cycled again. The couple was a bit worried. It was well below zero the day they chose to AI the heifers and Chris felt they were hard breeding. Preliminary evaluation makes it appear that Chris did a great job AI’ing, despite the cold weather.

In between checking cows, riding for strays and fencing, the Madrids have also been busy shuffling hay around. Jena has been working on consolidating stacks and moving the smaller ones off the hay fields. Chris has been busy trucking some of it around.

If the Madrids could be described in one word, it would be “busy.”

Looking ahead, the Madrids are keeping their nose to the grindstone. They have started their cattle on protein tubs to try and stretch the forage for a few more days, but that is a telltale sign that in not too long they will have to start feeding every day.

“Thank god I’ve got ranching, because it keeps me busy,” Jena chuckled.

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.