Postscript to this essay: I have been blessed to share my legacy with our daughters, and though neither of them ride much now, those days spent in the saddle on the open range and on the mountain trails of Wyoming gave them a unique perspective on their own pursuits, their work ethic, and their ability to make their way in the world. BW  

In a recent series of Post by Blue Sky Sage Horseback Adventures on our Facebook page, I shared several photos of each of my parents, to illustrate that the “horse” in me comes from the generations before. Probably not something genetically inherited, but a cultivated exposure that was handed down from their parents, and grandparents. Here for instance, is my mother Shirley on her horse Silver, circa 1952. She and her dad Ollie raised horses together, from stock descended from a solid breeding program that Ollie’s father Sam had developed over many years, and a stallion Mom purchased, with the registered name of Hat Creek Rage. Sam also was part of the U.S. Army remount program that was based in that area of Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota from Fort Robinson. Mom and her sisters Olita and Julia all grew up riding home-grown and raised quality foundation Quarter Horses from Sam’s original lines.

Shirley Seaman and Silver, circa 1952, north of Harrison, Nebraska

Robert and Shirley Hladky, on their Wyoming ranch, 1995

 Shirley married Robert Hladky, my dad, on December 25, 1958 and they became partners not only in starting a family (I was first, September 1959!), and a fledgling cattle herd, but in raising a few of their own saddle horses from Rage and several mares they owned and pastured at Ollie’s. Dad was a foreman for Patrick Brothers Herefords north of Lingle, Wyoming for over 20 years, and for Bucky Barnette on up Rawhide Creek for about 6 years after that. During those years, he not only rode the ranch horses, but many of his own horses while doing all the cattle work. In 1975 they purchased their own small ranch in the same area, and that is where they live to this day, although the ranch was recently sold. Their entire life has revolved around raising kids and grandkids, working cattle, and raising and riding good horses to do the work on, with a little recreational roping and rodeoing thrown in just for fun.

Emily and Amanda in the Great Divide Basin/Chicken Springs, 2004

     While our daughters were not raised on a ranch, working cattle and training cow horses, they nevertheless have had the “horse” cultivated into them from both the Hladky and Wade roots of their tree. They grew up in horse camp, which revolved around hosting guests from all walks of life and from around the world, in hunting camp, in the Teton & Shoshone wilderness on summer pack trips, and the adventure ride camps along the Sweetwater and Little Sandy rivers. Both of them sit a horse beautifully, and occasionally when they come “home” (read: horse camp), they gather up and spend a day in the saddle with us. Horses are no longer part of their regular lives, as they have other interests and careers, but the freedom they experienced from riding has influenced their lives in ways that serve them well every day.

     I read many essays and social media postings that refer to people “loving” their horses, and while that is certainly a valid and heartfelt sentiment, I wonder that what we all really love about our horses is the freedom we feel that they give us. Freedom to cover the ground faster than we ever could on our own two feet; freedom to confess our sins and woes to an impartial ear, with no criticism or rebuke in return; freedom to center our energy and love on ourselves through this animal that has borne the glory and heartache of nations for many a century. And, freedom to raise several generations of family with integrity and empathy for both human and animal, while in the pursuit of a livelihood that is honorable and culturally relevant. And while change is inevitable in this life, the foundations cultivated into us can serve to carry us through if we use them wisely. The horse carries a heavy burden for us humans, don’t you think?

Emily, Amanda, and their dad Mike Wade, Sweetwater Camp, 2005