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"Your Equine Connection Station"

"The Beginnings -- About Us"

River Dance Ranch and how it all began...

  Dad & Amber

 From the beginning, horses have been a very important part of our families lives... 

This is my Dad, Melvin Dennis, with one of our quarter horse colts, Amber, who was born one nice Sunday morning in June 1966.  Amber was 9 months of age in this picture…  he was  big, tough and square... created perfect for cattle!   My roping mare, Cinder, a big coal black quarter horse mare with a big white face was Amber's dam, his sire was a big sorrel Overo Paint stud named “Apache Dance”.  Tanky and tough mattered most in them days. 

When Amber was born, I had given him to my younger Sister, Carol, she had just turned 9 yrs old at the time. She loved Cinder, and I thought that since Amber was Cinder's foal, that he would be a great gift for her since her birthday had been just the month before... I adored her then, and I adore her still... but, Amber had other ideas, and he made the decision early in his life as to who "he" would "own" ... and that choice was our Dad... Amber was my Dad's favorite colt of all times. They were very bonded and seemed to have quite a connection from the very first day he was born. What Dad asked Amber to do, Amber would do, and you could almost see a smile on his face while he was doing it!  

Dad had worked with Amber since he was born, touching him, leaning on him, sacking him out and preparing him for the day when he could be ridden ... When it came time, Dad broke this colt the gentle way, our family has always believed in this method, long before all these new fancy "Training Methods" came into vogue, we were using the same methods, handed down from generation to generation. There was no magic way of doing it, no secrets, no 'new method' that he tried, just the same 'old method' that our family had used from the beginning, and Amber didn't give so much as a sidestep or squirm!  Its almost not right to use the word "breaking" him, since he seemed to have been born wanting Dad to ride him... and would have let Dad ride him when he was a baby if Dad had asked him too, that colt was just a natural, and sometimes it seemed he had a "communication connection" with Dad's brain, sometimes, he was more people than we were!   That colt could have cared less about the rest of us, not realizing that he belonged to my Sister, HE had made his choice, as many of the tough ranch horses do... he was definitely a "one man" horse.... Dad has always said its all about Trust, a firm but kind hand and thinking like the horse does, with honesty and never hurting them, let the horse 'know' what your going to do with him, give him all the 'tools' mentally to think about what your doing with him, and you will get what you want 90% of the time, the other 10% will take a little longer, and that’s ok too he said, because that means he’s at least 'thinking about what you want', its a comfort zone he needs to be in, when he’s there, then he'll give it. 

 Dad is still quite a hand with the horses, and they all still love him! 

I tell you all this, because our family goes way back in the horse business... my Dad's Father, my adored Grandpa Dennis, felt horses were the only mode of transportation that the good Lord intended for mankind, and when I was young, he would tell me stories about his adventures as a young man, a real cowboy, and about his adventures in the wilderness with just him, 'the crew' he was with, and his horse... whether it was on cattle drives, or moving horses or cattle from range to range, and other events with the horses in his life... Grandpa Dennis said that once his horse got a stone bruise crossing a shallow part of a river while moving some cattle, and in them days, the horses were tough, you just got off, took your bandana off, ran it through the cold water of the river, wrapped it around your horses ankle or where ever the bruise was, tied it off, jumped back on your horse and kept going... that ole horse never complained, it was just the way it was in the 'tough ole days' he would say with a far away look.  He told me of sharing a  'line cabin' (a wranglers cabin) once with his horse during a cold winter while the winds and snow got higher and colder outside, it was a 'bad’un', (a line cabin is a tiny little cabin, placed here and there on the ranges where the cowboys check the cattle or horses, giving them the opportunity to get in out of the cold if they are to be out for more than a few days, or if the weather turns bad fast, oft times saving their lives). Grandpa Dennis is originally from Tennessee, then moved to Oklahoma in his early life, and the winters in Tennessee and Oklahoma, where he ended up settling eventually, and where most of us were born, are fierce! You kept your beloved horse as warm as you kept yourself, that was your only way out...  horses, a true and loyal companion at many campfires ... "can't get a car to do that" he would tell me ... My Grandfather once owned an auto repair shop in the 20's with a couple of his older sons, when my Dad was very small, but my Grandfather never drove a car!

My Dad's Grandpa and Grandma Upchurch, his Mothers parents, owned and ran the only ranch in the Midwest (Oklahoma) that had a contract with the United States Government to supply them with Calvary horses, for the wars, and later Army horses for peacetime (through the end of the 30's).   A very large and good business for the times.   Granddad Upchurch had a large ranch and at any given time horses were being bred, raised and trained to fill the large quota of government contracts, and later on, for many others.  Grandpa Upchurch was an amazing trainer.  These were the days before hot walkers, leg protections, wash racks, or horse trailers of any kind and many other wonderful conveniences that we spoil our horses with these days.  The days before 'this new training method' or 'that new training method' craze... the days before a lot of wonderful new conveniences for horse and rider, but still, a true horseman had time to remember that his horse had feelings and needs, deserving a strong and steady yet light hand, and above all, should get honesty and be able to trust. 

Grandpa and Grandma Upchurch had a wonderful sprawling ranch home on their ranch with a porch all around, Dad also remembers sweet days as a child in his Grandmothers warm kitchen eating a wonderful peach cobbler pie that she made, and drinking nice fresh milk with it... Peach cobbler pie is still Dads favorite, and with these memories, who could blame him!

Now, my Mother's Dad, Grandpa Riley, had draft horses, quite a change from the quarter horses we're all so used to.   She, and her Mother, my beloved Grandma Riley, have told me many stories about Grandpa Riley’s draft horses and the work they would do for him, and many other stories that warm the heart about his loving and kind ways with these big gentle giants... Grandpa Riley would line all 5 of their kids along the big back of one these giants for a ride when they were finished with their work for the day, and the kids  would get a gentle swaying ride back up to the farmhouse ... lending one wonderful memory after another about these gorgeous big horses, and 5 of his tiny little treasures that he trusted on their backs, even though he was leading them the whole time, these big sweet giants seemed to know the precious cargo they had on them, and loved Grandpa Riley enough to want to do exactly as he asked them ... I think Grandpa Riley had as special a way with the drafts as my Dad, Grandpa Dennis and Grandpa Upchurch did with their breed of horses... 

and it all seems to come back down to the same ways, the same methods...

its an "Equine Connection"

and for River Dance Ranch, its all in the blood... and that’s why we are…

"The Equine Connection Station"

 ~ Tressa