Wally Blossom – Native American Rough-Stock
Blossom furnishes bucking horses for ranch rodeos, stock-saddle
bronc ridings, and horse ropings in Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.
He runs his operation from his ranch on the Shoshone-Paiute Duck
Valley Indian Reservation, 100 miles north of Elko, Nevada, near
the town of Owyhee on the Nevada/Idaho border.
Wally was born and raised on this
reservation and has been around horses and cattle all his life.
Beginning when he was 13, he hired on during the summers as a buckaroo
on the vast Petan YP ranch, a big “wagon outfit” in northwestern
Elko County, Nevada. Gerry Chapin was cowboss at the YP when
Wally went to work there. Gerry says about Wally, “Wally was
good help. He worked for me several summers on the YP Wagon.
I always liked Wally. During branding he became a good roper.”
Coming from the cowboss, that is a big compliment.
returned to high school after his buckaroo wagon jobs and graduated.
He started training and selling roping horses. Wally bought
colts in the spring, worked with them during the summer, and sold
or traded them off in the fall. During this time, Wally always
entered the Big Loop Horse Roping Contest at the rodeo in Jordan
Valley, Oregon each spring. In 1996, he and Nathan Kelly, another
great Duck Valley Reservation Indian roper, won the coveted Big
Loop trophy saddles given to the two-person team that had the fastest
time in the horse roping.
Wally began to travel off the reservation
looking for a riding job. He hired on to ride horses at the Horseshoe
Ranch near Beowawe, Nevada. He then hooked up with Pat O’Malley,
who had an amateur rodeo outfit in Bruneau, Idaho and picked up
at rodeos with Pat for several years. Wally then traveled to Ellensburg,
Washington and started picking up at PRCA rodeos for the Frank Beard
Rodeo Company. All this time, Wally was watching and learning the
rodeo game. When he was not at a rodeo picking up, he was always
buying, selling and trading horses.
Bucking-Horse Breeding Program
Wally bought a load of horses from
the TS Ranch near Battle Mountain, Nevada. He kept a couple of
“cranky” mares. He also purchased a mare at a sale in Idaho that
came off the Diamond A Desert on the Nevada/Idaho border. He bought
a stud from the Frank Beard Rodeo Company in Washington.
Hogan, who had an amateur rodeo outfit in Idaho, sold him another
stud. Wally gave $75 for a blue-roan stud colt with Shire draft-horse
breeding that came through the sale ring in Shoshone, Idaho. He
also kept a couple of stud colts from his own horse herd.
Wally started putting a bucking-horse
breeding program together. Wally said, “I did not intentionally
start out to breed bucking horses, it just happened. I started
at the bottom. No one gave me anything. I did not have the money
to jump out and pay big bucks for bucking horses, so, I had to find
another way to make it work by buying, selling, breeding and trading
and that takes time. I don’t do this for the money.
I do it for the pleasure and the glory.”
I asked Wally what he thought
about the importance of mares in his bucking horse breeding program.
Wally said, “ The mares are a big part in raising bucking horses,
as they are in other horse events; but, about the time you think
you have this bucking horse breeding program figured out, the horses
will make a fool out of you. You don’t want to get too high
on your bucking horses. You just never know for sure what these
horses are going to do, from rodeo to rodeo.” This perhaps was as
honest an answer as I have ever heard about breeding bucking horses!
Wally now runs seven outside stud
bands on the Indian reservation. A stud horse is placed with 14
to 20 mares depending upon the age of the stud and the feed conditions.
These horses range in a big country on the reservation, much like
wild horses. The mares and their colts travel a long way to water
in some areas and the colts learn how to travel in rough country.
This is a big part of what makes these horses so tough and athletic
when it comes time for them to compete in rodeos.
When the stud bands are gathered
in early summer and corralled by Wally and his crew on horseback,
the stud colts are roped, stretched out, castrated, and branded.
Wally hot iron brands his horses with a quarter circle J D on the
left stifle. Livestock on the reservation, both horses and
cattle, is run “in common” with very few fences, so these horses
need to be branded to prove Wally’s ownership.
bucking-horse stud bands winter outside most years, much like wild
horses. However, every 10 years or so a hard winter will hit and
a big snowstorm will blow in on the reservation and cover up the
grass. Wally told this story of a hard winter a couple of years
ago, “It started snowing in December and would not quit. The snow
was piling up and drifting bad. The only way to get around was by
Wally began to worry that some
of his horses were not going to make the winter “outside.”
Wally and his crew, on snow machines, began to gather the horses
and bring them to the main ranch to be fed hay. Many days they would
leave the ranch at daylight and never get back home with a band
of horses until dark. I asked Wally if he thought he gathered
most of his horses. Wally said, “This was the first time that we
had tried to gather all of our horses. Some were a little hard to
bring home. We got most of them to the ranch before the weather
got real bad. We would find and start a band of horses with
the snow machines and let them go at their own pace toward the home
ranch. One day, we got turned around in a snowstorm and started
running around in a circle. The horses we did not get gathered moved
off onto the south slopes of the mountains and rock rims and wintered
out okay until spring came. Most of these outside horses on the
reservation know how to get along in a bad winter, much like antelope,
deer, and elk. We had plenty of hay at the ranch, so the horses
came through this tough winter in good shape.”
puts up enough meadow hay on the reservation each summer from irrigated
pastures to feed his horses in case another bad winter comes along.
He will grain his bucking horses early in the spring to help them
get started after a long hard winter. The rest of year the
horses are on native grass and hay meadows. Wally says, “I don’t
pamper my horses. They need to make a living outside and be real
horses.” These occasional tough winters are part of reservation
life and Wally says that this is the way it has always been in his
I asked Wally if he had raised
cattle on the reservation before he got into the bucking horse business
and he said, “Several years ago, I had a crossbred cattle herd but
since then I have sold these cattle. During that time, I thought
about raising rodeo bulls, so I got some Brahma bulls and played
with it. I tried out some bull calves in the bucking chutes.
One of these bull calves acted like it wanted to buck. I traded
this young bull to Jay Hogan who later took him to the NFR sale
in Las Vegas. Bud Kerby’s Bar T Rodeo Company from Utah bought the
bull. Bud has packed this bull to PRCA shows for the past several
years. The bull’s name is “Wally’s World.”
I asked Wally what he thought about
raising rodeo bulls. Wally said, “Bulls are hard to be around.
They tend to tear up fences. They are always getting hurt
from fighting with other bulls and you have to build expensive corrals
to keep them in. I would rather raise bucking horses. It is
a lot easier on me. There is a lot less work and headaches.”
has bucked very few mares at the rodeos for which he furnishes stock.
He said, “I haul mostly geldings to my rodeos. I only buck
each of my horses once at a two or three day rodeo. I have
enough bucking-horse geldings that I can haul to my rodeos, so I
do not need to mix gelding and mares. This stops a lot of injuries
from fighting between mares and geldings in the trailers and rodeo-ground
holding pens. I hauled 18 mares and a stud to a rodeo last summer
just to see how the mares would buck and they did good. I
have a lot of mares I have never tried. Most of the time, they have
babies at their side. I guess I am from the old school that
says you do not mix mares and geldings in the same corral.”
Wally Blossom Family:
wife, Teola, is the Vice-Principal at the Duck Valley reservation
combination school – grade school and high school. She is
also a big part of the Blossom rodeo business. The Blossoms have
two grown boys, Justin, who works for the Tribal Council on the
Reservation and Miles, who helps his Dad on the ranch and at rodeos.
Wally and his crew gather their
bucking horse stock and sort during mid-week. Most of his rodeos
are weekend shows. He has a semi-truck and trailer that will
haul 30 bucking horses and a couple of pickups and horse trailers.
This is a family operation, with not a lot of outside help. Wally
drives the semi truck and trailer. His wife and son each drive a
pickup and horse trailer with saddle horses and a couple of extra
bucking horses. They can haul enough horses in one trip to rodeos
so that they do not need to double back to the ranch for more horses.
Wally usually gets a couple of
the local buckaroos and his son Miles to pick up at the rodeos.
Wally sorts and flanks most of the bucking horses himself.
His wife helps sort the livestock, keeps records on the broncs,
and handles the corral gates when they sort.
biggest problem in transporting the horses is the distance Wally
must travel to get to the rodeos. The present price of diesel fuel
is a big problem. Wally lives a long way out in the country
and must travel many miles to rodeos. He says, “My closest
rodeo is 100 miles away.” This means there is a lot of night
driving and travel expense. It has always been that way in
the rodeo business. Wally remarked with a smile, “Maybe I should
start trailing my horses across country to rodeos like they did
in the old days.”
Wally said, “When I first started
in this business, I started out hauling two-year-old horses to horse
ropings in Oregon and Nevada. Hauling these young horses is
good for them. It teaches them how to load and travel in the
trailers and be around bucking chutes. Some of these two-year-old
horses that I hauled to horse ropings have gone on to be some of
my better bucking horses. Then I branched out into furnishing bucking
horses for ranch-hand rodeos. I buck horses that are at least
four and five years old or older at my rodeos. This Old West Bronc
Riding has grown in popularity each year. Folks in this part of
the world would much rather watch stock saddle riding than they
would bull riding. Last year, we did 25 ranch rodeos, regular rodeos,
and horse ropings. We picked up three new rodeos. Ranch-hand
rodeos have become very popular events in the west and people will
turn out to watch cowboys get on my broncs and ride them with their
stock saddles. Some of my broncs can be pretty rank at times and
it takes a good hand to stay on. Some of my horses buck straight
away; others turn back. You just never know how they are going to
be. That is what makes it good watching and the cowboys like it
when the horses really get wild and get in the air.” I asked
Wally if he was doing all the rodeos he could handle now. He replied,
“I could do more rodeos, especially in the month of June. I have
the horses to do more.”
Blossom has found a regional market for his reservation-raised bucking
horses at ranch hand rodeos and horse ropings in the Great Basin.
Wally does not have a PRCA Stock
Contractor’s card at this time. When we asked Wally if this was
one of his long-range goals he said, “That will happen. It just
takes time. We are not getting rich at what we are doing but
we are making a living doing something we love--raising bucking
P.O. Box 117
Owyhee, Nevada 89832
Phone - 775-757-2210
Photos by Lee