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Wally Blossom
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Wally Blossom – Native American Rough-Stock Contractor

Wally 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.

After High School

Wally 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.

Early Years

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.

Jay 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!

Stud Bands:

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.

 Big Winter:

Wally’s 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 snow machine.

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.”

Wally 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 country.

Cattle and Bulls:

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.”

Gelding and Mares:

Wally 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.”

 The Wally Blossom Family:

Wally’s 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. 

Getting to the 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.

The 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.”

Wally 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 horses.”

Contact Information:

Wally Blossom
P.O. Box 117
Owyhee, Nevada 89832
Phone - 775-757-2210

Article by:  Mike Laughlin
Photos by Lee Raine

E-mail:  mikelaughlin@hotmail.com 

 


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