The Inspiration

A couple of years ago, right after my old mare had her most recent foal, in looking at her, I was impressed with how matronly she had become. Time and life had aged her quite gracefully, and I reflected on the foals she had produced in her time, and all the years I've enjoyed with her. I realized, that she has been a truly good, if not great mare, of the quality and substance that could spawn a legacy to pass down to future generations... in short, a Matriarch.

In compiling the materials in the course of creating a sculpture to capture a little bit of her spirit... I saw what a long and busy life she's had here. I've selected some pictures so you can see a bit of the mare we all know as "Sierra".

A few hours old . . .

At about 4 months

As a 4 year old

As a yearling

Age 10 and 11

Family Horse, Work Horse, Roping Horse...

A few weeks before her first foal

With her second foal

Waiting on the third foal . . .


Sierra at her new home

Summer of 2002
Age 17

Sierra was foaled in 1985. I showed her at the county fair as a weanling and as a yearling where she placed first and second respectively. As a two year old, she went into the feedlot, and was used for all types of cattle work, and put on a lot of miles in a month than most horses ever see in a lifetime.

At around 4 years of age, she was introduced to roping, and took to it immediately. Always mellow, and sometimes even a bit lazy... but when it was time to work a cow, or rope one, she was more than ready. I traveled a little with her, taking her trail riding and such, and started her on barrels and games, but never really had the chance to compete with her due to time constraints.

My daughter had had some not very nice experiences with another pony we had, and for almost a year, refused to ride. But Sierra was always around at the roping pen, and one day she decided she couldn't stand riding the rail anymore, and climbed on. Sierra is one of those horses that gauges a rider's skill immediately. At first, my daughter just wanted to sit there, and that's what Sierra did. Step by step my daughter got brave enough to make her walk around, then trot around, and the next thing I knew, both kids were holding races outside of the arena! Sierra never went faster than my daughter was ready for, and thanks to her, my daughter was able to regain her confidence and enjoy riding once more.

Throughout the years, Sierra produced three foals, when she was the ages of 6, 13 and 15 respectively. When she was 12, the years of hard work in the feedlot (often comprising 8-10 hours a day, most days of the week) had taken their toll. Her front ankles became arthritic, and she spent a lot of time laying down. While she still gave her all while working, despite it all, and still loved roping, the daily grind was too much for her and she was retired from the feedlot.

I decided to breed her, and was able to find some pasture for her to stay in. Being able to walk around all the time, but at her own pace resulted in a dramatic difference. She was almost back to her old self... more comfortable on her feet, and running and playing with the rest of the broodmares, where she was the unchallenged top mare of the group. After she had her third foal, we had to bring her back home since the pasture was no longer available. But we had a fairly large corral at the time, so she became the the alpha mare at home, and kept all the youngsters in line... her own foal plus an assortment of yearlings and two year olds. Occasionally we rode her, and she didn't mind-- in fact it seemed as if she was dismally bored without work to do all the time.

In 2001, circumstances changed and I needed to find a new place to keep the horses. I could not locate a place to keep any for several months, and had to try to sell them. At this point, Sierra was given away to Gary Deal, as he had some pasture space, and his granddaughter loved horses. I was sad to see her go... she was a fixture here for so many years... from the day she was born. I was able to find a new place to keep the horses that remained, and I knew Sierra had a good home, so all was well. I still have her last daughter, "Peaches", and Sierra... well... she hasn't quite retired yet.

Now she happily rules the roost at Gary's place... and she's teaching a new family all about horses and riding. She went to a trainer in spring of 2002 for a couple of weeks to clean off a little bit of "rust"... and it was clear, despite her 17 years of age, and her somewhat-stiff ankles... she was not ready to be merely a pasture ornament! Even at that age she learned some new suppling moves and still eagerly sought turning the barrels. Back at Gary's place... his granddaughter is learning how to ride, and building her own confidence step by step... just as my own daughter had done. Gary is convinced she's dismally bored just hanging around the pasture... in fact any time someone drives near with a trailer, she gets all excited and seems ready to go... maybe she's thinking its time to go to a roping again? And she's always ready to be saddled up and go riding around in the trees in Gary's pasture.

Sierra's always been a sweet, and mellow lady, but with a spark of fire underneath that she'll bring out and give her all for the rider who asks for it. She's still got the spark, even after all these years... and its no wonder I chose to use her as the basis for the sculpture "Matriarch".

--Carol Williams
August, 2002

Update, 2004
In late March of 2003, our beloved Sierra contracted EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis) and was humanely euthanized. The onset of symptoms appeared suddenly, and were so severe as to indicate a poor prognosis, even with the best of treatments. Sierra will be sorely missed by all of us.

Thankfully, I have her daughter, "Peaches" to carry on the line, and who is every bit as good as her dam, if not better. Like her mother, Peaches is very talented and versatile, and already goes with me on trails and horse camping, competes in games and team penning and is still in training for reining.

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