- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) - While horseback riding along an arroyo in the Crownpoint area a recent spring afternoon, Nick Burnside noticed there was no grass.

It was drier than other years, when native grass would grow and mingle naturally with wildflowers of different colors that would bloom after the snowmelt and spring rains, even on the high desert range. But the area has seen little moisture this season, and there was not much growing for the herds of elk or deer that occasionally wander north of Mount Taylor - not to mention the local stray or feral horses that are seen roaming on the pastures along New Mexico Highway 371.

Burnside, 28, anticipated another season spending a large sum in hay to feed the family horses. Because of ongoing drought, prices have gone up to $16-$17 a bale - a few dollars more than last year.

“We deal with $200-$300 every two weeks in hay,” he said. “It’s too dry to grow hay here.”

But oak trees and different spices of pine trees looked good and healthy along the arroyo that hot afternoon, providing shade and shelter for the riders.

Burnside led this ride.

His brothers, Navarron and Nolan Burnside, followed behind.

Navarron Burnside was in the middle of the line, on a new horse - a feral mustang with a pinto pattern the family had recently acquired from Rough Rock, Arizona.

‘WE JUST BREAK THEM AND TRAIN THEM’

“We get them kind of wild,” Nick Burnside said about his horses. “We just break them and train them.”

Nick Burnside’s wife, Leona Begay and the couple’s 7-year-old son, Hanson Burnside, were in the back of the line.

The family rode slowly, quietly enjoying the scenery, while listening to country music from one of the cellphones that was on speaker.

“These horses learn quickly,” Nick Burnside said.

Suddenly, Hanson Burnside, who was in the back of the line, got excited.

The boy kicked the quarter horse he was riding on the sides, and without warning, he started galloping. He rode past his mother, his uncles, and his father. The child started going as fast he could on the narrow trail along the arroyo. The quarter horse, known for sprinting short distances, took the lead without much effort.

The young boy’s parents were not worried because riding was Hanson Burnside’s second nature. He grew up on the back of a horse, at the family ranch in Crownpoint. In fact, the mother said, he first got on the back of a horse when he was still in diapers. His father recalled when Hanson turned two or three years old at a rodeo. Everyone in the family participates in rodeos. It keeps them busy, and active at home.

There’s a lot of work maintaining the ranch, and caring for and training the horses. A lot of money is spent in hay and trips to rodeo events, but it is a family affair that keeps them together. “It helps us connect as a family,” Nick Burnside said. “There’s a lot that goes into the teachings. Things that my dad taught me when he was alive.”

___

Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com


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