Watercolor of Dodger & Lucy

We’ve had some transitions around our barn in the last month. Recently, we said a final farewell to our old friend, Roger Dodger—possibly the best cow horse I ever rode! Dodger was 30 years old and lived a long and productive life– his first 13 years he was the foreman’s horse on a big Texas cattle ranch, and the last 17 years, here with us in Colorado. Dodger was laid to rest here at our ranch, beside some of our most treasured horses who also lived out their old age in dignity and comfort in the past few decades. 

Photo Credit: Heidi Melocco

I bought the handsome palomino gelding at the very first Legends of Ranching performance horse sale. He was a hot-blooded, power-packed 13-year-old and he was WAAAY too much horse for the average rider. After a decade of doing serious ranch work, this horse was an expert at all phases of cow work, with the ability to immediately adjust to any task at hand—be it herd work, cutting, roping, boxing, or going down the fence. (Aren’t sure what “down the fence” means? Google “reined cow horse.”) 

I kept Dodger for myself for a few years, slowly de-tuning his training so he was less reactive and responsive, getting him used to a slower pace of life, and giving him time to learn to be a pleasure horse. Then I sold him to one of my best friends, Lucy Achenbach (who many of you have met because she travels with me a lot and has assisted in more clinics than I can count). 

In the years that followed, Lucy and Dodger climbed all over the Colorado mountains and did a variety of ranch horse activities where Dodger was always the star of the show! He came back to live here at my ranch 7 or 8 years ago, where he lived out his retirement in style. We will miss that horse, but Lucy and I both consider ourselves lucky to have Dodger in our lives, and we cherish the memories.

Another big transition to our herd occurred when my young horse, Pepperoni, left for Texas, with my dear friend Nancy. This was not a sad occasion for me because I am not saying goodbye to this exceptional horse. Nancy and I have shared a few horses in the past decade, and she made me promise, when I bought Pepper, that I would give her first consideration if I decided to sell him. 

A Note from Nancy: 

When you were at the auction and told me about how much you loved this horse, I immediately looked into his background to see how he was bred.  He had a great dam and sire and of course his grand sire is Peptoboonsmal. I’ve followed every move you’ve made with this horse and at times I would ask, “When are you going to sell him?” and remind you to think of me! 

Having bought horses from you in the past, I had my eye on him from the start. The timing was right for both of us, and I was super excited that I would soon be his new mom. Riding him several times, and of course knowing his background, I was very excited to bring him home.  

You and I have been friends for a long time, and we try to see each other once or twice a year. With that, I had comfort knowing you would still see him and that he would be “our” horse, always.

Pepper at his new home with Nancy

Because what I love most is training young horses, and because Pepper has matured into a big and talented horse, I am ready to start over with a younger and smaller horse. Nancy and Pepper are the perfect match for each other, and I know they will go on to do great things together. Our longstanding agreement is that he is not her horse, but “our” horse. I know that she will share him with me whenever I am doing clinics or events near her. So that’s how I ended up riding Pepper during my presentations at the CHA International Conference this month, where he performed like a champion in the Fort Worth Cowtown Coliseum, and made his other-mother proud.

Luckily, I have my awesome little mare to ride, who is right-sized for me at fourteen hands even. Annie is a quick-footed reined cow horse, a sports car edition, finished in the bridle and a machine on the trail. Now that I have more time to ride her, it’s been fun getting back in sync with her. She’s one of the best bridle-less horses I’ve ridden, and after three years of training a big, young, rambunctious horse, she will be a blast to ride!

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15 Comments

  1. Julie and Lucy, We’re so sorry to read about Dodger. He sounds like an awesome horse and we hope you take comfort in the wonderful memories and great home you provided him. -Lynn and Mike

  2. A wonderful tribute to a memorable part of your herd! I smiled between the tears as I read the loving account. Also smiled that “Pepper” is in a good place and you now have time for Annie and more memories.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a great life’s commitment you make to all horses you take on, Julie, a heart song that you live in both thought and deed.

  4. It is always hard to say good bye to our trail buddies but to have them at all is a privilege we can always go back to in wonderful memories. I had a little 1/2 arab mare I got as a 2 year old, we became best friends and when I had to say good by to her at 31 years of age, it was a big loss but she was buried on my vets good friends ranch overlooking the ocean. They are both in their happy place and never suffered.

  5. I know how you feel. I had my eye on a little 1/2 Arab/1/2 quarter filly and told the guy if he ever wanted to sell her, I would like to be the first he would call. He called me when she was coming three and I did all the saddle work with her. I rode her bareback primarily and did show her a little. I lost her at 33 and luckily my vet had a place to bury her next to his roping horse. They were great years. I still have two horses but at 79, I mostly just enjoy their company and tinkering with them.
    Wonderful memories for you and for me.

    I do miss your show but know you are in a good place.

    Sincerely, Sue Misplay (yes – it is a real name)

  6. Thank you for these two stories. I have read and watched as Pepperoni has grown up. I have loved his story and am glad he remains a part of your life. We will hopefully see more of him in months and years to come. Loved the tribute to Dodger too. Sounds like one heck of a horse. I am fast coming up on that time for my boy and at my age (68) I am not sure I can find another to enjoy the rest of my riding days.

    Thank you also for all the knowledge and help you give the horse world,,,,especially those of us who are so far behind you in that knowledge!

  7. So sorry to hear about Dodger. My heart goes out to you and Lucy!

  8. I never met Dodger but I did get to meet you and Pepperoni at C-Lazy U ranch in 2020 (actually just before the fire reached the ranch). After 2 years of doing my best to rehab my little cutting horse and concluding he just won’t ever be sound enough for some of the things I want to do, we talked then about how hard it is to find a healthy sound performance horse. I recently bid and won a 5yr old mustang mare who is also 14 hands but built like a tank. She’s still with her trainer in New Jersey because we are going very slow with her to get it RIGHT with her. She’s already doing 2’ jumps and is so supple and willing I’m lucky she’s so small or she would have been scooped up by eventers for sure. Hopefully at some point in future we can ride together on our little horses. Cuz it takes a GREAT big horse to beat a GOOD little horse!

  9. Loved this Julie!
    Jacqui from CLazyU clinic 2020

  10. I learned so much from one of your videos along time ago when you were on Dodger. You have always been my go to person if I had to look up on what to do and what not to do with my horse. You have been an inspiration. RIP Roger Dodger .

  11. You are the real deal, Julie. I love how compassionate you are and how you handle your horses— not to mention that you generously share so much with us.
    Enjoy your little mare. Can’t wait to see what your next horse will bring.

  12. Always inspiring to read your blogs. Thanks Julie!
    Gail Wade

  13. Julie. So sorry for your loss. I live in Pawleys Island,SC and have over an hour drive each way to get to my barn. That’s over 240 miles minimum each week so I can ride and train the love of my life. I am so grateful for your podcasts. They keep me going on my trips. I often have heard you speak of Dodger over the years. He has left you with so many beautiful memories. Have a blessed day.

  14. The first time I ever saw you.

  15. Julie I remember seeing you on a little segment on RFD, and you were riding that horse. Good memories.


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