A Spoiled Gelding from the Great Matador Ranch

Matador Ranch is located in Channing, Texas. (Photo courtesy of the Matador Ranch)

By Ralph Chain

During the drought in the 1950s, the Matador Ranch was next to the largest ranch in the United States. They had to move a lot of the cattle to Canada and South Dakota because of the drought.

Hal Cooper, who ran the sale barn at Woodward, Okla., and Phil Ferguson went out to buy cattle from the Matador at Channing, Texas. They didn’t buy the cattle but bought 900 head of horses that the Matador was selling. They shipped the horses back to Woodward, Okla., and had two special horse sales, selling the Matador horses.

In this group of horses there were an outlaw group called “the spoiled bunch” that no one wanted to ride. All the young cowboys had gone to war and the older cowboys didn’t want to ride them. In this group of horses, I saw a Palomino horse that I liked. He had a four-year brand on his shoulder, meaning he was born in 1944, and the Matador horse brand was 50 on his left hip.

I told my granddad, who was at the sale in Woodward, I wanted that horse, and he told me that horse would kill me because he knew about the group of “spoiled horses.” While my dad and I were going to Wichita, Kan., to sell cattle, my granddad bought the horse at the sale. When I got home, I was surprised that he bought the horse for me. He gave $80 for him, and I named him Lightning later on.

A fellow by the name of Jess Chain was working for us at the time. I was surprised when we put the horse in the chute and put a halter on him, he was broke to lead.

I tied him in the stall in the barn and walked out beside him. He never took his eyes off of me and watched me all the time. I went in to lead him out of his stall, and he wouldn’t move.

Jess got behind him, and I was in front of him when he came out the door. He struck me with his front feet, knocking me down. I found out that was his problem. He would strike you with his front feet. He wouldn’t kick you or pitch. He was just a mean horse.

Learn more about this spoiled gelding in the May issue of OKFR!