GENETICS OR ENVIRONMENT

GENETICS OR ENVIRONMENT

As a youth growing up on the ranches that my father managed, we often discussed ideas and ideals.  Dad would ask somewhat loaded questions and then work me through a discussion that covered the pros and cons of whatever the topic of the day was.  It took some time, but I came to realize the great value he had provided me in helping me develop grounded, or at least thought out, opinions of things pertaining to ranching.

One summer when I was a teenager I got the chance to ride several young horses.  Most all of them were coming along real well and they were enjoyable to ride as they learned fast and seemed to be better each time I rode them.  Periodically Dad would ask to ride one a bit to see how they were coming along.  One day after trying a young horse he asked me, “Do you think genetics or environment is the most important in developing a great ranch horse.”  I tried to sound wise in my responses but I based them all on individual horses I knew rather than on principle. 

I quite liked the race bred colt I was riding that we’d acquired from a university where he was bucking off horsemanship students.  He could outrun any wild cow I’d found in our part of Nevada and I was sure he would make me look good heading in an arena.  His genetics were top notch and must be the most important.

Then I thought of the roan colt I’d bought off of the reservation while he was still sucking his dam.  His bloodlines could have included anything and were most certainly mongrelized.  He grew up on the ranch and seemed to want to do his best to help out.  His athletic ability was marginal but he was very pleasant to ride and gave his all.  Maybe the environment was top priority after all. 

I stumbled through some kind of a disjointed explanation to my dad that didn’t even make sense to me.  After listening, he replied, “Do you mean that good horses could have good genetics or good environment, but the very best ones most likely have both?”  I’d been saved.  That sounded so good I knew that was exactly what I had meant. 

Over the years I’ve thought a lot about that discussion.  Then I came to realize it fit ranchers too.  While a lot of us claim ranching is in our blood there are also some that have ranching in their head or heart.  May your ranching be great wherever you got your start. 

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