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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;



By Dan Pence, Dillon, MT


August 2013 issue  


Bajeto by Dan Pence


      So what’s wrong with your horse,” was the first question I had for the lady who answered my call.

      I was reading a regional paper while waiting for an oil change on my truck when I saw the advertisement.

      “Eleven-year-old Paso Fino gelding-$2,000,” the ad read. I had my cell phone, so I called the number listed more to kill time than anything.

      “Absolutely nothing,” the lady responded. “He’s a well-trained horse, but we’re moving and have to sell him.”

      I’m always suspicious of horses for sale in Gallatin County , Montana . People move to Montana from wherever primarily to escape social problems in cities and start a new life in the rural West. Unfortunately, many of the social problems follow them and the rural West is getting a bit crowded in places.

      Some decide a horse is necessary to blend into Western culture. They check with other horse owners in the area and tend to take their recommendations seriously. Recommendations generally involve an expensive, papered and, often, spirited animal instead of a calm older horse more suitable for beginners.

      Amazingly, it doesn’t take long to realize there are serious problems related to horse ownership. The horse does something to scare the new owner and a good, expensive animal ends up standing around a pasture with limited attention for several years before they put it up for sale.

      In a few days, Lois and I would be driving through the Bozeman area enroute to Billings. So we set up a time to check out the horse.

      March is not a good time to check horses in open pastures covered with three feet of heavy, crusted snow between Belgrade and Bozeman .  


Dan Pence rides Bajeto with the Three River ’s Back Country Horsemen in the Dillon, Montana Labor Day Parade. Next to him is Holly Herring, on Dan’s horse, Bess. Holly’s two Arabs, says Dan, “don’t do this sort of thing.”  

      The horse was penned in a small enclosure with a shelter. He was a small — maybe 13 hands — overweight animal that obviously had not been ridden or seriously handled for some time.

      I pushed him around, picked up his feet, put my weight on him, pulled his tail to see if he kicked, etc. but could see no way to ride him. He was a very nervous animal under the circumstances.

      As a member of the “Over-70 Gang,” a major selling point of this horse was his small size. You see, I’m tired of looking for a rock, stump or whatever to help me mount tall animals. Besides, the ground wouldn’t be that far away if he bucked me off!

      The owner said she paid $5,000 for him, then sent him back to the Paso ranch out of Livingston for another $1,000 worth of training.

      What she was really telling me was the horse was too much for her to handle and he fit into the category of good, neglected animals — something that concerned me.

      Based on her description, the horse had a PhD degree. She went on to suggest he needed to be ridden with a snaffle bit while holding a rein in each hand, both questionable requirements for such a highly-trained animal.

      I decided to take a chance. I offered $1,000 instead of her asking price and she handed me the lead rope.

      I hate it when that happens. Why didn’t I offer $500?

      He came with all sorts of papers, something of questionable value to me for an eleven-year-old gelding.

      I couldn’t pick up the horse for a few days due to medical obligations. A week later, grandson Caleb and I brought him back to our pasture in Dillon.

      We saddled him up and I started to lead him into the field. He bolted, yanked the lead rope out of my hand, knocked me down, ran over the top of me and took off. He ran hard until he stepped on his lead rope, turned a somersault, then lay there looking confused.

      I was lying on the ground looking pretty confused myself. Had I just spend $1,000 on bear bait?

      Dave Hooks, a good friend, suggested that since he had access to a round corral, maybe I should try some alternatives before shooting anything.  


      We saddled up, added a bridle with the “required” snaffle bit and I swung into the saddle. The gelding tried to run away but had no place to go.

      We both settled down after a while and his training began to show. He knew how to neck rein and didn’t require “two-handed” steering. Actually, he turned with heel pressure.

      We made several fast loops around the muddy corral and were soon crossing poles lying on the ground. He did not respect the snaffle bit and fought me for control. An obvious need involved his quest for understandable directions from his rider.

      I had another bridle in the trailer with a straight “roller” bit. We changed bridles and he was mine!  

      His long registered name is in a drawer somewhere along with lots of papers. We needed a name I could handle.

      He was a small, fat horse with heritage dating back to Peru . A Spanish teacher suggested Bajeto (Baa-hee-toe), which is supposed to translate into something like “little shorty.” The name fits, so he became Bajeto.

      Bajeto and I are buddies. He goes wherever I point him, which isn’t always good since Lois and possibly others claim I occasionally exhibit questionable judgment. My feet do get wet when crossing major streams while those on taller animals are not affected. He has trouble clearing downed logs when we go cross country through lodgepole timber. And I sometimes have problems seeing where we’re going while riding through tall sagebrush.

      Bajeto has the “Paso gait” which I enjoy, although others can’t keep up when riding with us at that speed. He is willing to take a more “normal” gait as needed when we ride with others and, more importantly, when riding through rough terrain.

      We’re both working on the mutual weight problem. And I don’t need a stump or rock when I swing into the saddle.  

     Freelance writer, Dan Pence, grew up in central Idaho and spent 35 years working for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho , Nevada and Montana . He has authored two books, “Horses, Mules, Men & Mountains,” and “The Fellowship of Fire.” For copies, contact the author at 406-683-4669;


Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;

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