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B.C. Teenager Ranches and Rides - Amanda Munsey, 18, Breaks Colts and Runs Farm Operation

B.C. Teenager Ranches and Rides
Amanda Munsey, 18, Breaks Colts and Runs Farm Operation

FALKLAND "I was on a horse from the time I could sit," says Amanda Munsey. "I cried when my parents took me down."

The gutsy 18-year-old breaks up to twenty young horses a year - a tough job usually reserved for seasoned cowboys. Amanda also owns several horses, and over 200 head of sheep with boyfriend, Dallas Fitchett, who grew up on a ranch in Vernon.

This winter, Munsey 'lambed out' 150 head of sheep - not always a pleasant job. "I've pulled lambs," Amanda says. "Sheep usually carry two or three babies. When you put your hand in the ewe (to assist in the birth) the lambs can be in a big tangle," she explains.

Amanda grew up farming and ranching with parents Ross and Cynthia, and siblings Tiffany and Lee. Everyday, Munsey commutes from Vernon to ride young horses at her parents' Falkland farm.

Cold weather doesn't stop the cowgirl from riding daily. To avoid cold temperatures and spring mud, some riders keep their horses at heated indoor arenas, or use the winter as a holiday from sitting in the saddle. "I ride rain or shine," Amanda says matter-of-factly "I don't take a young horse out on ice, but when it's cold, I put on overalls and a hat and out I go."

While working with horses, Amanda completed Grades 11 and 12 in one year. For a high school project, Amanda rode her horse Skippy in a fast-paced reining pattern. Taped on home video, Amanda guides the shining palomino through spins, roll backs, and sliding stops - without a bridle. While Skippy canters and gallops in smooth circles, Amanda raises both arms in the air. Blonde hair streaming, horse and rider appear to fly.

She says honestly, "I wanted to work and do something with my life. I had good grades, but school was wasting my time." Now, Munsey is enrolled in a Pharmacy Technician course, but her heart belongs to ranching.

Amanda plans to raise buffalo, sheep, beef cattle, and horses on her own place someday. "Northern Alberta's cold, but the land is affordable. We could buy a big place there. I could handle the cold," Munsey says.

Munsey grew up helping at fall round-ups and spring brandings -- she can rope cattle from horseback and give vaccination shots to livestock. Bob Munsey, Amanda's grandfather, managed one of the world's largest ranches, the famous Gang Ranch. Paintings of Bob, by renowned western artist and Falkland resident, John Schnurrenberger, adorn the walls of the Munsey house.

Munsey has earned her knowledge of horses. While belonging to two 4-H clubs, Amanda traveled around B.C., showing and competing in Little Britches rodeo. Riding a borrowed mount - a quick moving cow horse - Amanda also won cutting competitions. The teenager worked summers with horse trainer Larry Nelles, "whose like an uncle. I traveled around B.C. and Alberta with Larry giving clinics." Living at the Nelles homestead in Revelstoke, Amanda helped run a busy bed and breakfast, guided trail rides of up to thirty riders, cleaned stalls, and built fences.

Amanda's other role-models are her parents: her mom, Cynthia, is a brand inspector for Salmon Arm and Enderby; Amanda's father, Ross, is a former rodeo rider. "I'm a Daddy's girl," admits Amanda, affectionately. "Dad and I always get along. We work the horses together."

Young horses can be unpredictable, but that doesn't bother Amanda: "We like the colts 'unstarted.' Dad and I do the breaking. Young horses can be frightened by someone who doesn't know what they're doing." she says.

Using the 'resistance-free' training method, Amanda first establishes basic training principles with each horse. "If a horse is confused, we start at the basics again and work from there," she explains. "I never push a horse into learning. Some riders treat young horses roughly. Seeing a horse being abused really bothers me."

Trainers, like Amanda, work with many different horses; with each one, Amanda gets to know their personality and "helps the owner know their horse better. I don't get too attached because I have each horse for only a month, or two."

Many professional riders tire of working with horses everyday. Riding - a sometimes-risky activity - often pays little, and doing chores and cleaning stalls takes up long hours. As Amanda describes her riding experiences, she bubbles with enthusiasm and dedication: "I love riding," she says, smiling. "Trick riding is what I want to learn next," she says. "The horse gallops freely in the arena, while the rider performs headstands, back-flips, and lay-overs."

Sitting at the kitchen table in her parents' farmhouse, Amanda says "I'm really happy doing what I'm doing now. Horses and ranching will always be a part of my life."

Other articles by Tammy Thielman

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