Warrior’s Prayer, Whistling Water and Assiniboine Nation, not exactly names we usually associate with Friesian horses. But they are, and in ownership of Leon and Cherie Stewart, native American Indians by origin. In the heart of the prairie in the state of Montana, United States, they lovingly run their L-Heart-C Friesian Horse Ranch.
Start a breeding programme
It was nine years ago when Leon and Cherie decided to keep Friesian horses and start a breeding programme in Montana, an area that was originally populated by Indian tribes and where quarter horses prominently set the tone. This couple makes the most of every possible occasion to promote the Friesian horse.
‘It was two hundred years ago when Indian tribes made their first contact with horses. Ever since they have been symbols of survival for us’, Leon explains. ‘Horses enabled us to hunt buffalo and they brought prosperity, health and friendship. They are so precious to us that the spirit of the horse is embedded in many of our traditions and rituals. Who we are as a people is expressed in all facets of Life. And it´s the same with the names of our Friesian horses, like Whistling Water (Bene 476) who was named after a Crow clan. Or Curly L-Heart-C (Bene 476), whose name refers to my grandfather who was a Crow scout in the famous Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 .’
Completely spellbound by this gorgeous horse
‘I grew up with quarter horses which are used for droving cattle, parades and rodeos. When I first laid eyes on a picture of a Friesian horse when I was sixteen, I was utterly astonished and completely spellbound by this gorgeous horse, which size-wise suits us Indians so well.’ Years later, in 2010, Leon and Cherie visited the FHANA Inspection in Monroe, Washington. ‘Seeing all those beautiful horses made our enthusiasm grow still more. We found out that there is much more to breeding with Friesian horses than simply pairing a stallion to a mare.’
That same year Leon and Cherie decided to start the L-Heart-C Friesian Horse Ranch in Mission Valley in Montana. Before that they had been breeding quarter horses and Black Angus cattle. Soon enough however, it turned out that Friesians were really cut-out for working with these cows. Their imposing appearance commanded respect from the Black Angus, who normally would easily knock over a quarter horse. Meanwhile the cattle have disappeared and have been replaced by nineteen Friesian horses, with six of them being in foal.
In their search for information Leon and Cherie made the acquaintance of Pier and Darlene van der Hoek from Helm in California, in 2010. Cherie: ‘We decided to buy their mare Trientsje Sietske Star (Teade 392) and mated her to Wybren 464 (Feike 395) in 2011. Her foal Nakoda was the first Friesian horse born at our ranch. Using Wybren 464 brought us in touch with his owners Lana and Larry Markey from Wisconsin, who also taught us a lot. They emphasised how important it is to have a good breeding programme founded on high-quality horses. Acting on their advice we visited the Stallion Inspection in 2015. There we attended several workshops and were invited for a FHANA meeting. When they heard we owned twelve Friesian horses but had never taken any of them to an inspection because of the huge distances, they suggested organising one ourselves. As it turned out there was sufficient enthusiasm for it in our region. We then founded a breeding chapter under the auspices of FHANA and since then have been organising annual inspections in Kalispel, a location about 150 km from our ranch. At the first inspection our foal Warrior’s Prayer (Sape 381) received a first premium and became Day Champion. A year later our filly Assiniboine Nation L-Heart-C (Sape 381) did exactly the same.’
Leon and Cherie are excellent ambassadors for the Friesian horse in North America. Leon for instance, was a regular guest in horse trainer Craig Cameron’s TV show for a whole season. Leon talked about the 100 Mile Guts and Glory Ride in Texas which, at the invitation of Cameron, he took part in with his Friesian gelding Warlock (Monte 378). A three-day-ride covering a distance of 160 km. Whereas other riders changed horses every 6 km Leon completed the entire ride on Warlock. ‘Many Texan cowboys were pretty impressed with his strength and stamina’, says Leon Stewart.
Leon and Cherie Stewart get great pleasure from their personality, behaviour, inquisitiveness as well as heritage. ‘We love ‘Friesian Land’, the people, the language and their rich culture and history. Sharing the same passion and our love of the Friesian horse goes above and beyond our different cultures!’