My grandkids and I visited S Bar Performance Horses and Farrier Services this week and experienced some rodeo fun. We didn’t watch. We participated.
It’s not often that a kid gets to do some mutton bustin.’ And I even rode a cow – for about two seconds until I face-planted. The little ones also did a little horseback riding. They were excited to climb aboard a quarter horse named Renegade and make several loops around the pen. We also met Donna Fargo, Reba McIntyre, Loretta Lynn, and several other personalities. There was also Festus, an Aappaloosa.
Located on Turtle Tree in Salem, S Bar is a 100-acre working ranch, operated by Nathan Shanholtz. A former rodeo cowboy, he’s the real deal. He breaks wild mustangs and travels around the state shoeing horses and floating teeth – correcting dental problems.
Nathan grew up on the ranch and it’s been a way of life for him since he was a little tot. But opening the farm to the public is a fairly new gig.
“We’ve been doing it coming up on two years, but just started doing it for full-time work within the past year,” he said.
In recent weeks, he’s been offering riding lessons and even birthday parties, which also include barrel painting and even laying some “painted” kid hands on old Renegade, who has been part of the ranch for a quarter of a century.
It’s a unique niche and one that is catching on. As Nathan said, “The kids are eating it up.” He said he sure wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of his girlfriend LaShawnda Travis, his grandfather, neighbors and various others who make all the moving parts come together. There’s much to be done on the ranch daily and it takes a village.
All riders wear helmets and sign a non-liability waiver. During our visit, Nathan and LaShawnda were the best hosts, giving us the best experience by providing good instruction and knowledge along the way. My little ones were interested in why horses make the noises they do, how old the horses were, and why they sometimes change colors during their first months. They were delighted to meet a foal, one of about 20 horses housed in the barn. They also thought it was very cool that Nathan was in the rodeo and asked him to do a trick. Though he said he was out of practice, he obliged by doing trick roping.
Nathan said he has always soaked up all the horse knowledge he could. Though he learned shoeing and floating from the generations above him, he taught himself how to break horses.
“Everything I couldn’t figure out on my own, I YouTubed it,” he said. “I talked to everybody, taking all the knowledge in.”
Every horse is different and presents its own challenges. Nathan said his OCD causes him to obsess over the breaking process, playing details over and over in his mind until he gets through to the horse and gentles him.
“There’s a lot of corrective training. You have to have confidence in the horse when breaking it from scratch,” he said.
He acquires his feral horses through the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Nevada.
“They do an airplane catch, brand them and sell them dirt cheap,” he said. “They’re really hardy animals. I break them, make them safe and sound, teaching them everything I can.
They usually turn out to be really nice horses.”
In the past six months, Nathan has broken three mustangs. They aren’t currently in the barn or used readily for riding by clients, but perhaps one day they will be.
Just 25 years old, Nathan said his “work” is not work at all. It’s a way of life he enjoys, and he is happy to share it with the public. Riding lessons, horse training, and birthday parties are available by appointment only. Contact S Bar through its Facebook page or by calling 304-476-8533 or emailing Nshanholtz@icloud.com.
Oh, and S Bar has practiced authentic branding since before Yellowstone made it cool.
As I said, it’s the real deal.
See additional photos and video below.
Julie Perine can be reached at 304-848-7200 ext. 2 or email@example.com.
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