Ranchlands » women of the west
This longtime horsewoman finally realized her dream when she opened her Raton horse motel at age 62. Six years later, she’s busy and happy.
Interview and photograph by Tim Keller
Raised on horses outside Trinidad, Colorado, Linda Jackson started teaching Language Arts across the New Mexico line at Raton High School when she was 21. She bought a hundred acres on the edge of town so she could run a stable, but teaching kept her too busy to start a business.
After 26 years in one classroom, Linda left teaching to devote her time to horses. For a few years she worked for Sally Schwartz’s quarter horse breeding program at the CS Ranch Stables. Finally, six years ago, she opened Jackson Stables. Nearby Interstate 25 brings an increasing stream of business to her horse motel. That’s the way she likes it.
When I was little, I didn’t have a horse, but we had goats, so I rode my goats. Our neighbor had an old horse named Dick, and I rode him.
I liked to ride bareback better than I did with a saddle. I had a palomino named Prince and a mare named No Doz who wasn’t broke yet. I called her No Doz cause you best not sleep on her.
I had my own horses at Raton and I started boarding some laid up racetrack horses. I was too busy teaching to advance the way I wanted to. I’d get up at 4:30 every day to do the chores. In the winter I’d chop the ice. Go to school, come back and do the chores. Night, I’d grade papers.
One of my favorite sayings comes from the John Wayne movie The Cowboys where he tells the young cowboys on the cattle drive, "We're burning daylight!"
Besides chores and office work for the business, I do whatever outside work is needed. I repair fences, mow grass, pull weeds by hand or chop them with a shovel. I saw dead tree branches with handheld saws, not a chain saw, and I cart them off.
It seems every direction I turn, there’s a job to do. It’s tough to get it all done. But I like work.
I was raising colts to sell. I lost a mare at day three, so I had an orphan foal. I bought a goat for the milk, and I bottle fed the filly. Once she was raised, I went ahead and milked the goat and drank the milk myself, and I made cheese. I grew up on goat milk. I like it. Now I have eight goats.
I had to stop raising colts. I’d get too attached to them! Even now, every horse that comes in here that I stable for these people, I get attached to the darn things! It’s just the way I am. Like the little Arab I kept for three months and the gal went back to college. It was tough lettin’ that little fella go. It was like a little empty space.
Working for Sally Schwartz included hand breeding. She handled the stallion while I controlled the mare. It was critical that the mare not kick and “damage the tool”, as Sally would say.
Once, while I held the lead rope and Sally was trimming the front hooves on a broodmare with a 4-month-old filly running around, Sally said, “Watch her, she’ll kick you.” No sooner did I say, "No, she won’t" than that filly put both hind hooves right into my stomach. Oh, did I feel that! I had a knot there for a couple of months. That’s part of the job.
I used to ride a lot. When I worked for Sally, we’d go to some cuttings and I’d participate in a couple of amateur classes. My winnings amount to about $19.
I’ve got screws in my hip from a horse wreck. I broke my wrist going down, then my hip. I managed to shut the gates and get back to the house. I guess I was going into shock when I dialed the phone for help ‘cause I called the number for the time and temperature.
I have six of my own horses. Why? Cause I like to stay broke, I guess.
These are all horses that I raised and kept. They’re getting pretty darn old, but as long as I can feed them, they’re going to be here. I lost one last spring due to old age; he’s buried here east of that old barn.
I took a three-week horseshoeing class at Las Cruces, stayed in the dorm with all men. There was one other gal but she stayed at home. You had to pass a written test and shoe a horse. The teacher said that if he could slip a razor blade between the shoe and the hoof, you failed. I passed. It was really hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It’s tougher in winter. I have automatic waterers down in the stables, but over here I chop the ice. The last couple years I’ve added some heaters. Blizzards? Doesn’t matter, you’ve gotta get out there and feed. There are times I can’t even see the gate. The manure freezes to the ground. But what’s nice about winter: no mosquitoes and no flies. I actually kinda like cold weather.
I kept getting people calling Jackson Stables wanting to ride horses. I’d tell them I don’t operate that way. Finally somebody suggested I put Horse Motel after the name, and that’s clarified it a little bit.
I’m in the Overnight Stabling Directory and about three websites. Our vet sends me a lot of business. Now people do a web search and find me. My best advertising, though, is still word of mouth.
I like things done right. My mom always said I have a champagne appetite on a beer income.
My 8-year-old grandniece visited from Nebraska and didn’t want to leave. She told me, “You have it so good.” That’s priceless to me.
©2010 Tim Keller
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