Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Early Ponies Were Small British Bought Tri-City Horses
By BURTON 0. LUM
Sunday, 16 September 1962
The Indian ponies of the Tri-City area in the early days were quite small. The average pony's weight was around 600 pounds. This pony was a well-knit, rather chunky built animal. It was too small for a draft animal and too light for a riding horse. The pioneers of this area took immediate steps to breed them up to animals that weighed at least a 1,000 pounds. This was done by several of the pioneers joining together and importing young stallions from England, Scotland or Belgium for breeding purposes.
The early breeders of these ponies encountered many problems. These young stallions were stunted in their growth so that they could mate with the smaller Indian ponies. The progeny of this cross-breeding in many cases brought forth poor conformation. The offspring, when grown would have heads large enough for a 1,300-1,400 pound animal and a body of only 800-900 pounds. The Clydesdale from Scotland was the answer. This blood would fuse with Indian ponies in perfect conformation, producing a beautiful bay animal with black mane and tail.
The Eastern horse buyers for the city-street-car companies gave a premium for these beautiful and rugged animals that weighed around 1,200 pounds. The main economy of the Tri-City region for many years was the raising and sale of these horses. When the larger Eastern cities changed from horse-drawn street cars to electric-propelled motors and cable cars, there was a severe slump in the horse market. The horse raisers and breeders had to find a new market for their horses. The Dakotas were just beginning to be settled. Thousands of horses from the Tri-City region were shipped to Mandan, Rapid City and other distributing centers for the Dakotas.
In 1901 my brother, Charley, secured a contract with the English calvary to supply horses for their campaign against the Boers in South Africa. These horses were from the smaller ponies. They were shipped by train to New York City and from there by ship to South Africa.
About this time the wheat ranchers were beginning to grow wheat on the bunch-grass hills and fenced their crops with barb-wire fences. This hurt the open range for horse raising. Irrigation ditches were promoted wherever possible to bring irrigation water to the rich volcanic ash soil. The Tri-City region changed from a stock-raising area to diversified farming. Fruit, trees, berries and grapes were grown in abundance. The low elevation of the Tri-City region gives a long growing season for many diversified crops.
A study of the weather reports reveals that any year that ends with a nine as 1869, 1889, is likely to be a long and unusually severe winter for this region. This is not just a pioneer's theory; it is an actual fact as proven by the records of the U.S. Weather Bureau for this area. It is interesting to prognosticate the future of this area because the Creator has been so lavish with its natural resources. New methods of producing energy and new uses of the energy produced opens future fields of development that challenges the imagination of today's Tri-Citians. There seems to be no limit to future possibilities. The resources of the Tri-City region are continually growing and will not reach their peak for many, many years to come.Return to Index of Burton Lum Articles