Welcome to Fern Valley
Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .
My story and history with horses and Appaloosas
By Sherry Sikstrom , of
Fern Valley Appaloosas
I was raised on a mixed farming operation north of Edmonton. The family has had horses throughout the history of the farm , with my grandfather using drafts to deliver milk in the 30’s then lighter saddle horses used for cattle work, gathering the herds and, for a time herding the cattle through the old streets of Edmonton and out to the grazing land at Ministik Lake . I developed a love of horse early on and learned to ride on the “ranch broke” horses used on the farm. At the age of 12 I felt I had saved enough baby sitting money and my wages from washing milk bottles , to buy my very own horse . My Dad drove me out to a little town called Picardville, where my love affair with Appaloosa horses began. I tried a mare by the name of Gloalta Toyogha, a liver chestnut with a roan blanket. After trying her we left to “think it over” and as we drove away; she was in a turnout along the road, she galloped along beside us, true poetry in motion! Dad and I agreed then and there, she was it! We returned to the farm, paid for her and I took her home on my 13 birthday May 02, 1981.
We ran for miles her and I, then in the following spring it became apparent I was going to be the owner of 2 appaloosas! Sherry’s April Sunshine arrived April 09 1982.
Over the years I continued to nurture my love of horses and especially Appaloosas, raised a young stallion, Chile Poivre. I was advised that “little girls can’t handle a stallion, he will just get mean.” Prove them wrong? Oh yeah! Chips was the sire of many of what are now known as Fern Valley Appaloosas , and in all the years I had him he was a perfect gentleman, never needing more than a growled “mind your manners.”
Primarily we raise Appaloosas here for light saddle horses. They are an incredibly versatile breed. The Alberta Challenge of the Breed is proving that time and again with Team Appaloosa often winning the contest!
Although the need for “ranch horses” has lessened in the past 50 years or so with the reduction in herds and the advent of ATV products, many of us still use them for farm /ranch work. Also the horse industry remains strong in that pleasure riding is a popular pastime as are cattle penning, Gymkhana, jumping, endurance riding etc.
The Appaloosa has come a long way from its origins as the Nez Perce Horse, primarily owned by the Nez Perce tribe along g the Palouse River (Snake River) in Washington and Idaho. These were tough horses bred to run and to go into battle, or to be hunted off of, bright loud colors and markings, often little or no mane and tail, strong hard ‘striped feet.”
The breed suffered a setback, as outlined below:
“In the late 1800s, war broke out between the U.S. Calvary and the Nez Perce Indians. The Appaloosa was the reason the U.S. Calvary was deprived of victory for many months, as the Nez Perce fled over 1300 miles of rugged, almost impassable terrain under the guidance of the famed Chief Joseph. The final defeat of the Nez Perce came in Montana. They surrendered their horses, left them behind, or they were distributed amongst the settlers. The proud band of carefully selected horses was gone.”
Many were bred to draft or destroyed; they slowly came back , but in the process some of the “originality” was lost. They have been crossed with Quarter horse and Thoroughbred, but the true Appaloosa characteristics’ often shine though; White sclera, around the eye (giving it a “human” look) mottled skin, striped (laminated hooves) and of course the myriad of coat patterns that they are famous for!
My hope for the future of the breed and all horses in Alberta is that they continue to thrive and bring joy to horse enthusiasts as they have with me for so many years. The days of the “working horse are not yet gone” and with cutting, roping, endurance, gymkhana, pleasure riding and driving etc, I believe there is an incredible future ahead for these horses. Also more specifically the Appaloosa breed to remain true to its origins and for them to maintain the remarkable individuality and integrity that makes them Appaloosas. My love affair continues.