Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
The Orcutts can’t imagine being without Leroy, their horse, and neither can the people who attend the Roosevelt County Fair for many years.
Leroy, a 26-year-old Gotland (breed of horse), is to the Roosevelt County Fair what the Bald Eagle is to the United States. He’s a symbol of the fair. One member or another of the Orcutt family has shown Leroy at the fair for 21 consecutive years.
Roosevelt County residents Richard and Joan Orcutt own the Gotland, along with 14 other horses. Joan said it was her second-oldest daughter, Erin Bates, who broke the horse and was the first Orcutt to show the horse at the fair.
“When he was little, he used to buck them off,” Joan Orcutt said about her daughters. “Erin kept riding him and broke him.”
Joan said Erin could only show the horse at the age of 10 because of the rules for the Kid Pony Class. Bates is now 29. Sisters Abby Dixon, 26, Lynde May, 20 and Alexis Orcutt, 14, have continued Leroy’s time at the fair. Bates’ children, 5-year-old Brenna and 7=year-old Trenton have also shown Leroy at the fair.
Bates said she remembers those days of bumps and bruises.
“He used to buck me off onto caliche and rocks, but I would just get back on him,” Bates said. “I did a somersault with him.”
Trenton rode him during the Western Pleasure performance show and Brenna was able to show him on Friday.
“He has a sweet disposition,” Bates said. “I trust him with my kids. He’s a pampered member of the family.”
Dixon said Leroy is part of the family and helped raise the five Orcutt girls since they were little. Joan Orcutt said the life expectancy of Gotlands is 35 years.
“He is so gentle,” Dixon said. “He would be lying down and you could lay on him. One of the memories I have of him was when I saw Lynde (as a child) lying on him under a tree.”
May is currently on the Eastern New Mexico University rodeo team. Joan said she also has a memory of Lynde and Leroy when Lynde was five years old.
“We used to have a big Elm tree and Leroy would stand underneath the tree with Lynde standing on him,” Joan Orcutt said. “She used to reach up and grab a branch off the tree and feed it to Leroy.”
Bates said originally the horse originally belong to her older sister, Amy Rippee. Rippee is the oldest of the five daughters, but was 12 years old when the Orcutts had the horse and ineligible to show him because of her age.
Bates said Rippee and Leroy didn’t mesh as well as Bates and Leroy did, so Bates and Rippee agreed on a trade.
“At the time I had a plaid shirt that she liked,” Bates said, “so I gave her the shirt and she gave me the horse.”
The shirt is gone, but Leroy has remained a constant at the fair. Bates said she hopes the family will continue to keep showing Leroy at the Roosevelt County Fair for years to come.