Meeting Joe Mead
*Update 3/08 - Joe Mead passed away in March, 2008. Click Image below to view his tribute.
Our North Dakota Trips
by Denise Conroy - written in 2007
Joe Mead pictured with Tracy Conroy on one of our routine visits to North Dakota. (1999)
If you have met Joe Mead, you know he is a hard man to forget! His conviction & passion for breeding the best-possible-horse is unmistakable.
We've visited Joe several times since our first meeting back in 1997. Many of you know he will rarely let you escape with an empty trailer! If he can't convince you to buy after a thorough visit to his divided herds, he will charm you with his fascinating stories of curly history which surround many of his horses. Of course, when you mention a few colts that caught your eye, he is sure to point out that those just happened to be the ones he planned on keeping! But of course, every horse was always for sale and you always left feeling that you took with you a bit of history with each curly you purchased. I recall our many visits to Joe's fondly and with wonderful memories. We found it amazing that a man with such a large herd knew each horse like the back of his hand. Reciting pedigrees from memory is nothing for Joe. And he is so observant that at just weeks old, he has a good idea of just what kind of horse that young colt will become. Call it wisdom or experience but maybe it's just what great horse breeders do.
He is serious in his intent on breeding the best and his life proves that. And I'm not talking about focusing 'pretty' or 'popular color' or anything superficial.Joe's herd exemplifies strength, intelligence and endurance. Good looks always seems to go along with it though. You can't help but admire his goals.
On our first visit to see Joe, our purpose was to buy a couple nice geldings. Of course, it's rare for Joe to have geldings but at the time, he was more than happy to geld one of his fine studs for you. His quietest stud was a dark bay stallion, named D&T's Rainmaker. He stood 15.2h at 3 years old and had bred more than 20 mares that season. He was 'halter broke & picket broke" Joe said. There was no denying he was gorgeous and extremely gentle. Big Bucks was there too, but Rainmaker caught my eye. We decided to buy him. But after spending time with Joe, my husband wasn't convinced that we were done buying. He thought.well, with a nice stud; why not buy a couple fillies? I was stunned. Heck, I planned on gelding Rainmaker, not keeping him intact! Well, long story short, we also brought home 3 curly fillies, Mentasta, Sunny and JC's Jubilee.....and so began our Curly breeding program. To say I wasn't thrilled was an understatement. I actually cried going home. I did not want to get into breeding; I just wanted a nice quiet gelding to ride with my daughter. My husband assured me that if Rainmaker was not quiet enough for me to ride then we would geld him. So we sent Rainmaker to the trainers immediately upon coming home and he was so docile and gentle, even the trainer advised us not to geld him. Everyone that saw him had to check to be convinced he really was a stud. I rode him for 2 years as a stallion and never felt safer on a horse and I was very much a beginner rider. He was the epitome of what a curly horse is and I was proud to be sitting on his back.
Jumping to the present, almost 10 years later ..we have since retired from breeding and I am finally living my dream of owning 3 incredible geldings. Two were purchased specifically due to having similar linage to Rainmaker, they are Cheyene AP Jubilee & Prairie Espresso Dream. I have to say both these geldings have surpassed our expectations. Zigahtcee's Parader is a Mead horse and he is a wonderful reminder to us of Joe Mead and his many years of dedication to the breed. We would like to thank Joe publicly for the many wonderful memories our family had while visiting (our kids still remember the many different kinds of animals there, like peacocks, pigs, cows, chickens and ducks) and for the many awesome curlies he entrusted to us.
Sincere thanks to Joe for your unfailing dedication to the breed.
Regards, Tom & Denise Conroy
A Bit More About Joe
Joe pictured here with Ruby Red King
A BLAST FROM THE PAST
The following article originally published in Western States Curly Newsletter.
It says alot about what Joe stood for and believed in so I wanted to post it here.
"Originally I planned to write an article on Curlies, but decided to write to the breeders instead. It is my belief-and I truly hope I'm wrong!- that too many people are only breeding for "curls" to sell. I ask you breeders: Are you using these horses? Are you driving, packing, riding, working them in harness or do you use your tractor, four-wheel drive or pickup? Be honest. If you are not using them, how can you compare them to other breeds?
My father, who is now 85 (in 1988) made a trip with my wife, myself and my 4 year old son to Alaska this past summer to deliver Suffolk's, Belgians, a curly and Thoroughbreds. He is still a horseman but according to the old men who knew him when he was young, he was one of the best teamsters going in his day and I owe him for what I know. I learned by doing as I grew up and did not know how much I was learning. My mothers' father was a great horseman also, though I never knew him, and is still a legend in Northern Wisconsin.
I was in the 35th pack company in the US Army for three years working with horse and mules and for thirty-five years, have had almost every breed of horse in the worst climate imaginable (interior Alaska and the Aleutian Islands). So you can see from this background, I have worked and ridden horses ever since I can remember.
In 1952, while living in Alaska, I acquired a good buckskin horse with a wavy coat, which he shed in the summer along with his mane and tail. I rode, packed and used Bishop for 17 years and never did he see grain or shoes. Each year he consistently outworked a team of twenty pack and saddle horses which had to have shoes. Bishop stayed in good shape while they lost weight and repeatedly had to be replaced as time went on in the hunting season. He thrived on willow, Hudson's Bay Tea and bacon, while the other horses would scorn the willow, eat the dead grass and lose weight. No other horse or mule would eat Hudson's Bay Tea, also known as Labrador Tea. I tried in vain to find other horses of his caliber. I lost Bishop when he was shot and killed by an inexperienced hunter.
Finally, long after he had died, I read about Curlies but couldn't believe the tall tales about them. I let go for a year then wrote to Sunny Martin. After a period of time, I bought three sight unseen and sent Donna Myers south to get them and any others she could buy. She bought one more mare. I ended up with two mares, Nevada Lander C, ABC P-129 and Nevada Nugget, ABC T-130. When I laid eyes on them, I saw my good old Bishop all over again and was so happy, I'm not ashamed to tell you I could not stop the tears!
When I took my two Curly mares to Birch Lake, they passed up the hay and grass and ate Hudson's Bay Tea! Bishop again! I'm smarter now, so I took samples and had them analyzed and found it is very high in Vitamin B, especially B-12. A natural mosquito antidote. So, in the spring when the Curly lost his natural flyswatter, he ate tea to rid himself of insects.
We have also seen snow stay on their backs for three weeks at a time without melting and when brushed off, their hair was dry and fluffy. In other words, they experienced no heat loss! We have also found that their coat expands and contracts or opens up according to the temperature. It seems they have their own thermostat. I have read that perhaps the Curly horse sheds it's mane so it won't tangle. That's a joke as nature doesn't care about looks! At -60 degrees F, the Curly needs a thick double mane to keep from freezing but at +70 to +100 degrees F, it needs to get rid of the old overcoat, especially when the sun stays up 24 hours a day for three months! In addition, we found that during the cold months in interior Alaska, from about the 15th of November to the 15th of February, it can be anywhere from -40 to -73 degrees F and up to +40 degrees F at anytime during these months. During this period, the Curly will require just exactly one third as much feed as straight-haired horse of another breed of the same approximate size.
Most people haul their horses to a show and then enter only one or two classes. Corine (Joe's wife at that time) once rode Q-Card, ABC P-35, twenty miles to a horse show when she did not have a trailer. They were entered in thirteen classes and took most of them.our Q-Card is slight 15.0 hands and 1000 pounds, yet I have broken 1750 pound Belgians and Percherons with him. Q-Card logs, hauls hay and manure, shows drives, participates in endurance races, goes to the Rose Bowl Parade and baby-sits. What more could you want? Plus, you can catch him in open range or the bush without grain.
Don't get mad at me, but ..Quit breeding ponies and start using your Curlies. Drive them to town for groceries. Leave them outside instead of in box stalls and cut out the sweet feed and grain. Pull the shoes. If he can't go barefoot, sell him, as he isn't fit to be bred. Provided good grass hay and 2-1/2 pounds of alfalfa and maybe ½ pound of Calf Manna per day. Keep our Curlies natural and cull (neuter, not kill, do not breed with inferior stock) not on looks but on performance; the looks will come with it.
Sincerely, Joe Mead
Editor's note: Joe Mead has been a Curly Breeder for over 30 years and has served many Years as an ABC board member. He resides in Tolna, North Dakota. He continues to breed curlies. He has some fine foals & horses for sale.
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Other Interesting Links:
The Yellow Hornet
Ruby Red King
Photos of the Foundation Curly Horses
More Interesting History about specific lines, including Gaited Curlies
ICHO - More interesting History Links