© Seth ZEIGLER
The first Leo Kuntz of Emmons county was a cossack cavalry warrior of German descent who first immigrated west of the Missouri, but ultimately settled east of it, about two miles south of the present Kuntz ranch.
Of course, he was known for his equestrian prowess, as was his son Leo Kuntz Jr., who, on what is today known as the Kuntz Ranch, and within site of the hills where his father first home steaded, raised 12 children with his wife Pauline in a house that is understandably as weathered as the hardy horsemen and horsewomen of the Kuntz family.
Horse training, competing, and trading were always focal points for the entire family, and the round corral stands a stones throw from the kitchen table, as does the old horse and hay barn.
Just behind them is the "training barn", an old schoolhouse that once abandoned was moved to the ranch and set on a foundation of rail road sleepers to give enough headroom for riding with protection from fierce weather. Between and behind these is the complex of corrals required on a working ranch, which were cobbled together from whatever wood could be found on the unyielding prairies: driftwood, gnarled and twisted cottonwood logs, more rail-road sleepers, and slab wood bought cheap from Montana sawmills on return trips from delivering horses to more mountainous country, where Nokotas® are just as at home.
There are ribbons of rich soil which have been farmed for generations now... but the majority of the Kuntz ranch is pasture, including land still scarred by the horrors of the dust bowl and pock marked with sand blows.
The "northwest pasture" where most of these are found is a solid 320 acres of beautifully rolling hills that can be as green as Ireland in a wet year, or true desert in the all too frequent dry years, yet is always rich in history, even when the Nokota® horses are grazing elsewhere, as there are several teepee rings, an offering stone, and a history of finding indigenous artifacts in this cluster of hills that interrupt the more "tame" prairies to the north and west.Sand dunes still slowly creep across a few hilltops, scars from the Dust Bowl that have yet to heal and generations later continue to illustrate the family story of the first Leo Kuntz declaring in disgust "this field ain't worth a dime" just in time to dig one up as he worked the land that is no longer harassed by the plow.
Come stay in a Teepee among the wild horses on the Kuntz Nokota® Horse Ranch this year!
Roast marshmallows around a campfire at dusk, learn the history of the Nokota® horse, observe the horses in their natural environment, and visit the Teepee rings and offering stone left behind by the Native Americans on the untouched prairie hills. We look forward to having you!
Reservations start for late April and go through October.
Please contact me here.
Leo was one of the founders of the Nokota Horse Conservancy® (NHC), served as its president for many years, and continues on its "Founders Council". Yet, there is more interest than ever to serve on the Board of Directors, so he has stepped aside to give others the chance to be even more active while instead focusing ever more upon his own ranch.
Leo's goal is to create a permanent preserve for the Nokota® horses on the Kuntz Family Ranch where even more can be offered a secure future... and likewise a chance to offer all their Nokota® greatness to the future generations. Leo has long been interested in not only the Traditional type Nokotas®, but also the old Ranch types in all their variety, from the "Dakota Stouts" with the power to break the prairie sod for the new immigrants to the much taller and longer Nokotas® that hearken back to the toils of Huidokoper and others to develop the first stage-coach horses to connect these frontiers to the rest of the wold.
Thus, Leo's herd includes unique bloodlines and types that are not represented within the NHC's herd, and it is crucial that all of this diversity is given a chance to survive and thrive if the Nokota® horse is to remain as resilient and adaptable in the future as it has proven to be in the past. By the common definitions of a minimum viable population, the Nokota Horse® will remain critically threatened until there are at least 500 actively breeding individuals... but currently there are less than 50 foals born most years to the entire fully foundation population.