It does Doug Sauter’s heart good when he sees a preschooler or a senior citizen extend a hand to one of his horses.
“They put smiles on people’s faces and I end the day feeling pretty special,” he said during a break at the Calgary Stampede held July 5-14.
Sauter, who works for Express Ranches at Yukon, Oklahoma, owns eight Leopard Appaloosas that have worked as therapy animals and make regular promotional appearances.
The Leopard Appaloosa has an eye-catching colouration of white with dark spots across the entire body.
“They have been called Dalmatians, they’ve been called giraffes and zebras,” he said.
He has owned this strain of Appaloosa for about 15 years and leases them to Express Ranches. The horses are entered in about 20 parades a year in Canada and the United States.
Besides the horses, he also has two Leopard Appaloosa mules. One of them was found at a John Deere show in Oklahoma.
“Every horse has a story,” he said.
The horses appearing at the Stampede were found on Craigslist. They were all in poor shape but he was willing to rehabilitate them and make them stars of the show where crowds of families are eager to touch and photograph them.
He is looking for quiet, easy-going horses that can handle being around crowds, whether they are in a show ring or a parade.
“These are promotional horses. There isn’t one cowboy looking at them, it’s all city people,” he said.
Express Ranches also has champion Percherons and a large team of Clydesdales used for promotional purposes. The company is also the largest seedstock operation in the United States and sells about 5,000 head of Angus and Hereford cattle each year.