In the serene embrace of the sprawling countryside, where the whisper of the wind dances with the rustle of leaves, there exists a tale of an extraordinary bond between a girl and a mare. Born on the Sperry Quarter Horse ranch, a foal entered the world and changed the life of girl named Kaylee.

Kaylee riding Baby DollKaylee will tell you that she was a book nerd growing up, that is, until Baby Doll entered the world. This deep sorrel mare who came into the world in 2011 had a heart as big as the girl who would become her owner.

While her parents were not quite keen on the pairing at first out of fear for safety for Kaylee, destiny had other plans. Kaylee loved helping her aunt and uncle at Sperry Quarter Horses, as she would assist with halter training and taming down the young ones. Kaylee would lead these horses through the ring during sale days, to demonstrate their demeanor, a job she was good at.

With Baby Doll, Kaylee was quite sad at the possibility of her leaving in someone else’s trailer. In a twist of fate, the little mare was selected as a “scholarship horse” at the year’s auction. When scholarship horses are sold, the owner has the option to keep the horse or give it away. The money raised from auctioning a “scholarship horse” is given to local graduating high school rodeo students for a memorial scholarship.

Leading Baby Doll through the ring, the attendees must have been able to tell their bond. Shortly after the gavel fell, a man in the crowd shouted, “Donate the horse to the little girl.” Kaylee’s heart swelled instantly. With the rope in her hand at that moment and with the generous act of one stranger, Baby Doll was finally hers to keep. Thus began a journey of intertwining destinies as a girl with tender hands and a heart full of dreams embraced the role of nurturer to this majestic creature.

Halloween fun with Kaylee and Baby DollKaylee, as a novice horse breaker, relied on the help of a horse trainer in South Dakota for the first 30 or so rides. The trainer was impressed with Baby Doll and offered to buy the filly for her own daughter. Like Kaylee, the trainer fell in love with the sorrel mare. After returning from the trainer, it was just Kaylee and Baby Doll and the freedom of some open range.

Kaylee with the help of her grandfather learned to rope off of Baby Doll, and the two became quite the pairing at brandings together. Kaylee recalls fondly that her grandfather’s instructions were a time of bonding as the two share the same passion for the Western lifestyle. In the branding pen, people were always impressed with the skill of Kaylee and Baby Doll and would stop and offer to buy her; the two just clicked.

Kaylee wants to make it clear, after many inquiries, that Baby Doll will never be for sale, “yeah, I could never let her go. She is like my child.”

Kaylee enjoyed 4H showing with her in Stark and Billings County. Mother Obrigewitch would share with you that Kaylee spent more time getting Baby Doll ready than herself. Kaylee would spend all day making sure Kaylee celebrating graduation on Baby DollBaby Doll was perfect for the show by washing and primping her, especially making sure her hooves were trimmed just right, a key to good showmanship. Kaylee won the overall senior award two times with Baby Doll. With some success at local events, Kaylee went to the North Dakota State Fair and recalls those as the best of times.

As time progressed, Kaylee would be bitten by the adrenaline bug, as she and Baby Doll enjoyed running in the fast-speed events more than anything. Kaylee described it as awesome, “I don’t think I breathed the entire first run. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time.” The two would participate at the county fair in pole bending, barrel racing, goat tying, keyhole, reining, ranch horse, and trail competitions.

While Kaylee is finishing her degree at Dickinson State University in elementary education, Baby Doll is living out her life on the Obrigewitch farm. Kaylee gets to come home to a sweet face and knickers from her favorite creature. Baby Doll shares a pasture with Kaylee’s new horse, which she has proudly trained herself, as well as her grandfather’s horse.  At thirteen years old, the sorrel mare is still thriving as she looks forward to the next ride with Kaylee.

This story is posted as it appears in the Heart River Voice (July 2024  |  Vol. 6, No. 7  |  p. 18). To view this column online, please click here.