Women of the West – Lisa Robinson
Behind an anvil or in the saddle, this cowgirl is as tough as nails, and a hand with horses and cattle.
Interview by Jennifer Denison • Photograph by Darrell Dodds
SHOEING HORSES AND COWBOYING have been Lisa Robinson’s primary occupations since she quit school at age 12. A native of southern Oregon, Robinson regularly travels to southern Oregon, northeastern Nevada, and Northern California, shoeing large numbers of ranch horses and saddling up to help work cattle on ranches along the way. She and her husband of 27 years, Paul, run a small herd of cattle in Silver Lake, Oregon.
I WAS INDEPENDENT and quite capable as a child. By the time I was 8 years old, I was taking care of the milk cows and feeding the cavvy.
MY DAD [Al Prom] was a cowboy on the Cliff Ranch in Silver Lake, Oregon, and that’s where I grew up. He had a stud and raised a few foals, but he mostly did a lot of horse-trading.
I DIDN’T START my first colt on my own until I was 9 years old. It was a little black mare that belonged to the boss’s grandkids and was supposed to be a kid’s horse. They called her “Doll Face,” but we called her “Dingy.”
LIKE HORSES better than most people.
I HAD NO USE for school, so I quit and started shoeing horses with my dad. When I was 15 we were in Nevada, and to get my driver’s license I either had to be in school or have a GED, so I went down to the community college and got my GED.
DAD TAUGHT ME pretty much everything I know about horses and shoeing. I was helping him shoe horses by the age of 9. When I was 13, my family moved to Texas, and he started a big shoeing business and made me a partner.
WHEN DAD HAD TO RETIRE, the old-timers didn’t have a problem with my brother, Josh, shoeing for them, but several had a hard time with me doing it, even though I had shod their horses for years with Dad. They came around after a while, but I didn’t beg or plead.
DAD USED TO SAY anybody can do a job on a good horse, but it takes a hand to do a job on a bad horse.
I SHOE A MINIMUM of 10 horses two or three days a week from March to October. That frees me up to cowboy three or four days a week. Some days I’ll be in the saddle by 4 a.m. and cowboy until 4 p.m., and then shoe horses till dark.
I NEVER LEARNED to cook until I got married. Dad said that as long as I did my work outside, I didn’t have to do both.
IF I EVER GOT tore up really bad, I’d consider going to a silversmithing or saddle-making school. I’m not sure I could stand to be inside that much, though.
THERE ARE COWBOYS, buckaroos and horsemen, and occasionally you meet someone who is all of the above. I can work with any of them because I enjoy doing it, and I can learn from anyone— even if it’s what not to do.
I BUY OR TRADE HORSES, ride them until they’re usable ranch horses, and then, depending how nice they turn out, I sell them. If a horse didn’t turn out really nice, then I probably still have it and ride it.
THE HORSE I RIDE now is probably the best and toughest horse I’ve ever had. I never believed that a one-man horse existed, but this horse is one. Most people can’t even get near him, but there’s nothing I can’t do on that horse. He’s a mustang my dad got off the desert as a young stud for my brother. I traded my brother a homemade two-horse trailer for the horse, and we thought we’d get the better of each other in the deal. He changed an awful lot of tires getting that trailer back to Nevada, and I had to rope, choke and tie the horse’s foot up to get him saddled, so it evened out.
I ALWAYS FIGURED that if that horse and I got into a big wreck, he’d probably kill me, but he surprised me. We were gathering cattle and blowing down through a canyon when we hit an alkali pit that jerked the horse’s legs out from underneath him, and my leg and foot were injured. The horse let me get back on him, and he took care of me all the way off the mountain. My husband and I decided to finish gathering the cattle and take the herd with us.
I MET MY HUSBAND at a branding. I was roping and he was working on the ground crew. Then he sat across from me at the dinner table, and the rest is history.
I KEEP A CLEAN HOUSE, clean clothes and good “squares” [meals] on the table when my husband is home. I think that’s part of being a good wife, and I willingly signed on for the job. My mom set a good example that way.
BRANDING IS MY FAVORITE time of year. In the spring, I don’t go anywhere with my shoeing outfit without also taking my saddle, just in case.
MANNERS ARE JUST AS important in a cowboy as they are in his horse.
THERE’S ROOM FOR MORE horseshoers out there, so someone like me can retire. If your body is healthy, come join the club.
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