Trainer Martin Kurasz and Proud Classic riding near Dubois.

Trainer Martin Kurasz and Proud Classic riding near Dubois.

By June Bonasera, County10.com

(Dubois, Wyo.) – At 80 years old, Sylvia Crouter and J.D. Hodgson have lived a rich and rewarding life breeding, raising and training Tennessee Walking Horses at their ranch in Dubois. There’s quite an interesting story to how Box Hanging Three Ranch came to be and how Sylvia and J.D. fell in love with each other, Dubois and Tennessee Walking Horses.

Sylvia Crouter was born on the east coast and in 1952 at age 21 was given a gift by her grandparents to stay one month at the T Cross Ranch in Dubois as a guest. It was at the T Cross Ranch, that Crouter formed an appreciation for western life, Wyoming, and was initially introduced to the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) as an ideal horse breed for use in the mountains. “One ride on a Walker, and I was hooked” she quipped with a smile.

Ranch co-owner Sylvia Crouter and Goldie .

Ranch co-owner J.D. Hodgson and Sheila.

Crouter returned to the east coast after her visit, married, began raising her family of three children and later divorced. In 1970 she returned to Dubois, staying at the Old Yellowstone Motel (now Paya Pizza, Deli & Catering) with her three children and eventually purchased three acres from the Wagon Box Ranch. At the time, the ranch was an established cattle ranch headed by octogenarians, Nobe and Ina Harrison.

According to Sylvia,” One cold spring day, we went to watch a branding at the LU Ranch. One of the cowboys working the calves was J.D., our first meeting with the man who would become my husband and stepfather to our little brood”. Two years later Sylvia and J.D. married.

Box Hanging Three Ranch now consists of approximately 1,100 acres in total, with 100 acres of hay meadow, pasture, and BLM and US Forest Service leases. What started as a horse business with 3 acres, one stallion and one mare has grown over the years to an operation featuring 4 stallions and a number of broodmares and offspring totaling between 70 and 80 horses. Box Hanging Three Ranch is known in the TWH world for producing naturally and gently trained mountain raised horses, and their horses are sought after for both trail riding and showing. Crouter stated, “Most of our horses are purchased by pleasure riders, hunters, fisherman, families and older riders who are seeking a smooth riding, gentle natured horse”. Box Hanging Three horses have been sold to discerning owners in just about every state in the country as well as Canada and Germany.

Box Hanging Three Ranch prides itself in being a responsible horse breeder, responding to the economy and producing only the number of horses each year the market will bear. In 2007 when the economy was strong, the ranch produced and eventually sold 21 colts. By comparison, in recent years with a weaker economy, only 4 to 6 colts were bred and sold. Sylvia and J.D. work with the help of their trainers Martin Kurasz and Eric Thompson and with a crew including BC Hart and Mark Baumer to perform the endless ranch and horse chores.

Eric Thompson & Challenge's Zorro at the ranch.

When asked what the most rewarding aspect of her and J.D.’s business and life together has been, Sylvia stated, “The most rewarding part of ranching in the Wind River Valley of Wyoming is not only the close relationship to horses, but also the privilege of living surrounded by wildlife: mule deer, elk, mountain lions, bald eagles and the occasional moose.” She added, “It’s hard to pin it down to just one thing, it’s been a very good life”.

For more information about the ranch and horses please visit www.mountainbredwalkers.com