By William Thompson
P.J. Looner talks to horses.
When Looner arrives to work with her horses, all she has to do is whistle and they surround her. She calls each of them by name — Starburst, 100 Grand Bar, Cassidy, Stetson Hawk or Wyatt.
She has raised most of the 37 American paint horses that live on pasture land about 12 miles south of House from their birth.
American paint horses are a gentle breed of quarter horse known for their white color with splotches of red or brown — or red or brown color with splotches of white depending on how one looks at them, Looner said, explaining that they can get as big as 16 hands high.
Looner, who began working with horses in her native Kentucky and moved to New Mexico in the 1980s, said she likes working alone outdoors with her horses.
“I’ve been working by myself most of my life,” Looner said. “I’m used to it.”
Looner markets some horses and keeps others for her outfitting and trail-riding business, P Diamond J Outfitters. She leads groups, mostly people from back east, on riding, camping, fishing and hunting trips through the Pecos wilderness during late summer and fall.
The versatility of paint horses is what attracted Looner to them, she said.
“These horses are good cow horses for working on the ranch,” Looner said, “and they are also sure-footed when I lead groups up in the mountains. These horses are smart horses. They want to help you rather than fight you.”
Looner trusts her horses.
At the farm Wednesday, Looner stood near a large group of red duns, palominos, sorrels and bays. She pointed to a horse about 16-hands high. She said she would have no problem putting a small child on that horse’s back for a riding trip.
Just because Looner is not giving tours this time of year, doesn’t mean she’s just relaxing. Looner is awaiting a group of new foals into the world later this month.
“I will be up all hours of the night,” Looner said. “I expect there will be 15 to 20 foals.”
After years of studying equine genetics, Looner said she is proud of her horses’ bloodlines.
“Many of these horses are the offspring of a horse named ‘Young Mount’,” Looner said. “He was once considered the best American paint horse in the world.”
Looner wants to share her love of horses with the rest of Quay County.
“These beautiful horses are just waiting for people to come out and visit them,” Looner said. “It would be an ideal visit for a group of schoolchildren.”
Breakout Box: Find out more about Looner, her horses and guided tours online at: www.pdiamondj.com