@story TERAH CURRY
@images TERAH CURRY AND COURTESY 4-13 RANCH
With a flick of her wrist, Mindy Roland, a pretty cowgirl with sun-kissed hair and a year-round tan, commands the attention of war-horse-like Friesians and captivating Andalusians that she and her husband Derrail raise on their ranch in Shady Point, Oklahoma.Mindy stops what she’s doing and begins to tell her story. It sounds a little like a country song.
On a blue-skied April morning in 2006, Mindy and Derrail got hitched. “We were married in the morning and went to a rodeo that same night,” Mindy said. “After we got married, that’s when we decided to call this place the 4-13 Ranch.”
The 4-13 is named after a passage in Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Little did they know what kind of strength they would need.
In October, 2007, Derrail was leading in the rodeo standings, but the night before his finals he was seriously hurt while saddle bronc riding a practice horse, and suffered a head injury that caused his brain to bleed and swell.
“He was life-flighted to Tulsa and had a six-week hospital stay,” Mindy said. “There were four surgeries and a very bad prognosis – they didn’t think he was going to live. But he made it on prayers, and it gave me proof that God answers prayers and that He is real.”
“All I remember,” Derrail added, “is riding one of those bucking horses, and one threw me off and kicked my head and the next thing I knew I woke up and was in the hospital. I felt just helpless.
“When I got home, I had struggles. The better I got, the more I wanted to do. I wasn’t gonna’ settle for being sick. I wanted to be healed. To me, I was doing good, but I really wasn’t. I’d write little notes everywhere, and I’d double-check everything I’d do. Like I’d lock a gate, then I’d drive down the road and think, ‘Did I lock that?’”
It was a difficult time for the fiercely independent Derrail. He grew up in Shady Point, working on a ranch from the time he was fourteen, rodeoing in high school, and going to college on a rodeo scholarship, where he earned his degree in forestry.
It was a much different childhood than Mindy’s, who was raised on a dairy farm in upstate New York. She bought her first horse at age eleven, riding in 4-H. Her dream was to become a cowgirl. Even later, when she joined the Marine Corps, and lived in North Carolina, she kept her horses.
“That was the biggest reason I wanted to come to Oklahoma,” Mindy said. “I wanted to be a cowgirl. It’s a good climate for raising horses. I finally flipped a coin. Heads I go. Tails I stay.”
Flipping a coin may not have been the best way to make a choice, but in hindsight, she’s glad she did. When Mindy moved to Oklahoma with only three horses and one dog, she didn’t know anyone, but it wasn’t long before she and Derrail met.
He was shoeing a horse the first time she laid eyes on him.
The year Mindy and Derrail married, they refinanced their house to buy Mateo, a buckskin pearl Andalusian who has now been taught how to drive carriages.
The Rolands’ horse breeding program is built around three stallions: Jan (pronounced Yan), a black Friesian imported from the Netherlands, Mateo, and Leo, the program’s athletic Quarter Horse.
“It’s given us three very different stallions with very different strengths that appeal to diverse owners,” Mindy said.
One of Mindy’s goals is to provide a “dream horse” for other horse owners.
“Working class people can get their dream horse here,” Mindy said. “We’ve really tried to cater to a middle-class horseman by cross-breeding. I looked for a niche. My first set of foals was born in 2006. I started with Arabian mares and crossed with Andalusians and had a lot of success – most of the babies sold right away.”
Her philosophy on horsemanship is summed up best on their 4-13 website:
“We love that our horses can perform in a show ring, they’re being judged and approved by some of the highest organizations in the country, but that’s not all we breed for. Some of the greatest horses in the world never set foot in a show ring. They are never evaluated by a judge from another country, and they are never pitted against a clock. Some of the greatest horses in the world travel hundreds of miles down quiet paths, carrying their riders through rivers, over mountains, and down the sides of highways…”
The couple’s love of horses both great and small continues to lead them into new ventures. Lately, Derrail and Mindy have been taking their horses to what they call Cowboy Church. “We bring horses, give kids rides, and give demonstrations on how we train the horse to show how God works with us,” Derrail said. “We lead the horse and that’s how God leads us. The horse trusts us, we trust God.”
The Rolands look out their windows and see progress on the 4-13. They credit friends and family who helped them along the way, especially during Derrail’s hardest time. “This was a wonderful area to move to – Fort Smith and eastern Oklahoma,” Mindy said. “The horse and rodeo community watch out for each other.”
It turned out better than she ever imagined, Mindy said, this woman who only wanted to be a cowgirl. And she is thankful, always, that the coin toss landed her in Shady Point with the man (and horses) she loves so much. To see more of Mindy and Derrail’s horses, visit the 4-13ranch.com.