Imagine 4,000 acres of rolling hills and valleys, swells of grass as far as the eye can see, broken only by dramatic cedar-blackened bluffs and draws, and the winding White River looping gently through it all.
When my father, Johnny G. Daum, first stood on a bluff overlooking the green, tree-rich White River valley, he made a promise to himself that this land would someday belong to his children, and his children's children.
He wasn't the first to be drawn by Dakota land. After emigrating from The Netherlands' province of Friesland, my great-grandfather, E.K. Daum, saw opportunity in the untamed prairie and staked his claim to 160 acres through the Homestead Act. My grandmother's family answered the call too, leaving a life as merchants in The Hague, Netherlands, to move to South Dakota in 1909 to try their hand at farming.
Not an easy or forgiving landscape, the Dakota prairie buried many of its early settlers in debt, dust and despair. Despite hardships, E.K. perservered and built his farm near Okaton, a tiny town seemingly full of promise 100 years ago.
My father was the 5th of 11 children born on that dusty, top-land farm. His father died when he was 13, leaving the older boys to help raise the family. Johnny and his older brothers Pete and Edward went on to form a partnership, running cattle and raising crops on over 40,000 acres of land at their peak.
Later, when the Daum Brothers' partnership dissolved, my father's Riverview Ranch spanned 15,000 acres, and 1,200 mother cows. My father was the first rancher in the state to use Artificial Insemination technology in a commercial beef herd. His Angus-x calves reflected the quality of their genetics, and were in demand as show, or "club" calves, as well as prime quality beef.
I was raised as a cowgirl and lady rancher, with an early eye for a quality calf, and especially, for a good horse. From the beginning, I was drawn to the European, or "English", disciplines of dressage and jumping. The cowboys laughed at my first English saddle, strapped firmly to whichever ranch horse (Mustangs and Morgans at first, and later papered Quarter Horses and off-the-track Thoroughbreds) I was riding at the moment.
From true working cowhorses to eventing, hunters, jumpers, and finally dressage, I experienced a range of disciplines and breeds. I always rode mares, and the best of those mares, I kept, knowing someday I'd want to build my own breeding operation. I am proud to be following in my father's footsteps, and forging a few of my own!
On my first trip to Germany, I finally met the type of horses I knew I wanted to breed. Substantial and yet elegant, powerful yet graceful, the modern warmbloods, and especially those with an infusion of TB blood, hold the trump card for the modern sport horse disciplines. I was fortunate to meet and learn from experienced breeders, trainers, verband representatives and judges in Germany as well as North America. In consideration of the mare base being developed on our South Dakota ranch, we searched Germany for the perfect stallion candidates for our farm, and for the North American market. We found Der Graf first, and then Le Mode, and these two stallions have more than lived up to our faith in their genetics, prepotency and potential. We haven't looked back since!