This Arkansas horsewoman splits her time between managing a cow-calf operation, raising her family, and competing in pole bending and barrel racing at the national level.

At the end of a long gravel road in Columbus, Arkansas, Missy Hayes and her husband, Dwayne, run the cow-calf operation for Pruet Ranch. The ranch has two locations: its headquarters in Ashdown, where working ranch Quarter Horses also are bred and raised, and its cattle division in Columbus.

Missy grew up riding in parades and competing in the local 4-H and Future Farmers of America clubs. After graduating from high school she loped horses for local cutting horse trainers and eventually went to work at a veterinary clinic. When a young Dwayne visited the clinic to see the farrier, instead he met his future wife. The two married and moved to Ashdown when Dwayne accepted a job at Pruet Ranch. It didn’t take long before the ranch owners realized Missy’s capabilities and work ethic, and put her on full-time payroll when the couple relocated to Columbus.

Missy Hays on horseback

Today Missy takes on the responsibility of checking the calving heifers and raising her 9-year-old daughter, Bailey, who, like her mother, enjoys doing everything horseback. When time allows, Missy runs barrels and poles at American Quarter Horse Association shows on her Pitzer Ranch-bred gelding Genuine Prince Dunit, by Genuine Jack Prince and out of Rita Red Dunnit, a daughter of Hes Dun His Time.

I DIDN’T GET HORSES until third grade, and I was hooked from there. I suppose that’s the way it is with anybody.

AS DAD WOULD SAY, there were no boys in my life until I got out of school. I’d come home and he’d have to come out and tell me to come to bed because I was out in the roundpen. I’ve spent hours and hours in the roundpen with my horse.

ONCE WE GOT to Pruet Ranch, they realized I wasn’t a nobody. Once I proved I could earn my keep, they put me on the payroll, too. 

THE MOST FRUSTRATED I’ve ever been is when I pulled a calf and a storm came in. It was 70 degrees earlier that day and I had a T-shirt on.  Then it started raining. I used my pocketknife to cut the placenta, and I left the knife and my keys on the squeeze chute. I rode my horse all the way back to the gate, and I couldn’t get out of the gate because it was locked. It was coming a monsoon and hailing. I had to ride back to the corral and get my keys so I could get out. That was the first calf I’d ever pulled myself.

WE LIVE IN THE BLACKLANDS, so the ground cracks from being dry. Somebody dropped a log chain down into one of our cracks to measure it. It never hit the bottom. That’s what we have to ride through going out across the pastures. You ride something that you know is going to pay attention. You ride something that is going to halfway take care of you.

I MISS NOT BEING ABLE TO CALL MY MOTHER. She passed away in January. When I feed the cows, there’s downtime waiting for them to come to your truck, and that’s when I’d always call her. It’s been a pretty hard adjustment not being able to call her while waiting for the cows to come.

I’D LIKE TO CONTINUE showing the horse I’ve got and get him fast enough to get back to the [AQHA] World Show. I’ve gone to the World Show twice and missed the top 15. One year I was 17th and the other year I was 19th. But I’m not going to go back and spend that kind of money until I know I can be sure enough to go to the finals.

BAILEY GOES WITH US to help gather the cows. If you mention, “Let’s go check the heifers horseback,” she’s up and going. As long as she’s doing something horseback, she doesn’t care.

I ASKED BAILEY why she likes poles [more than barrels], and she said, “Because I get to stay out in the arena longer.” I said, “I don’t think that’s the objective of the game.”

EVERYONE ASKS, “When are you going to have another [child]?” But I don’t have room in the tractor for another one.  There’s only one seat in the tractor. 

THE HEIFERS are pretty much my [responsibility]. Every morning I take Bailey to school, I check heifers and cows, and a lot of times Dwayne will pick up Bailey from school.  Then I’ll go back and check the heifers. If I have trouble, he’ll help me pen [a cow] if I need to, but if he’s not there, they’re mine to deal with. I have to pen them, I have to pull [their calves], and if I need help he’ll come rescue me.

NOBODY THINKS OF ARKANSAS as having working ranches. Everybody thinks of it being the ma-and-pa deal with 30 cows. We have between 800 and 900 head of cows. I’d like people to know we have real working ranch horses in Arkansas.


This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Western Horseman. 

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