BEUCHE, LA (WAFB) - It's 6:30 am, and the sun's disc has not yet cracked the sky in the East. Hall Davis grabs a bag of horse feed and mounts his 4-wheeler. Mist still hangs over the fields of grass on his 40-acre property on North River Road in Beuche, Louisiana at the Hondarosa Ranch.
This routine plays out every morning, seven days a week, and Hall Davis does not see it as work. He's worked for 40 years in the funeral home business. He has three funeral homes in Baton Rouge, Port Allen and Plaquemine. He does this work, because he loves it.
Davis is a breeder of race horses now. It's a new hobby/second career that he started almost two years ago.
I first met Davis about 15 years ago, when he and his son, Hall Davis the Fifth, were state champions in sorting and penning-style horseback riding. As we ride out on his four-wheeler to feed Hall's beautiful ponies, he points out the multiple pens used to hold sorting and penning competitions at his ranch. He still has the tower where judges could sit to see the action from above.
"This is an arena we used to do this. You put ten calves in the pen, put numbers on their necks and you have to round them up in the other pen in numerical order."
"Wow, that's very surgical", I say.
"Yep." He answers,"Then there's team penning, you put 30 cows in the pen, and you have to go get three of them with the same number on their necks and put them in the pen. That's what we did for about 10 years, we rode all over the country doing that."
"Five", Hall's son, flourished in University Lab's athletic programs, playing basketball, and then became a committed football player. He received a scholarship to play for U-L Lafayette's Ragin' Cajuns. That's where NFL scouts spotted the player who was now "6'6" 280 pounds, throwing 300 pound opponents like matchsticks" as his dad proudly describes it. Hall "Five" was invited to the Combine.
"He got drafted by the Rams, they traded him to the Redskins, and he got picked up by the Tennessee Titans in 2010. Then he got picked up by the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns, then he ended up going to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Right now he's working out, staying in shape, he could get a phone call any minute," his dad said.
The mare and her two foals happily munch their morning cereal, all the while keeping an eye on me. The Davis ranch is quiet and they don't see many people except the veterinarian and people who care for the other cutting horses owned by Hall's friends, he lets their horses stay on his property.
Hall said he had put aside horseback riding when long-time state legislator JE Jumonville whose ranch is about 8 miles up River Road from Davis suggested they get together. Jumonville's ranch is 900 acres in Ventress, and his son Dutch runs the farm. They breed race horses. And Jumonville explained how to go about that. Hall loved the idea of staying around horses but in a different way from the competition days.
Jumonville found the mare that Davis has now as a filly at a sale in Oklahoma. The owners had raced her, but she had been injured in the starting gate chute and the muscle never properly healed. Davis bought the horse from Jumonville and they were in business. JE's stud, and Hall's beautiful bloodline female.
"The way we breed these horses are artificial insemination. The mare will have a baby and within 10 days she'll cycle back. If she doesn't, we'll give her another week or two then give her a shot and maybe she'll cycle back and she'll be ready again. When a foal gets about six months old, we pull a sample of the mane out of the neck and send it to California to do a DNA on it. And they do that before they issue the birth certificate. When people buy them they know what they're getting."
The two foals I see eating with Davis's mare were born in the same year. He says the mare, named "Dream" will be ready for pregnancy again around April of next year.
"When you look for a mare, you look for one that she's raced on a track ,what kind of speed index does she have? And what kind of breeding background they got. These mares, you can spend 10, 15 20, 50, a hundred thousand dollars buying a good mare."
When we watch the horses nuzzling the fragr ant green grass, with still a little mist hanging on the field, you realize what a pleasant start each day must be.
"Does this feel like the good life?" I ask.
"I don't do politics, I don't try to preach, I stick to funeral directing and I love my little ranch work, I love my little lifestyle," Hall Davis says. He's a busy man who likes to be busy even when he's relaxing.