Winter was tough on the Froelich family's ranch, but then came signs of spring.
A meadowlark warbling. A rain shower. And a foal in the pasture.
"Had one this morning," said Lance Froelich, preparing with his wife, Sunshine, to work with a couple of horses in their ranch's riding arena.
From now until early June the Froelichs will be foaling on their ranch near Selfridge, about 40 miles south of Mandan. They'll also be working with the young horses they raise and sell to buyers who come from as far as Colorado, Kentucky, Washington and Georgia.
Lance and Sunshine Froelich are the fourth generation on the ranch that has been in his family since about 1930. Their children, 14-year-old Jocelyn and 11-year-old Brody, also work with them, and Lance's parents, Rodney and Kathryn, and other family are there, too, working through calving right now, which started in early April.
Their ranch is a peaceful scene, nestled in a quiet bowl below the rolling prairie, near the Cannonball River.
"We just try to raise good-minded ranch horses. That's what we do," Lance Froelich said. "We just try to make a good product for everybody."
They usually raise 40 to 50 foals a year. Seven of their mares are first-time mothers, in their own pasture so older mares don't steal their foals.
"Those mothers are so docile, they'll just let them have them," Sunshine Froelich said. "We kind of keep them separate so they can build that bond and get confident with their baby."
Lance Froelich said foaling is "a fast deal," all done outside and generally left to nature, but they still check on them twice a day, morning and night.
"Very rarely you ever see one born," he said. "They just lay down and have them."
But if problems arise, they can be bad, such as a uterine rupture, with limited time to respond.
The Froelichs will see some clinicians over the summer for horsemanship and techniques, "just like taking college classes," Sunshine said. They've also worked with renowned horsemen Buck Brannaman and Joe Wolter to better their handling.
Education is vital, Lance Froelich noted -- for handling horses and for their physical safety. Touch and feel guide a lot of what they do with horses, taking them through steps in their spacious riding arena.
"We kind of allow them to feel what we need and make the mistakes until they find out what feels really good," Lance Froelich said.
"And if you think you're the boss, they'll humble you really quickly," Sunshine Froelich added.