Don Earl LaPorte of Dover, OK has been a horseman most of his life. He was raised on a farm near Hennesey, OK and began riding ponies at an early age. He got his first horse when he was about 9 years old, which he enjoyed riding on the family farm. His family primarily raised crops but also ran some stocker cattle, giving Don the opportunity to participate in 4-H activities with his horse and help gather and move cattle.
Typical of many Oklahoma farm-raised kids, Don was destined for country life. He and Diana married when he was 17 and in 1972, they moved to Clovis, NM where Don spent his days horseback working the feed lots. Although he didn’t finish high school, he later obtained his license and spent some time selling real estate. They moved between Oklahoma and New Mexico a few years, before returning to Oklahoma to stay in the early 90’s. Their marriage of 36 years produced one son, who is now 36 and lives in New York.
Don is also a diabetic and has lived with the disease since he was 10 years old. But it was in 1993 life began to really change for him and his family, the disease took his sight in one eye. He lost sight in the other eye the following year. In despair and convinced he would never ride again, Don sold all his horses and did his best to adjust to a totally different lifestyle.
After some research, Don got involved with a federal program known as The Randolph Shepherd Act, designed to improve the quality of life for the blind and to put them back to work in the vending industry. Don wound up with eight vending machines in Oklahoma City, which he serviced using taxi and bus transportation since he couldn’t drive.
Several years passed with Don doing his best to accommodate his disability. But something was missing from his life – something other than his sight. He finally decided to change things so he contacted the buyer of his horses and bought back his favorite AQHA mare, Star. Don began riding Star again in a small area, but it wasn’t long before he ventured out into the pasture.
A long time family friend, Debbie Blades, took him on his first trail ride and they’ve been riding together since. With a friend in front of him to let him know what he’s riding into, Don and Star managed quite well. Another friend usually rides behind Don, just for added protection.
There’s never a shortage of friends willing to help him ride. Don claims he “rides a little and eats a lot” when they’re camped and really enjoys the friends. They travel mostly with riders from the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and consider Horse Heaven Ranch Resort near Talihina one of their favorite places to ride. They also enjoyed several private ranch rides sponsored by OQHA. Don and Diana also travel to Colorado several times a year to ride.
The LaPortes currently manage about 3900 acres of hay, grass and cattle along with the vending routes in Oklahoma City and El Reno. Don has three employees who take care of the vending business so he can work the ranch. The Triple L Farms maintain about 20 head of registered Quarter Horses and run a hundred or so momma cows. They have donated several foals to raise money for the AQHA Research Programs over the past few years.
In 2008, with the help of several members of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, a group of friends and Don organized a “ranch day” for a group of elementary children from the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee, OK. The event was hosted by Lowell and Donna Hobbs at the Barefoot Ranch near Haskell, OK and enjoyed a day of horses, fishing and food. Now the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and Rocky & Deborah Webb host this annual event at Silver Spur Western Lodge, Haskell, OK.