50-Year Breeders: Burton and Marilyn Butler
50-Year Breeders: Burton and Marilyn Butler
By Richard Chamberlain for The American Quarter Horse Journal
It was a case of Midwest meeting West.
“We started breeding Quarter Horses when we bought a horse from my uncle, who brought him back from out West with a load of cattle,” says Burton Butler of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “I realized he was a Quarter Horse – he had a great disposition and was very willing, and he was the fastest horse I ever rode.”
This was a while ago, back when an ex-cavalryman named Ike Eisenhower lived in the White House. Inducted into the Iowa Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2013, Burton and wife Marilyn today raise American Quarter Horses on their Tri B Farms at Baxter, Iowa, 90 or so miles west of where Burton is retired as a professor of equine science at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.
Education has always played a big part in Burton’s life.
“As a student at Iowa State University, we studied and judged the university’s Quarter Horses,” Burton says. “They were as good examples of Quarter Horses as I ever saw. While on the ISU judging team, we visited top Quarter Horse farms and saw some of the best breeders and their top horses. A fellow student from Arkansas influenced me to raise Quarter Horses. In 1959, we bought a granddaughter of Bert and she was the foundation of our breeding program.”
That first mare was Black Jo Ann, a daughter of Bert’s son D Day Invader. Black Jo Ann produced seven foals, including the War Leo colt Lika Leo, who became a top reining and cutting horse, and Berta Bay, a Danny Max mare who was the reserve high-point broodmare and high-point in produce of dam in the Iowa Quarter Horse Association. To the cover of Bruce’s Charge, Berta Bay produced Berta’s Barrage, who won weanling and yearling classes and futurities before becoming a winning racehorse on the bush tracks that dotted the Midwest. Berta’s Barrage then became a top broodmare, producing 13 foals, including AQHA point earners the Piece Of Straw stallion The Straw Stacker and Beaus Bullion by Beaus My Daddy.
The Butlers also raised the Zippos Cash Bar stallion Zippos Stash, who sired open winners and 4-H show champions. However, they have cut back in recent years.
“At one time, we had around 20 broodmares and used outside sires,” Burton says. “Now we are down to five broodmares and one stallion. Our foals are usually sold before they are foaled, as they are top quality.”
They also have cut back on their industry endeavors. Marilyn managed AQHA shows for many years, and served four years as secretary of the Iowa Horse Council. Burton is a past president and current board member of the Council. The couple credit AQHA with paving the way.
“We think our involvement with AQHA has very much contributed to our pleasure, commitment, dedication and contact with horses and horse people,” he says. “We’ve had the opportunity to raise and show Quarter Horses and be involved with the Association. Being an AQHA judge for more than 30 years has given me a closer look at what the Association does for its members.
“Without AQHA, our involvement with horses would have much less meaning,” he continues. “We have a breeding program that provides really good horses for people to love, respect and enjoy. We enjoy seeing horses that we raised go on and do well for other people, and people enjoy having registered horses and all their accomplishments and achievements being recorded. People like being involved in AQHA.”
The Butlers certainly got a lot out of their involvement.
“Our most memorable experiences with American Quarter Horses have been with the opportunity to raise and show great horses, and interact with other AQHA members when serving as judge, show managers and show secretaries,” Burton says. “AQHA helped me in coaching college students participating in the judging contests at the Youth World Show and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, and the Association also gave us the opportunity to know and work with people we respect and admire, such as Jim Kiser, Don Dodge and so many others.”
In addition to Quarter Horses, the Butlers also raised children Brad and Bryn, who have followed in their footsteps as horse people. The Butlers always wanted their kids and other people to have the same kind of experiences and memories.
“We think the future of the Quarter Horse industry is bright, if we continue working on the health and welfare of the horse,” Burton says. “Preventing abuse and taking care of the horse is key. If we continue to breed the right kind of horse, everyone will benefit.”