angle-left 50-Year Breeders: Martha and Danly Sayles

50-Year Breeders: Martha and Danly Sayles

A life well-lived has included American Quarter Horses and family for trainers, judges and 50-year breeders Martha and Danly Sayles.

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By Richard Chamberlain for The American Quarter Horse Journal

Danly and Martha Sayles married in August 1960, launching a life together that would give them two beautiful daughters and, as breeders, trainers and judges of American Quarter Horses, would take them around the world.

“We love the business,” says Martha, “and the work that has and still is going into it.”

They have worked hard. Martha showed Quarter Horses while earning a degree from what now is New Mexico State University, graduating with honors in animal husbandry, and Danly degreed in general agriculture with an emphasis on agronomy. Danly worked as a field man and agricultural banker while Martha went back to her family’s White Sands Ranch at Alamogordo, New Mexico, where her father, G.B. Oliver, had used Quarter Horses since the 1940s to work cattle, and was still an AQHA leading breeder at the time of his death in 1972. That same year, the Sayleses started their own horse operation at Mesquite, New Mexico. Martha retained an interest in her family’s ranch while Danly continued at the bank until 1974. Both Danly and Martha showed ranch-raised horses, as well as horses registered in Danly’s name, though the couple registered their first foals in both of their names in 1969.

Both became judges for AQHA and numerous other associations. They officiated at shows all over the United States and Canada, in Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and the Netherlands.

“We judged some of the best horses in all of the world,” Martha says. “It kept our eyes sharp to judge our own produce. The first thing we wanted and still want is a good mind and disposition.

“The Oliver horses raised by Martha’s dad,” Danly adds, “were well known for good temperaments. We started with the AQHA Champion stallion Mr Tuff McCue, who was given to us by Martha’s father as a 2-month-old foal, and was extremely athletic and had an extremely good disposition.”

“We also wanted to raise a pretty horse,” Martha continues. “If you don’t know it, pretty sells! But it has to be athletic, and our horses have won at halter, reining, roping and working cow horse. We have been able to keep that quality through more than 50 years. Our business has been and still is built on repeat customers.”

Some of those customers were close friends, such as American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Jack Kyle (“our best friend and like a brother to both of us”), Joe Taylor, Casey Darnell and Jimmie Randals, a former president of the National Cutting Horse Association.

Friends like those propelled the Sayleses to serve on a number of boards of horse associations, with Danly a past president of the Southwest Quarter Horse Association and the New Mexico Palomino Breeders Association. Martha served four terms as Southwest Quarter Horse Association president and put in a quarter-century on the New Mexico Quarter Horse Association board, most of that time as executive secretary.

They also garnered many honors. At different times, both Danly and Martha have been recognized as the member of the year by the SWQHA, and both have been the man of the year of the NMQHA. (Martha was the first woman so recognized, with the NMQHA committee stipulat­ing that it would not change the name of the award, because Martha did everything a man would do.) But awards and honors were not the prime motivation for what they did.

“We never tried to be a big operation, but just a family Quarter Horse farm,” Martha says. “Our daughters grew up working in the operation, riding Quarter Horses that we raised, the same way I did by riding horses that were ranch-raised by my dad. They qualified and showed at the Youth World for nine years, and that showing and working together has taken them to where they are now.”

Rebekah Sayles Bachman is assistant dean of agriculture at West Texas A&M University, where she coached the equestrian team for 10 years and her husband, Dr. Steve Bachman, is a beef nutritionist. Sarah Sayles is completing her doctorate in water sci­ence and management at New Mexico State University.

So it’s been a long and winding trail for the Sayleses, who offer a piece of advice for those finding their own trails.

“We have through 50 years not varied on the kind of horse that we wanted to raise,” Martha says. “We were always very critical of our stallions, mares and offspring. We tried to avoid having a blind eye to our horses, or getting the breeder mental­ity of thinking that everything we raise is excellent – we criti­cally cull our mares. We both have seen too many people in positions of power vote for what was best for their own horse in their backyard or pasture. One must look at the whole industry and always vote for what is best for the industry. We hope that each trainer and every owner would realize that if the industry flourishes, the whole horse world will benefit.”