Editor’s Note: This is excerpts from an article that originally appeared in the September 2011 The American Quarter Horse Journal. First-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Emily Miller of Weatherford, Oklahoma, is riding three Namgis-bred horses, including NAMGIS D 33, aka “Chongo”; NAMGIS D 56, aka “Foxy”; and NAMGIS D 35, aka “Pipewrench.”
By Richard Chamberlain
The list of CEOs of the nation’s largest telecommunications company who have also won tie-down ropings and breed national-level rodeo horses is pretty short. In fact – it most likely has just one name: Stan Sigman.
Not that you’d know it from talking to him. A big man with an easy smile, direct gaze and firm handshake, the rancher isn’t given to bragging. Despite his unqualified success at the top of the business world, he comes across as a regular, down-to-earth guy much more at home with other cowboys and horsemen on his ranches at Hondo, Texas, than he does as the buttoned-down, suit-and-tie leader of a corporate giant on Wall Street. That’s his cowboy persona. Stan’s actions speak louder than his words: “I would rather show what I can do than talk about what I can do.”
Not that there haven’t been reams written about him. The Bloomberg Businessweek profile of his business resume alone takes more space than what it would take to sum up the average person’s entire life – 38 lines in small type, from the beginning of his career in 1965 as a Southwestern Bell Telephone stockman in Hereford, Texas, through his 1970 graduation with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University) to his rise to the very top of the business world as CEO and president of Cingular Wireless and AT&T, with stops along the way heading various AT&T, Cingular and SBC Communications divisions across the United States and Mexico. That is just the official positions held. The profile leaves out such accomplishments as working with his good friend and Apple CEO Steve Jobs to develop the iPhone. And Jobs is just one of many friends.
“I’ve known Stan since we were kids in Hereford,” says AQHA Past President Johnny Trotter. “He’s a guy you can send to the bank to count your money. He’s honest, he’s got credibility, his word is his bond. He raises good horses: good breeding, good breaking, good training. When you buy a horse from Stan, you’re not just buying a horse – you’re getting a relationship with an expert horseman who is starting what will become a legendary line of performance Quarter Horses.”
Stan grew up in the center of the Texas Panhandle cattle feeding industry, where his father was a Farm Bureau agent in Deaf Smith County, the heart of a region where feedlots produce a quarter of all fed beef in the United States. Early on, he found a mentor whose leadership still guides his life.
“Spicer Gripp had a significant influence on my life, from the time I was a little boy, 6 or 7 years old, until the day he died,” Stan says. “I was raised around farming and ranching, but Spicer is the one who took me under his wing and taught me to rope, taught me horsemanship and really got me interested in the whole rodeo/cowboy thing. He became a lifelong friend to me, and we roped together until he passed.”
Before his death in 1994, Spicer was a mentor to many. The man is cherished by the region’s cowboy community, who on the first weekend of every August since 1994 remembers him with the Spicer Gripp Memorial Roping, which raises funds for the Spicer Gripp Memorial Youth Foundation to provide ag and rodeo scholarships at West Texas A&M.
And Spicer’s influence on Stan extends far beyond the roping arena. Stan and his wife named their son Spicer, who named his son Spicer Gripp II. Spicer and wife Julie (a marine biologist who trains Shamu and other orcas at nearby Sea World San Antonio) also have a daughter, Piper.
Married in 1966, Stan and Gerry Lynn (whose first name is pronounced Gary) also have daughters Lourdes Funes (who has children Isaac and Caleb) and Jodi Adams (who has son Stephan and daughter Rilynn). The Sigmans, in turn, mentor those and other children with the values they learned through an arc of life that has come full circle.
“My wife thought she was marrying a cowboy,” he says. “And she was. The first 10 years of our life together, she spent all of her time pushing calves for me, helping me clean stalls and all of that. She never dreamed our life would take the path that it did. My career got distracted by my corporate life, and now I’m back to my career, especially with horses.”
Stan went quite a ways with horses before he was sidetracked by the corporate world, which required him to move his family 19 times in 42 years. He competed in junior rodeos as a kid and was on the WT rodeo team for a while (“but couldn’t afford to travel much”) and roped in rodeos until he was about 30 years old.
“My last rodeo was in St. Louis, Missouri – I just didn’t have enough time to practice and couldn’t win, and I’m not going to do something if I can’t be competitive,” he says. “I quit doing that, but I still had a compassion for horses and a passion to compete. So I went from roping to racehorses, to see if I could breed a better horse than somebody else. Initially, my wife and I trained them ourselves. I started out running Quarter Horses in Texas and Oklahoma, mostly, before pari-mutuel.
“I had a good AAA mare back in the 1980s, and I bred her to Bugs Alive In 75. He was a beautiful horse, but he had an overo gene in him, and the mare had an overo cropout. At the time, AQHA wouldn’t register horses with excess white, so I had to register the filly as a Paint – her name was Jodi Bug – and she went on to become the champion 2-year-old in 1982 for the American Paint Horse Association. From that, I bought another Paint that became a running champion and went with the Paint Horses on the running end of it, and some Quarter Horses along the way.”
Now he’s back. Namgis Quarter Horses comprises about 450 acres, most of it irrigated paddocks and pastures sprigged in Tifton 85, a Bermuda hybrid that yields about 3,000 round bales of 1,000-1,100 pounds apiece. Namgis (Sigman spelled backward) is the headquarters for the Sigmans’ three other ranches 18 or so miles south of Hondo, a ranching and farming community of 7,000 about 40 miles west of San Antonio.
The other three spreads are grouped as the Santa Cruz Ranch and total about 6,000 acres, which are watered by artesian wells drilled 3,800 feet deep into the Edwards Aquifer (the main source of water for San Antonio). Those ranches run 500 cow-calf pairs and in a good year graze another 500 stocker steers on wheat and oats. The mama cows are Santa Cruz, a composite breed of beef cattle that the King Ranch developed by crossing Santa Gertrudis, Red Angus and Gelbvieh.
Stan’s corporate distraction took him to South Texas in the early ’90s. He and Gerry liked the area, bought the original place five years ago and started turning what had been a dairy into a ranch.
“I told my son he could inherit this place when I died,” he says, “or he could come down and help me build it.”
That was good enough for Spicer, who quit his high-powered job in the Dallas financial industry, returned to his alma mater to take the year-long TCU ranch management program and now manages the Sigman cattle operation. Stan’s time in the corporate world enabled him to give his family what he otherwise never could have afforded.
“When I was 18 or 20 years old, I had visions of being a world champion calf roper,” Stan says. “If somebody had told me then that I had a choice – I could be a world champion or I could be a CEO – I’d have said I’ll take the world champion. And I’m glad I didn’t have that option. What’s that song Garth Brooks sings – ‘Thank God for Unanswered Prayers’?”
Bucks Hancock Dude is the breeding stallion at Namgis Quarter Horses. The 2002 buckskin son of Watch Me Dude To was bred by Cecil and Hazel Gillespie of McLean, Texas, and is about as close to foundation breeding as there is today. “Dude” traces topside to Blondy’s Dude, King P-234, Watch Joe Jack, Two Eyed Jack, Pretty Boy, Grey Badger II, Joe Hancock, Sugar Bars, Three Bars (TB) and Peter McCue. His dam, the Leon JP Hancock mare San Tip Hancock, goes back to Joe Hancock, Sugar Bars, Blob Jr, Peppy San and Poco Bueno.
Stan bought the horse as a 2-year-old off a guy running a feedlot. Sent to a trainer, the horse showed great promise, so Stan called AQHA Professional Horseman Bobby Lewis, who was quite high on the horse, and asked him to take the horse.
So were a lot of other people who saw the stallion during the next four years, particularly judges who made him an AQHA Champion and put him in the AQHA World Championship Show three times, where in 2007 he was the reserve world champion junior tie-down roping horse. That was the same year that Dude was the high-point tie-down roping stallion and junior performance halter stallion, and the year prior to him being the high-point tie-down roping, senior performance halter and all-around high-point stallion.
“Dude’s just an exceptional horse,” Stan says. “He won the national rope horse futurity, I don’t know how many top-10s in tie-down and heeling. … The horse showed so much athleticism, but beyond that, he’s the smartest, most intelligent, best-dispositioned horse I’ve ever been around – and I’ve been around a lot of horses. I wanted to pass that on.”
Dude passes it on. With only 144 registered foals, he has sired the earners of more than 700 AQHA points, including reserve world champion NAMGIS D 14, as well as three horses owned by barrel racer Emily Miller, who is competing in her first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this month and who has already won one round of the event aboard NAMGIS D 33, aka "Chongo," who is by Bucks Hancock Dude and out of the Eyesa Special mare Track Goddess, a racing money earner who comes from a long line of racing producer broodmares.
“All the horses are bred and raised here at this facility,” says Stan, who has not been able to straddle a horse since January 1990, when a near-fatal head-on collision on an icy highway left him with disabilities in his back and legs. “The horses are kept here until they are long yearlings in December, then they are taken to the other ranch to live the next year and a half of their life.
“I don’t believe that horses should be broke and trained in the arena. We have round pens, riding pens and big turn-out paddocks, but once they leave the round-pen stage of their training, they are taken out to the ranch, where we ride the river, ride through the cattle, gather cattle – they’re ranch horses. We put 30 rides on them. After 30 rides, we turn them out for two to three months, then we bring them back up and put another 30 rides on them. When they become 3-year-olds, we start tracking cattle on them, getting them to rate, getting them to cow, advancing them. By the time we’re ready to sell them, they all have 150-160 rides on them. And those are quality rides – we don’t bring them into the arena. They’re broke, they’re good looking and they’re ready to go.”
Namgis has a broodmare band of well-bred, proven performers, half of which have been roped on or have produced rope horses, and half of which were AAA racehorses on the track and, if they are old enough, have produced AAA runners – these are mares by First Down Dash, Okey Dokey Dale, Eyesa Special and other top race sires.
“Breeding is challenging, and I like the challenge,” Stan says. “I want to build the reputation that the ranchers with the bigger horse operations would say, ‘You need some of those Namgis mares in your breeding band.’ I want the legends of the Leos, the Three Bars, the Sugar Bars, those kind of leg¬ends where knowledgeable people say you’ve got to have this genetic pool in your breeding operation. That’s what I want: If I can leave anything, it’s to leave those Namgis horses in top demand for breeding.”
And there are three running at the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of the Journal. To subscribe, go to www.aqha.com/qhj. Visit Namgis Quarter Horses on the web at www.namgisquarterhorses.com/.