Ranching Heritage Breeder: Broken Stirrup Ranch

Ranching Heritage Breeder: Broken Stirrup Ranch

From riding on the ranch to ranch riding at the shows, these horses can do it all.

Ranching Heritage Breeder Broken Stirrup Ranch co-owner Debbi Otley and Dunitwithmysliderson

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By Andrea Caudill

The same family has ranched the land that Broken Stirrup Ranch at Diamond, Oregon, sits on for generations. 

The high, short-grass hills provide fertile feed for the certified Red Angus that graze it. The ranch is managed by third-generation family member Fred Otley and his wife, Debbi, who works right alongside her husband to manage their cow-calf operation, and has added her own twist to the ranch’s history – raising quality American Quarter Horses as an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder

The Otleys have two sons, Toby and Chris, who help at the ranch as needed or just come to have fun with the family. 

Debbi wasn’t raised on a ranch, but she was raised on a horse, and always has had a passion for them. After she and Fred married in 1986, as a hobby she would acquire a horse or two and train it, and over time developed a small herd that most closely fit her program’s ultimate goals. 

She competed first in cutting and then in reined cow horse, adding Versatility Ranch Horse competition when it came into existence. She has bred American Quarter Horses for decades for work on the ranch and for the show arena, and credits mentor Bobby Usher for guiding her knowledge of training, showing and breeding horses. 

“My goal has always been, from when I started this and had this dream, that I wanted to have a horse that would be suitable to go in any direction for anybody,” Debbi says. “Whether it’s just a trail horse, ranch riding, cutting, working cow, ranch horse, rodeo pen – whatever. I wanted to breed something that would be versatile like that.”

The ranch’s breeding stock, stallions and mares alike, must prove themselves before they begin their breeding careers. The mares are all ridden and evaluated, and the stallions are also shown. 

The ranch’s main stallion is Dunitwithmysliderson, a palomino son of Starlight Shiner out of Smart Dun It by Hollywood Dun It. The accomplished stallion has solid earnings in National Reined Cow Horse Association competition, as well as proven successful in Versatility Ranch Horse competition. 

Their senior stallion is Slamin Doors, a 25-year-old son of Haidas Little Pep out of Smartest One by Smart Little Lena, an earner in both NRCHA and National Cutting Horse Association competition and a multiple Farnam AQHA World  Championship Show qualifier. 

She has two upcoming sires, led by White Collar Crime, a 3-year-old by Nics Little Bud and out of Stylabobbette by Stylabob, who even as a young horse is already at work on the ranch and a winner in the show ring.

“All of my studs have to work here at the ranch,” Debbi says. “They’re not just show horses. They have to work here as well.” 

Once foaled, the horses bred at Broken Stirrup Ranch are raised to learn where their feet are. 

“The mares and the foals, they run out in the country – sagebrush, rock, juniper,” Debbie says. “They’re not pampered in a corral. I don’t do a lot of handling of the foals until after they’re weaned. They know how to travel through the terrain.” 

Most of the ranch’s horses are sold privately during their weanling year, with only a few horses kept to an older age. Any horse retained at the ranch are started and doing light ranch work in their 2-year-old year. 

“I like a lot of bone, I like something about 14.3 (hands) or higher,” Debbi says of the ideal horse she is breeding. “Something that has the ‘go’ if you want it but will come right back down to ground zero when you need it instead of riding something really hot all the time. And something that can be laid off for a week or a month and be able to get right back on and go and not have to start all over. Some people don’t ride every day like me.” 

When Debbi takes her horses to shows, they are proving that a real ranch horse can adapt quickly to an arena. 

“I figure if they can do it outside, they can do it inside,” she says. “So far it’s working out that way. Mine aren’t used to being rode in an arena, but I get there early and let them see the indoors and stuff. Their mentality is ‘oh what’s that? OK.’ They’re not making a big deal out of it – they’re exposed to everything here but the walls.”  

The AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder program highlights working cattle ranches that breed high-quality American Quarter Horses primarily for ranch work. Horses bred by these ranches are given unique opportunities through Ranching Heritage competitions open only to these horses. For more information, visit www.aqha.com/ranching.