Ranching Heritage Breeder: KT Cattle Inc.
Ranching Heritage Breeder: KT Cattle Inc.
The ranchland that the northern camp of KT Cattle Inc. sits on near Amado, Arizona, is currently dry, but it’s awaiting the summer monsoons that will bless it with rich grass for the Gelbvieh cattle and American Quarter Horses that graze it. The livestock are already fat from munching on mesquite pods direct from the trees that dot the land, but that grass will put a finishing bloom on them.
If you can pull your gaze from the handsome livestock, you’ll notice something unusual – rocks. Rocks cover the ground, from dust pebbles to fist size rocks to massive boulders.
The broodmares, barefoot, navigate this ground comfortably. The saddle horses will be given the benefit of shoes before they’re put to hard work, but it’s easy to see that “tough” and “sound” are key qualities in the horses raised by the operation headed by Kyle and Amy Best, AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders for more than a quarter century.
“From Day 1, we don’t pamper them,” Kyle says. “The mares run outside just like our cows do. We pasture breed them, the babies are born in the rocks and the stickers. They’re raised in it, and so when you start riding them, their feet are good. Whereas, if you bring horses from anywhere else that haven’t been raised in it, they’re going to get stone bruised and get crippled. These horses stay sound.”
They have decades of experience running their own ranch, but both Kyle and Amy’s histories with ranching go for generations before they were even born. Both of their families ranched in Texas generations earlier, with Kyle’s family settling in eastern New Mexico and Amy’s family branching out to Oklahoma.
The couple themselves ranched in several places before settling in Arizona and founding their own place more than a quarter century ago. Today, they are joined by their sons, Trey and Klancy, as well as Klancy’s wife, Kaysha, and their kids, Hondo and Jaycee, who are the sixth generation in the ranching tradition.
The Bests got their first broodmares the year before they were married, and continue today producing horses that can step up and get the job done under any condition.
“The most ideal horse for us is about 14.3 to 15 hands, and weighs 1,250 when they’re done growing,” Amy says. “They need to have a good disposition – that’s a must. Conformation is a must – a pretty head, short backed, short necked, short cannon bones. And a lot of cow in them, they need to be athletes and be able to run. And you have to be able to ride them all day.”
The horses wear a “Flying V” brand on their left shoulders, and most have the designation ‘Flying V’ at the beginning of their registered name. They are also branded with their birth year on their left buttock and with the mare identification on their right buttock.
One of the most influential horses in their breeding program has been the 1992 mare Miss Wimpy Creek, a daughter of Ceaser Reed who heavily influenced their program.
They select their breeding stock based mainly on phenotype and performance – selecting the horses proven to be able to get the job done. Their broodmare band is in some cases four generations deep of their own breeding.
A few influential stallions in their breeding program are Teddygo Jones, a 1979 gray stallion by Dusty’s Blue Haven bred by Ted S. Jones of Waynoka, Oklahoma; and Sugs Lil Wil, a 2000 red dun stallion by Peppys Lil Wil bred by Valerie Williams of Lubbock, Texas.
They recently lost a good sire in Four J Gunner, a 2010 Dual Rey-bred stallion. The Bests continue to use Gallos Star Hancock, a 2016 sorrel stallion bred by Jerry and Barb Rhoads of Bolckow, Missouri, who carries the blood of top sire Gallo Del Cielo, aka “Rooster”; and RS Hickory High Cat, a 2017 sorrel son of Lightning Smooth Cat bred by Charlie and Linda Dillard of Brenham, Texas, who carries the blood of High Brow Cat, the all-time leading sire of performance horses by money earned.
They typically sell their horses via private treaty, offering horses of all ages from weanlings to broke saddle horses, and have seen the horses thrive in work ranging from ranch work to rodeoing, roping and other performance events.
The ranch also contributes to the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program, which offers a donated weanling to approved American Quarter Horse Youth Association members. The youth then complete the nine-month program, which works to train the next generation of horsemen through an intensive educational program and provide them with opportunities they might otherwise not get.
The Bests’ most recent donation was for the 2022 program, and a weanling from their ranch was donated to Guadalupe Carrasco of Malaga, New Mexico.
“The main thing is to help these kids,” Amy says. “So far, every one we’ve given, they have excelled. The kids really like them and stay in contact with us about what they’re doing with them.”
On this warm late-spring day, the small broodmare band is spread across a bowl-like field. A few mares graze the bottom, while the mares at the top of the hill are carefully foraging from the mesquite trees. Between them, the foals are busy frolicking with each other.
The ranch’s motto is “Raising Diamonds in the Rocks,” and these ranch horses are shining brightly.
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 Challenges, which are competitions open only to these horses. For more information, visit www.aqha.com/ranching.