The Foundation of Good Bloodlines

The Foundation of Good Bloodlines

We honor the ranches invited to compete in The Run for a Million's $25,000 Cowboy Invitational, presented by the XIT Ranch.

Boots O'Neal leads a herd of horses at the 6666 Ranch (Credit: Bee Silva)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Richard Chamberlain, Jim Jennings and Becky Newell

For at least 80 years – if not longer – several ranches have bred Amer­ican Quarter Horses with pride. These ranchers were first and foremost cattlemen, and they needed horses to manage and move their herds. In the late 1890s – about the time these ranches were estab­lished – their horse herds were called by the Spanish word remuda.

As AQHA was established in 1940, the horses from these ranches became some of the first registered Quarter Horses. Fifty-two years later, AQHA started honoring ranches for their outstanding remudas. Nine ranches have been invited to compete in the Run for a Million’s inaugural Cowboy Invitational. Eight of those ranches are AQHA Best Remuda Award winners: Burnett Four Sixes in 1993, Waggoner in 1994, Stuart Ranch in 1995, R.A. Brown in 1997, Bogle in 1999, Tongue River in 2011, Wagonhound in 2018 and King Ranch in 2019. The award is used by AQHA to recognize ranches that have bred and are breeding outstanding American Quarter Horses for use on the ranch.

Following are stories about all of the ranches that are sending their best horses and cowboys to compete for the champion title – and $25,000 in prize money – in the Run for a Million Cowboy Invitational.

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King Ranch

Kingsville, Texas

King Ranch won the 2019 AQHA Best Remuda Award

King Ranch was breeding Quarter Horses and recording the resulting foals since before the founding of AQHA in 1940.

“The No. 1 purpose of the horse program is to provide our cowboys with the best horses in the world for their daily work,” says horse division manager James Clement III, 38. “What do our cowboys need? What do they want? Producing a horse that can stand up to this work, this heat, this climate, this country, is my No. 1 goal.”

For more than a century, form to function is why every horse foaled on the King Ranch is descended from Old Sorrel, most through Mr San Peppy and his son Peppy San Badger. James is a great-great-great-grandson of Richard King, who founded the ranch in 1853. The Santa Gertrudis, Laureles, Norias and Encino divisions comprise the King Ranch, which grazes more than 35,000 cattle and 200 Quarter Horses across 825,000 acres of South Texas. It takes tough horses to handle it, and Old Sorrel proved to be exactly what was needed. A son of Hickory Bill, the sorrel stallion was foaled in 1915 out of a Thoroughbred mare from Kentucky and was purchased by the ranch while still on his dam.

Bob Kleberg, a grandson of Richard King, often said that Old Sorrel was the best cow horse the ranch ever had. The stallion was ridden by Bob and others until they were satisfied that he could do it all, with temperament, intelligence, cow sense, endurance, good feet and a good mouth. Bob perpetuated the stallion’s best qualities through careful line breeding, relentless testing and selec­tion, and rigorous culling.

In 1940, when AQHA was register­ing its first horses, King Ranch had eight sons and grandsons of Old Sorrel that were being bred to daughters and granddaughters of Old Sorrel. More than 100 descendants were in the first stud­book, including Wimpy, who is P-1 in the AQHA studbook. Old Sorrel’s sons Little Richard and Tomate Laureles were included in the first 19 numbers reserved for foundation sires.

Today, King Ranch stands stallions The Boon by Peptoboon­smal; Kinenos Moon by Ritas Sweet Badger; Marsala Red by Play Red; and El Rey Hidas by Taquito Sugar. The ranch is evaluating its homebred Coronel Del Rancho, a 4-year-old son of Not Ruf At All who is the ranch’s first bred and owned AQHA world champion. The ranch breeds to one or two outside stallions each year and works closely with other operations, including the Four Sixes Ranch. With all of that, King Ranch is AQHA’s all-time leading breeder by number of foals, having produced more than 7,200 in its long history.

“The importance of our history cannot be understated, but we are always looking forward,” James says. “We continue our commitment to breed the best possible cow horse for the King Ranch cowboys and to promote the American Quarter Horse internationally.”

Lauro Cavazos on Macanudo; Dick Kleberg Jr. on Wimpy; and Bob Kleberg on Peppy. PHOTO: Toni Frissell

Lee Roy Montalvo on Kinenos Moon; Henrietta Armstrong on Marsala Red; and James Clement III on The Boon. PHOTO: Rahm Carrington


R.A. Brown Ranch

Throckmorton, Texas

RA Brown Ranch won the 1997 AQHA Best Remuda Award

On the R.A. Brown Ranch, tradition dates to the 1880s, when Robert Herndon Brown was starting in the cattle business near Calvert, Texas. R.H. began buying land west of Fort Worth, Texas, in the early 1900s. In 1906, he trailed the first registered Hereford cattle to Throckmorton County. In the late 1920s, management of the ranch passed to R.H.’s son R.A. (whose name comprised only the initials from his grandfather Robert Alexander Brown).

One of the founding members of AQHA, R.A. Brown was elected to the first AQHA board of directors. R.A. served as a direc­tor for 20 years and was on the AQHA Executive Committee in the 1940s. Long before then, Quarter-type horses were part of the R.A. Brown Ranch. After a year and a half at Texas A&M University, R.A. returned to Throckmorton and bred his “cross­bred mares” to the leased Waggoner stallion Yellow Wolf. The ranch’s stallion lineup through the years included Black Hancock, Eddie, Blue Gold, Two Rocks and Smooth At Heart.

Then a mare carrying the blood of Blue Gold, Eddie and Two Rocks was bred to Haythorn Land & Cattle Co.’s Eddie Eighty, resulting in Hesa Eddie Hancock, who sired the ranch’s horses for the next 25 years. The Hesa Eddie Hancock daughters cross well on another of the ranch’s stallions, Take A Pick, who was bred by the Burnett Ranches.

“Practically every mare on this ranch was raised here, as was her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother,” says R.A. “Rob” Brown Jr., who at age 29 took over the ranch when R.A. died in 1965. Rob, now 86, became president of AQHA in 1995 and in 2004, followed his father into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

The Brown family has produced horses that have won top honors at ranch rodeos and champion titles in events ranging from halter to steer roping.

“Four or five years ago, we passed the ranch on to our four chil­dren,” Rob says. “They actually divided it themselves. They do a real good job of helping one another. We have Angus, Red Angus and SimAngus cattle and, of course, we still have Quarter Horses.”

It’s tradition.

“Here at R.A. Brown Ranch, we love good horses, we love to ride good horses, we love that our grandchildren are showing and winning with their Quarter Horses,” Rob says. “To tell you the truth, we just love it all.”

Quarter-type horses have long been a part of the R.A. Brown Ranch; R.A. Brown was one of the founding members of the American Quarter Horse Association. PHOTO: Jim Jennings


6666 Ranch (Burnett Ranches)

Fort Worth, Texas

6666 Ranch won the 1993 AQHA Best Remuda Award

Burnett Ranches – especially its Four Sixes division at Guthrie, Texas – is as legendary as its founder, Samuel “Burk” Burnett. Burk was born in Missouri in 1849, and his family moved to Texas about 1857. Burk’s father was a cattleman, and Burk worked with him from the time he was 10. When Burk was 17, he trailed cattle to Kansas for his father and went up the trail again at 19 as the boss. Burk already was in business for himself, having bought 100 head of cattle bearing the 6666 brand.

Burk and wife Ruth had three children, though the only one to live to adulthood was Tom, who established his own Trian­gle Ranches. Tom and wife Olive had one child, Anne Valliant Burnett. When Burk died in 1922, he willed the bulk of his estate to his granddaughter in a trusteeship for her yet-unborn child. Tom died in 1938 and left his estate to his daughter, “Miss Anne,” who in 1940 hosted the organizational meeting for AQHA in her Fort Worth home.

George Humphreys became foreman of the Four Sixes in 1932 and set about upgrading the remuda. He bought 20 good brood­mares and put them with a Midnight stallion that was good but wasn’t what the ranch needed. Hollywood Gold was. A dun son of Gold Rush, the stallion was foaled in 1940 on the Triangle Ranch. Humphreys took Hollywood Gold to the Sixes to work cattle and turned him out with a band of mares, among them daughters of Joe Hancock. Foaled in 1923, Joe Hancock was by John Wilkins, a son of Peter McCue. In 1931, Tom Burnett bought Joe Hancock for $2,000 and bred him to his biggest, roughest mares to produce horses with size, strength, bone and power. Joe Hancock sired Red Man, Littlejoethewrangler, Joe Tom and Roan Hancock.

After her father’s death, Miss Anne took over both the Four Sixes and the Triangle ranches. In 1949, she bought Grey Badger II and put him with daughters of Joe Hancock and Hollywood Gold. “Grey Badger” sired great cow horses. His descendants include Two Eyed Jack and Peppy San Badger. Other good stallions on the Sixes included Cee Bars, a son of Three Bars (TB) who crossed well on daughters of Joe Hancock, Hollywood Gold and Grey Badger. Miss Anne died in 1980. Her only child, Anne Windfohr Marion, inher­ited the Triangle ranches and the Four Sixes, but sold the Triangle to concentrate on the Sixes. Managed by Dr. Glenn Blodgett, the Sixes horse program stands some of the top racing, performance and ranch stallions in the world.

Anne Marion died in February 2020. Earlier this year, the ranch was sold to a group of investors put together by Taylor Sheridan, who serves as the president and CEO.

“Mrs. Marion loved this ranch, and she loved the employees,” Taylor says. “My hope, my desires and my prayers were that we could keep it all together, and we knew that the list of people who could do that was very short. Anne would be pleased to know that the ranch is going to stay together.”

Burnett Ranches – especially its 6666 division at Guthrie, Texas – is as legendary as its founder, Samuel "Burk" Burnett. Here Dr. Glenn Blodgett, 6666 Ranch horse division manager and AQHA past president, stands in front of the 6666's iconic L barn. (PHOTO: Wyman Meinzer)


W.T. Waggoner Estate

Vernon, Texas

W.T. Waggoner Estate won the 1994 AQHA Best Remuda Award

Dan Waggoner set up in the cattle business in 1849. He and his son, William Thomas “W.T.” Waggoner, built the ranch known throughout the West as “Waggoners” into what today is an oper­ation of some 525,000 acres running 10,000 mother cows. W.T. always sought the best horses available, bringing in foundation stal­lions Yellow Jacket, Yellow Wolf, Midnight, Blackburn and Pretty Boy. In 1940, his son E. Paul began registering horses with the new American Quarter Horse Association. Five years later, E. Paul purchased Poco Bueno, a yearling son of King P-234 who became a Hall of Fame sire who has impacted the line ever since at Waggoners.

“Poco Bueno was a great horse, and a lot of our mares go back to him,” says Trace Cribbs, Waggoners’ equine division manager. “We’ve had some real good studs over the years, but what really made our program were the Pretty Boy mares.”

The program has produced more than 6,480 American Quarter Horses. Twenty-two cowboys now ride for Waggon­ers, with a remuda of 150 or so head. The ranch has about 80 broodmares and currently stands eight stallions, with others yet to prove themselves.

“We’ve bred a lot of mares to Smart Chic Olena, we’ve exper­imented with running bloodlines, and we don’t mind going back to some older lines, like Driftwood or a good rope horse that you can roll back in with performance, movement and cow,” Trace says. “Right now, we’re evaluating a 3-year-old Jesses Topaz son named Justa Topaz (who traces to Mr Jess Perry, Peppy San Badger and the Poco Bueno stallion Poco King Tuck). We have a couple of sons of High Brow Cat – Cat Man Do and Purrfect Timing – who are doing really good jobs for us. We raised and sold a Peptoboons­mal son named Pocket Fulla Pepto, but we have two of his sons we really like. We have Tracer Bullet, a son of Dual Smart Rey, and Boyd Rice is riding a Playgun son for us, Waggin A Gun, so we’ll see how those pan out.

“We like the reined cow horse, and we are big proponents of the AQHA Ranching Heritage program,” he continues. “But our No. 1 customers are cowboys. We look for horses with substance. We like horses to be about 15 to 15.2 hands, with a lot of bone, and average around 1,200 pounds. We want to get the structure and the brain – the trainability aspect – right, and take it a little further: Do we want a big-motored horse or a ‘pusher,’ where you kind of pump them to make them go? There are different jobs that one or the other kind are good for, so we need to raise both.”

The W.T. Waggoner Estate sold in 2016 to Stan Kroenke, who owns the National Football League’s Los Angeles Rams and is husband of Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke. Along with 2004 Best Remuda winner Douglas Lake Cattle Co. in British Columbia, Waggoners is among seven ranches owned by Kroenke Ranches of Bozeman, Montana.

“We’ve kept our old bloodlines in our mares,” concludes Trace, who has been with Waggoners for 29 years and with the horse program for 27. “Those bloodlines are our history, and Mr. Kroenke did not want to lose that. That’s great for us – we have so much invested in these mares. Those ol’ girls are my kids, and I want to make sure that they are taken care of.”

Roping horses at Waggoners. (PHOTO: Jim Jennings)


Wagonhound Land & Livestock

Douglas, Wyoming

Wagonhound Land & Livestock won the 2018 AQHA Best Remuda Award

It was late summer, the year 1858, when the sharp crack at the front of a wagon sent curses into the cool morning air. The wagoner knew without looking that the hound on his wagon was broken. When the front wheels of the wagon reached the bottom of the steep creek bank, the wagon tongue was pulled upward by the team of mules pulling the load. The strain where the tongue attached to the front axle was too much. But this wagoner wasn’t the first to break a hound crossing this particular creek, nor would he be the last. So many would fall victim to this small tributary of the North Platte River that it would come to be called Wagonhound Creek. And 160 years later, the creek is lending its name to the ranch through which it flows.

Wagonhound Land & Livestock lies along the Laramie Range of the Rocky Mountains, with its headquarters about 20 miles south of Douglas, Wyoming. Its 250,000 acres vary from 5,000 feet to 9,000 feet in altitude and include forested mountain terrain as well as rolling foothills. It’s good ranch country, and on it, Wagonhound runs about 5,000 cows and roughly the same number of yearlings at different times during the year. But with a cow herd that size, you need horses, and the ranch has one of the top American Quarter Horse ranch horse programs in the country. Because of his ranch background, owner Art Nicholas knew that he needed ranch horses the cowboys could depend on, horses that would keep them out of a storm when they had to rope and doctor a big yearling or drag a bull into a trailer.

Art had gotten to know Mel Potter of Marana, Arizona, through his work on the board of directors for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and Mel sold Art some Driftwood-bred fillies, and the two of them partnered on a couple of stallions. But Art also bought a number of daughters and granddaughters of Smart Little Lena and some daughters of Peppy San Badger, Shining Spark, Grays Starlight and Tanquery Gin.

Through Tim Smith, one of the top-10 riders in the National Cutting Horse Association, Art started showing some cutting horses in NCHA. Tim also steered Art toward some other broodmares for the ranch, mares by some of the aforementioned stallions who were primarily bred to produce cutting horses. Then Tim suggested that Art look at buying a son of High Brow Cat called WR This Cats Smart. Art had told Tim that he was looking for a horse to really promote Wagonhound, and Tim thought that WR This Cats Smart would be that horse. Art wasn’t sure. “Why don’t you ride him?” Tim suggested. Art got on. “He got on him and worked a cow,” Tim says, “and I’ve never seen a look on a man’s face like that, ever. He looked at me and said, ‘Let’s make the deal.’” When WR This Cats Smart was retired from competition, he had earned more than $236,000, and during the three years he was shown, he had made the finals of 24 major aged events.

WR This Cats Smart now stands at the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, and last year, he was the National Reined Cow Horse Association leading sire and the eighth-place leading sire for NCHA. His foals have earned more than $15 million in cutting, reined cow horse, reining, ranch and barrel racing competition.

Wagonhound ranch has approximately 65 geldings in use on the ranch at all times. More than 50 percent of the cowboys’ horses are by WR This Cats Smart. The others are by some of the other top stallions to which the ranch breeds.

“Our first and foremost goal is to supply our cowboys with the tools they need, and that’s primarily a good horse,” Art says. “That’s the main purpose of our breeding program. And the reason the cowboys want to work here is because of the quality of our horses.”

With big pastures traversing mountains and rolling hills, Wagonhound Land & Livestock-bred horses are up to the task. (PHOTO: courtesy of Wagonhound)


Bogle Ltd. Ranches

New Mexico

Bogle Ltd. Ranches won the 1999 AQHA Best Remuda Award

Bogle Ltd. Ranches lie in the southeast corner of New Mexico. It’s in an area centered around Roswell, but reaching east to near Tatum and Lovington, south to Artesia, and north and west toward Corona. The property encompasses more than 840 square miles, better than half a million acres. Much of the land is plagued by drought, dotted with mesquite and cactus, and scorched by the hot summer sun. It’s where Hal Bogle established his ranching interests when he arrived in New Mexico from Tennessee in 1917, and it’s where his grandsons and great-grandchildren continue to ranch today. It’s also where some of the best ranch horses in the country reside.

Stuart and Donald Bogle, and their brother Scott, are managers of what was once known as the Hal Bogle Estate but today is incorporated as Bogle Ltd. Hal Bogle was their grandfather, and the three brothers inherited responsibility for the ranch from their father, Bill.

Headquartered at Dexter, New Mexico, a small town just south of Roswell, the estate is made up of three separate ranches, the Turkey Track, Four Lakes and Corona, plus a farming operation and a feedlot. All three ranches are cow-calf operations, and the Corona Ranch also runs sheep. The ranches’ broodmares are primarily on the Turkey Track and the Four Lakes. The crossbred cattle on the ranches number between 4,000-5,000 head, depending upon pasture conditions.

Horses are the only way to work the cattle on the Bogle ranches. The terrain, especially on the Turkey Track, is too rough for any kind of motorized device. Hal Bogle’s first Quarter Horse stallion was a horse named Bogle. Foaled in 1939, he was by San Siemon and was brought to the ranch by world champion cowboy Bob Crosby of Roswell. Crosby was at a roping when he found the stallion in Stonewall, Oklahoma, on Dick Truitt’s place. Crosby called Bogle, who wired Truitt the money for the horse, and Crosby brought him to New Mexico. Bogle then became the base of the ranch’s Quarter Horse breeding program.

Bogle was followed by Midnight Red B by Midnight, Flashy Waggoner by Waggoner Snip, and other stallions whose bloodlines go back to King, Old Sorrel, Begger Boy (TB), Red Buck, Chicaro Bill, Redman and Little Joe. In later years, the Bogles used Jet Twist Deck by Easy Jet and Peppy Motor Scooter by Mr San Peppy. Many of these sires are still reflected in the bloodlines of the ranch’s broodmares.

Stallions being used today include Zan Parr Jet by Zan Parr Bar and Docen Colonel by Colonel Freckles. The primary goal for the horse breeding program is to keep good horses under good cowboys. As a matter of fact, that has always been their plan.

Horses are essential to working cattle on the Bogle Ltd. Ranches. PHOTO: Jim Jennings


Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co. 


Pitchfork Land & Cattle won the 1998 AQHA Best Remuda Award

On December 13, 1883, the Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co. was incorporated with 52,500 acres of land in central West Texas and a foundation herd of 9,750 cattle. Unlike most ranches established during the great cattle boom of the 1880s, the Pitchfork survived episodes of drought and cattle depression for more than 100 years. No other ranch in central West Texas can boast being larger today than during its initial years. 

The Pitchfork home ranch covers 165,000 acres in Dickens and King counties near the town of Guthrie, Texas, with a satellite operation in Oklahoma. The Pitchfork is larger today than at any time in its history. Recently, the Pitchfork sold its Flint Hills ranch in Kansas and purchased land in Jefferson County, Oklahoma. In 1993, the Flag Ranch operation in Wyoming was sold. At that time the Pitchfork ranch acquired more land in Texas. Although the Pitchfork's operations have expanded and modernized, its core business remains the same: cattle. 

The Pitchfork cattle herd is primarily Black and Black Baldie cows. Cattle are selected for multiple traits including both maternal and carcass characteristics. Pitchfork calves are all Source and Age verified, and all are USDA process verified as NHTC (non-hormonally treated) and All Natural.  

With around 4,500 mother cows grazing the home ranch, the cowboys have ample opportunity to work the range in a manner very similar to the cowboys who first rode for the brand. Pitchfork cowboys have always ridden good horses. The signature "Pitchfork Gray" – a gray horse with a black mane and tail – has now become as synonymous with the ranch as the brand itself. The Pitchfork's horses have become widely known because of the success they have had in multiple areas.  

Seal Brown was the first Quarter Horse stallion purchased by Pitchfork manager, Rudolph Swenson in 1941. The stallion produced an outstanding herd of broodmares. Upon Seal Brown's death in 1946, the ranch acquired Joe Bailey's King. To add to the legacy, the ranch incorporated Otoe, Savanah Jr., Gray Badger, Gray Dee Bar and Dash For Cash. The modern bloodlines of High Brow Cat, Playgun and Grays Starlight have been added in recent years.  

The Pitchfork has changed with the times, as change was necessary. However, it has never forgotten its past, never forgotten the traditions and ethic that allowed it to survive when many others failed. Helicopters and computers are now as common as ropes and saddles at the Pitchfork. But the ranch's cowboys eat at the same table as the ranch's cowboys did nearly a century before. Some things never change and never should. 

The Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co. has survived episodes of drought and cattle depression for more than 100 years. (PHOTO: courtesy of Pitchfork)


Stuart Ranch

Waurika, Oklahoma

Stuart Ranch won the 1995 AQHA Best Remuda Award

Stuart Ranch traces its history to 1868, when Robert Clay Freeny acquired some property near Caddo, Oklahoma, in the southern part of the state. His great-grandson, R. T. “Bob” Stuart Jr., eventually inherited the property, and in 1991, expanded the holdings by purchasing about 24,000 acres 120 miles west of Caddo, near Waurika. That made a total of 40,000 acres and allowed Stuart to change up his operation.

The new acquisition not only offered the opportunity for change, it necessitated it. The Caddo property was rough and brushy and required a different management system than does the Waurika operation, which is more prairie. That’s why Bob hired his daughter, Terry Forst, to help him make some decisions on how to run the two ranches. Terry had an animal science degree from Oklahoma State University and a ranch management certificate from Texas Christian University. When Bob hired Terry, she was running her own consulting business, so she was prepared to step right in. She made her evaluation and recommendations, and they worked. Pretty soon, Bob began to rely on her more and more. She officially joined the operation in the mid-1990s.

“Initially, he didn’t want any help with the horses,” Terry says. “But that kind of evolved as we went along.

“The horses we had were a little old fashioned,” she says. “They had some things that needed to be changed to fit today’s style of horse. But we didn’t want to compromise structure, bone and athletic ability.”

The Stuarts’ goal was to have a ranch horse that could do everything necessary on the ranch, but still be able to compete in roping and working cow horse.

They bred mares to Genuine Doc and his son Shining Spark, plus Hollywood Dun It, Playgun, Real Gun and the ranch’s own Seven S Zanaday. Most of the broodmares represent three or four generations of Stuart breeding, going all the way back to a 1961 mare named Miss T Stuart.

The single most influential horse at Stuart Ranch has been Son O Leo, a sorrel stallion with a beautiful head and eye, a characteristic still apparent in his great-grand-get, like Genuine Hombre. In 1963, Stuart purchased the 2-year-old Son O Leo, a son of Leo (obviously) out of a Sugar Bars mare, from Bud Warren of Perry, Oklahoma. Son O Leo sired 243 "Seven S" horses over 22 years. Of course, there's no way to measure their performance as ranch horses, but the fact that Stuart used Son O Leo for 22 breeding seasons offers a gauge.

That Son O Leo and Miss T Stuart cross has several success stories, one of the biggest being Seven S Margarita who produced 15 foals, four of which earned a boatload of awards in roping events. One of her daughters, Genuine Redbud, who was by Genuine Doc, earned several year-end high-points, two tie-down reserve world championships, one junior heading world championship and was the 1995 AQHA Superhorse.

The Stuarts set the goal to breed horses that could do everything on the ranch yet still go to town and compete. (PHOTO: Bee Silva)


Singleton Ranches

California and New Mexico

Singleton Ranches won the 2012 AQHA Best Remuda Award

When Henry Singleton bought the 81,000-acre San Cristobal Ranch, south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986, people familiar with Henry had to wonder what was going on. That purchase didn’t fit the pattern of technology-related businesses that Henry had been buying. What they didn’t know was that Henry Singleton had been born and raised on a ranch just north of Fort Worth, Texas. Henry was simply returning to his roots.

Within a 14-year period, he had purchased 28 other ranches in New Mexico and three in California. Today, Singleton Ranches is one of the top five operations in the United States in terms of total acreage and cattle numbers. Henry died in 1999, and his children now operate the ranches. The ranches are divided into three working divisions: the California division, the New Mexico division and the horse division, the latter of which is based at the original ranch, the San Cristobal.

Most of the 10,000 mother cows Singleton Ranches own are on those two major New Mexico divisions. All of the ranches have been cattle ranches since before records were kept – several of them were actually Spanish land grants – and the tradition of working cattle with horses has been maintained through the years. On a daily basis, the cowboys ride by petroglyphs and artifacts from ruins of Indian pueblos that date from the 1100s to the 1600s.

The horses have always been an integral part of Singleton Ranches, but about 30 years ago, a conscious effort was made to upgrade the horse herd. Prior to that, Singletons owned approximately 100 broodmares. Then, the ranch purchased 16 mares of predominantly Doc Bar breeding from the Montgomery Ranch near Crowell, Texas. All those mares had foals by their side, primarily by Pajarito Doc by Dry Doc and Sonitas Smoke by Freckles Smoke by Jewel’s Leo Bars. Then some stallions that were also Doc Bar-bred were purchased and crossed on the new mares, as well as on those that were kept from the original broodmare band. One of those was Thorn Doc Lena by Doc O Dynamite, which the ranch used for a number of years with some great results. But they decided to do more.

In 2000, the ranch purchased The Hot Express, who was by Zan Parr Express. During the next few years, other top stallions were added to the breeding barn: Bit Of Heat by Hollywood Heat out of a daughter of Zan Parr Bar; Dualwithme by Dual Pep out of a daughter of Smart Little Lena; Timber Cat 101 by Doc’s Hickory out of a daughter of High Brow Cat; A Smooth Edition by Smooth As A Cat out of a daughter of Doc Quixote; SCR Crackin Thunder by Metallic Cat and out of Smart Crackin Chic; A Streak Of Disco by Streakin Pac Bar and out of Ms Runnin Disco; and Daniel B Boom by Boomernic and out of a Bull Parker daughter.

Additions to the broodmare band included Smart Crackin Chic, Soft N Shiney, ARC Shining Please, Little Lena Nitro and Linda Boon Boom.

Henry Singleton loved the ranches and thought that the greatest reward was “just being out in the country, the association with the land and have it in turn take care of the people who work it.” With that in mind, he built one of the largest cattle operations in the world.

Singleton Ranches is one of the top United States operations in terms of total acreage and cattle numbers. (PHOTO: Jim Jennings)


Tongue River Ranch

Paducah, Texas

Tongue River Ranch won the 2011 AQHA Best Remuda Award

Tongue River Ranch sits in the communal corners of four Texas counties: King, Cottle, Motley and Dickens. It lies about 10 miles southwest of Paducah and 20 miles north of Guthrie. Named for the river that runs through it, the ranch was founded in 1898 by the Swenson family, owners of the SMS Ranches, headquartered in Stamford, Texas. Millard Morris of DeRidder, Louisiana, purchased the 89,000-acre Tongue River Ranch in 1997. In 2007, he added to it 30,000 acres located near the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to make up the New Mexico division of the ranch. All of it is cattle country – the ranch runs about 1,250 cows and more than a thousand stockers – and to handle the cattle, the cowboys need horses, good ones.

The horse program at the ranch goes back almost to when Millard first purchased it. One of his first moves was to purchase 20 broodmares with the breeding of such horses as King, Poco Bueno, Doc Bar, Tanquery Gin, Freckles Playboy and Tenino Badger. Those mares formed the basis for his program, and he started breeding to Pepcid by Peptoboonsmal; Natural Enterprise by Surprise Enterprise; Paddys Irish Whiskey by Peppy San Badger; Medicinal Mecom Blue by Mecom Blue; TRR Gun Slinger by Real Gun; TRR Big Iron by Playgun; and Cats Hillbilly by Highbrow Cat. The stallions are well known for their performances in the cutting and reining arenas, and for siring some top cow horses. The ranch owns a share in the syndicated Paddys Irish Whiskey.

The ranch’s mares are not ridden; however, all the fillies are halter broken as yearlings and ridden 30 days as 2-year-olds to get them accustomed to being handled and to determine their suitability for the broodmare band. Approximately 30 percent of the fillies are kept each year for broodmares.

Colts and fillies are branded during the summer of their yearling year. A Crooked T – the ranch brand for the horses – goes on their left hip, the year on their left buttock and the stallion number on the right buttock. The mare number goes on the left jaw.

The cowboys ride geldings, although occasionally one of the stallions is ridden for ranch work or perhaps a ranch rodeo or ranch horse competition. Each cowboy has a string of horses that is considered to be his as long as he works on the ranch, and he is responsible for both the training and health of those horses.

At Tongue River Ranch, the ritual of spring branding has not changed much since the founding of the ranch in 1898. It’s done by cowboys on cow horses – good ones.

The Tongue River Ranch is spread across the cattle country of Texas and New Mexico. And the cowboys need horses – good ones. (PHOTO: Jim Jennings)  


San Lucas Ranch (Holy Cow Performance Horses)

California and Texas

San Lucas Ranch / Holy Cow Performance Horses is an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder

“I’ve always loved horses; I’ve always thought they were the most magnificent creatures on the face of the earth,” says Nancy Crawford-Hall, owner of Holy Cow Performance Horses LLC.

Employing that equine adoration and a good head for business, Nancy began assembling her contribution of horseflesh to the cutting, reining and reined cow horse industries in the early 1990s. Nancy’s plans continuously evolve, as she learns from the past and scouts future trends.

Nancy was raised on the San Lucas Ranch, a cattle operation that was purchased by her grandmother in 1924. Her father thought horses were a necessary evil to work their cattle. Nancy, being a horsewoman, believes the opposite – the cattle suffice to work the horses.

Surprisingly, Nancy did not ride to any depth until the age of 43. Once she completed college, Nancy took up permanent residence on the ranch in the mid-1980s. She was finally in a position to enjoy horses, and she did just that.

Holy Cow has always followed Nancy’s mantra, “quality over quantity.” However, she admits it is easy to get excited and even a tad carried away when it comes to Holy Cow horses. She is grateful for husband Phil reining her toward reasonable numbers now and again.

Her goal has been to produce eight to 10 foals each year. However, sometimes options come along that a sophisticated breeder just can’t pass up. Her horse herd traces to Dual Rey, High Brow Cat, Metallic Cat, Shining Spark, Smart Chic Olena, Smooth As A Cat and WR This Cats Smart. Nancy carefully monitors her breeding crosses, and that science is scrutinized with sincere thought and outside input.

Holy Cow Performance Horses found palmy traction in the performance horse industry when it began collecting talented, prolific mares. Sheza Shinette (Shining Spark-Chicks And Chex by Smart Chic Olena) ultimately became an exceedingly strong foundation broodmare with produce earnings of more than $770,000.

The stallion battery includes Nabisco Roan, Once A Von A Time, Reyzinette, Smooth Dancing Cat, Sisses Smart Rey and Bettin On A Reys.

When Nancy engaged in her horse-breeding program she had a plan that has been modified from time to time, but her emphasis on quality horses never wavered.

“I think you have to have a focus on what your efforts are and you also have to have one eye on the business world around you to see what the trends are and know what’s going on,” she opines. “There are hot horses every year and ones that fall out of favor every year.

“Horses get refined in their breeding as you go along and there have been some changes, such as most no longer buck when they are started. But, you still need a horse with fire, that want to be a show horse, plus the talent and the physical ability to do the job.”

Nancy Crawford-Hall's horse operation has notched footholds in the cutting, reining and reined cow horse arenas. (PHOTO: courtesy of Holy Cow Performance Horses)