Horse-Breeding History: Mr San Peppy

This stallion sired a legacy of cutting and ranch horses with immense talent and the temperaments to challenge cowboys.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Not many horses can be said to have changed the course of an entire industry, but Mr San Peppy did just that for two segments – ranching and cutting. In the 1960s, Gordon B. Howell was an American Quarter Horse breeder with equal interests in cutting and racing. He had a pretty good stallion, Leo San, and a pretty good mare, Peppy Belle by Pep Up. Their first foal, Peppy San, was foaled in 1959 and was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1999. Their last romance produced Mr San Peppy in 1968.

Gordon asked Bubba Cascio to start Mr San Peppy, but Bubba didn’t have time and recommended cowboy Buster Welch. He thought Buster would be able to handle the sorrel colt’s feisty temperament. Buster and Mr San Peppy got along well enough that the colt never made it to the racetrack as Gordon had intended.

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Instead, Buster’s son, Greg, rode Mr San Peppy in the 1971 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. They didn’t win that, but just a few months later, they claimed the NCHA Derby open title. While Mr San Peppy was getting started in cutting, the historic King Ranch in Texas was looking for a good sire. The ranch sent about 10 mares each to four of the most famous stallions of the day for test-breeding, hoping that a good stallion prospect would come from one of the crosses. “My dad told me that I wouldn’t get what I wanted,” explained AQHA Past President Stephen “Tio” Kleberg, the great-grandson of the ranch’s founder. “He told me that there are lots of male horses, but only a few stallions.” While waiting for the test foals to mature, Tio went to a few cutting events and eventually saw Mr San Peppy. Buster had purchased the stallion and was hauling for the NCHA world title, which they won in 1974. After a few test breedings, the King Ranch was convinced of the stallion’s merit and bought him in 1976. Between visits to the breeding shed in 1976, Mr San Peppy won the NCHA world championship and claimed the AQHA senior cutting world championship. “Winning the NCHA made him a cutting sire,” Tio says. “Winning the AQHA world championship made him an American Quarter Horse.” Back at the ranch, Mr San Peppy got down to business, both working cattle on the ranch and siring colts with the same athletic ability, while Buster helped train the colts and teach the ranch’s other cowboys his methods. “We got a two-for-one deal when we bought Mr San Peppy,” Tio says. “The horse and Buster.” The stallion’s foal crops, meanwhile, were proving themselves. Mr San Peppy earned more than $107,850 in NCHA competition. His foals won more than $2.63 million in NCHA competition, not to mention earning more than 3,200 points in AQHA competition.

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Two of his most famous offspring are Peppy San Badger, a 2008 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee who was a three-time NCHA world champion, and Tenino San, an inductee into the NCHA Hall of Fame. Less measurable, but no less important is the stallion’s effect on the King Ranch remuda and on the other ranches where no performance records are kept except in cowboys’ memories. “His blood is in every horse on the place, top or bottom,” Tio says. “To have him inducted into the Hall of Fame means everything.” When the stallion died in 1998, he was buried on the ranch where he was ridden every day – ridden carefully, because he kept his famous temperament to the end – and where his offspring are still making good cowboys. Mr San Peppy is a member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame class of 2011.

AQHA Member Benefit Spotlight

AQHA members can visit the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in Amarillo with a friend for FREE. Check out Mr San Peppy artifacts, learn more about his story and see fellow Hall of Famers, including Buster Welch and Peppy San Badger. Join now and enjoy this and many other perks as an American Quarter Horse Association member.


Watch this video from the 2011 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Mr San Peppy