Horse-Breeding History: Wilywood

This descendant of Driftwood sired classy and talented ranch and rodeo horses with great dispositions.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Wilywood promoted himself,” Tom Eliason said with a smile. “Joann and I had eight children, and feeding the kids was always ahead of showing a horse. But the things Wilywood did for our family are beyond any numbers or statistics. Nobody can ever tell me he was just another horse.” Tom would know. He was training horses professionally before he finished high school, and has bred Quarter Horses for four decades. He trained and rode Mr Flintrock, the 1977 AQHA world champion heeling horse, and debuted Two Eyed Jack in reining (they won).

Tom’s college roommate, John Fincher, introduced him to Driftwood horses. Foaled in Texas in 1932 - before AQHA existed - Driftwood moved to Arizona, then California, and left behind a legacy of classy ranch and rodeo horses, equipped with speed, bone and balance. Tom became determined to have a Driftwood horse. In 1983, he found what he was looking for: a handsome, yet untrained 6-year-old stallion. Bred and raised by Stanley Johnston, Wilywood was sired by Orphan Drift, a Driftwood grandson, and out of Oui Oui, a granddaughter of both Driftwood and Poco Bueno. “He’d passed through several hands before Scott Hall purchased him,” Tom explained. “I’d paid $1,200 for a cutting mare that Scott wanted, so we traded. He got the mare, and I got the stud, a gelding and paid him $200. Then I sold the gelding for $1,200. Wilywood was my $200 horse - absolutely, the best $200 I’ve ever spent.”

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What Wilywood lacked in training, he more than made up for in try. Tom rode him throughout the winter and roped calves off him the following spring. Under Tom’s steady hand, the statuesque dun soon won at local rodeos. Eventually, Wilywood earned AQHA points in reining, working cow horse, tie-down roping and team roping. “He tracked cows like a bloodhound,” Tom said. “He was a natural, easy-going and a hard stopper. Whatever you wanted to do, he did.” Tom has been the State Farm insurance agent in Gregory, South Dakota, since 1978 and didn’t plan to have a large horse-breeding operation. “I kept a few horses to ride,” he said. “But after we started rodeoing with our kids and sold a couple of Wilywood colts, people asked to breed to him. We pasture bred and charged $100. Later, we filled his book at $2,500. When we were rodeoing, we’d catch Wilywood from the pasture with his mares on Friday night, then compete all weekend. On Sunday night, we’d turn him back out into the pasture with his girls. He was always a gentleman. “The greatest thing about his colts are their minds. They wake up in the morning, trying to figure out what you want them to do. Anyone can ride a Wilywood. He taught Robert, Beth and Blake to rope.”

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The three young Eliasons owned, trained and won lots with Wilywood offspring, and all went to college on rodeo scholarships. Of Wilywood’s 299 offspring, 28 AQHA performers earned 722.5 points, 13 performance Registers of Merit and six Superior performance awards. His offspring have collected American Buckskin Registry Association honors and captured rodeo headlines, too. In roping, reining, barrel racing and reined cow horse competition, the versatile Wilywoods earned ardent fans. Demand for Wilywood offspring usually exceeded the supply, and the stallion was 21 years old when Eliason Quarter Horses finally had its first Wilywood production sale. “It’s gratifying when people call to say that their Wilywood is the best-minded horse they have,” Tom said, and added with a chuckle, “They’re great ranch horses. I’ve heard it said that if you ride out with certain horses, you’d best not get more than half an hour from home. With the Wilywoods, you can ride just as far as you’d like.” Wilywood was 29 when he died in 2007, leaving behind a generation of multitalented Quarter Horses and a grateful family.