Breeding

John W. House

The man who quietly bred some of the best says, “You can breed it out faster than you can put it in.”

From the April 1949 Quarter Horse Magazine

In 1939, a fortune teller at Franklin, Texas, told John W. House that he would someday be a famous horseman. John House laughed at the prediction – he was then 66 years old, and his name was not widely known beyond Milam County in central Texas. The 10 years following the crystal ball gazer’s prophecy, however, have seen the great breed spread, and the fame of John W. House spread, too. He was a longtime owner of the mighty Joe Reed, Fannie Ashwell and Little Red Nell, the breeder of Joe Reed II, Leo, Joe Butler, Texas Betty, Red Joe of Arizona, Nellene and Little Fanny – names famous throughout today’s far-flung empire of Quarter Horses.

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John House grew up with good horses. Born in Milam County just outside of Cameron, Texas, he owned 500 acres of ground that once belonged to his great-grandfather, W.W. Lewis. As a boy, his neighbor was G.W. Wilson, who was responsible for almost all the fast horses in the vicinity at that time. From Kentucky, Mr. Wilson had brought in a Thoroughbred called Old Butler, and in John House’s boyhood, Butler horses were the top speed merchants. He can remember a mare named Fiddle who broke track records at Juarez, Mexico; a bay gelding named Tip, who for a time was unbeatable; and a stallion he often rode named Roan Butler, who sired many good horses in his 30-year lifetime. Best of all, though, he remembers a gelding given to him by his father when he was 16 years old. He was by Roan Butler and out of a Billy mare, and they called him Little River Dun. Little River Dun was John House’s first horse, and with him, he outran everything in the locality until One-Eyed Kingfisher and the crippled but lightning-fast Thoroughbred, Soup, appeared on the scene. The low economic value of horse flesh caused John House to move to Cameron when he was 25 years old and although he was never without a few horses, he lived and worked in town until 1933. In that year, his close friend, the pioneer G.W. Wilson, died and willed him the Wilson farm. John House went happily back to full-time breeding of horses that could go a faster quarter.

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It was three years before his move to the farm that another close friend, Henry Lindsey of Granger, Texas, brought the renowned Della Moore to that country for the express purpose of challenging a little bay mare considered a world-beater around Bartlett, Texas. After soundly whipping the bay twice in 200 yards, Henry and Della moved on to the race meet in San Antonio. There, the now-legendary mating of Della Moore and Thoroughbred Joe Blair took place, which produced Joe Reed, a speedy stallion who received one of AQHA’s first registration numbers.