The Stuff of Legends

Horse-breeding memories surround American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Jimmie Randals.

From America’s Horse

Editor’s Note: James “Jimmie” Randals passed away February 16, 2011, but he left behind a lasting legacy in the American Quarter Horse world. This story was adapted from a 2006 issue of America’s Horse. Jimmie was 80 years old at the time.

Some of the first volumes of AQHA Studbooks are stacked on wooden shelves, flanked by gold horses, trophies that neatly illustrate the prudence of parsing those old pedigrees. Trophy buckles, other evidence of a successful breeding program, have been tucked away in boxes, sitting underneath scrapbooks chock full of newspaper clippings and other accolades.

Eighty-year-old Jimmie Randals smiled softly as he browsed through his collection, enjoying memories gleaned from more than 50 years in the Quarter Horse business. The most important artifacts of his career, however, cannot be boxed or shelved. They are the horses themselves and the people he met along the way. “I’m not even going to start in on that,” he chuckled, afraid to start listing his friends in the horse business. There are too many. “I couldn’t have gotten to be where I am today without so many nice people.” By 2006, he was mostly retired – with five broodmares to keep his finger in the pot – on his expansive ranch in Montoya, New Mexico, near Tucumcari. His son, Richard, who works in real estate, was no longer involved with horses; that interest fell victim to two back surgeries.

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But take a tour of the Randals Ranch facilities, and you’ll get a glimpse of the days when father and son were in the breeding business and cutting horses were in their heyday. The show barn – that used to be heated with a butane heater to keep show horses warm – has cinder-block stalls that seem to be waiting for the return of the great horses who used to live there. The stalls bear the nameplates of some of the ranch’s most prominent horses: the AQHA champions Mr Perfection, Poco Dell and Quo Vadis. In the breeding barn, where Richard used to artificially inseminate up to 80 mares a year, there’s evidence of the laughter that used to bounce off the walls. Goofy dust-coated signs read “Rule No. 1: The boss is always right. Rule No. 2: If the boss happens to be wrong, see Rule No. 1,” and a cartoon is captioned “Oh (expletive deleted), you did it the way I told you to.” Jimmie and his wife, Dorothy, have been on the ranch since 1950, shortly after they were married. There, they raised Richard and a daughter, Jina. And it is there that they’ll stay. A few years ago, the family decided to sell the ranch, at a good price. It wasn’t long before a buyer materialized, but Jimmie decided to back out of the deal. He said he thanked God every day for making him realize that the ranch was where he needed to be. “We’ve been happy ever since,” he said. The couple was certainly happy in the 1950s, when Jimmie began acquiring horses that quickly proved their merit. He bought Poco Dell, a son of the great Poco Bueno, at a Waggoner Ranch sale in 1952. It was the first major purchase for a young man who hadn’t grown up in a horsey household. “He was the second one through the ring,” Jimmie said. “Of course, I was scared to death, but sure enough, I went ahead and got him. Boy, I got my horse in the trailer, and I was ready to head home.” Jimmie was interested in cutting, and as it turned out, so was Poco Dell. The horse began racking up points in halter and cutting, and he earned the title of AQHA Champion by 1957. He also excelled in the breeding shed.

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“I was real fortunate in that Poco Dell turned out to be a sure-enough breeding horse,” Jimmie said in a 1973 story in The Quarter Horse Journal, written when Jimmie became president of the National Cutting Horse Association. “And, before long, with the success I was having with him, I just went ahead and kept expanding it and got into it in a pretty big way. I started breeding outside mares to him, and it just kinda snowballed into my present operation.” Poco Dell sired 474 foals, and of those, 18 followed in his footsteps to become AQHA Champions. Forty-eight earned performance Registers of Merit, 11 were Superior halter horses, and two were Superior performance horses. All told, his get earned more than 4,000 AQHA points. Not long after purchasing Poco Dell, Jimmie made another good decision: He purchased the yearling Quo Vadis, a 1952 King Ranch-bred mare who traced to Old Sorrel on top and bottom. She, too, became an AQHA Champion, racking up points in halter, cutting, working cow horse, reining and western riding. “She was so quiet, there wasn’t anything to do but just get on her and go,” Jimmie said. But like Poco Dell, the true accomplishments of his little black mare came when she began producing babies. Of her 12 offspring, four became AQHA Champions. Seven earned performance Registers of Merit, and 11 were AQHA point-earners. In recognition of this, Quo Vadis was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2002. She is also immortalized as a Breyer model, part of the Magnificent Mares series. Jimmie, too, is a member of the Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1998, he was honored for his success as a horseman and his dedication to the Association. He served as an AQHA director, served on several committees and was an AQHA judge, traveling all over the United States and to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico and Canada. He also served as president of the New Mexico Quarter Horse Association. His two superstars, Quo Vadis and Poco Dell, are buried beside his house. “They were good to me, real good to me,” he said. “It was fun from Day 1.”