Hall of Fame, Part II: Walter Fletcher

Past AQHA president Walter Fletcher has always had an eye for horses.

At the 2012 AQHA Convention in Las Vegas in March, six new inductees joined the prestigious walls of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. The new inductees include Gordon Hannagan, Walter Fletcher, Bob Loomis, Indigo Illusion, Streakin La Jolla and Hollywood Dun It.

Here, learn more about AQHA Past President Walter Fletcher:

Walter Fletcher has always been a busy person. Now 69, the AQHA past president rodeoed through high school, college and after graduation, and he was a pretty good tie-down roper. However, in 1975, he decided to go another direction and traded a couple of rope horses for a Top Moon mare owned by a couple of neighboring ranchers, Walter’s cousin, Brad Tate (who also would become an AQHA president), and Gordon Crone (for whom the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award is named).

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Only a maiden on the racetrack, the mare, Sweet Mooner, produced six starters that together earned a third of a million dollars. Each became a winner – two of those in stakes – and Sweet Mooner became the foundation of a Fletcher breeding program that since 1977 has produced champions Sweet N Special ($209,103, out of Sweet Mooner’s daughter Sweet Katrina) and Sterling Sport ($266,223), nine more stakes winners, 54 other winners and the earners of more than $2.8 million. And that’s from only 104 starters.

Walter has an eye for horses, and he also has made some astute purchases. He bought Heza Ramblin Man as a yearling and then raced the Takin On The Cash gelding to 16 wins, including nine in stakes, and earnings of $750,907. He later acquired the gelding’s dam, the Kiptys Charger mare Kiptys Kisses. With her, he partnered with Vessels Stallion Farm to breed champion Ima Ramblin Girl ($162,515) and the graded stakes-winning gelding First To Ramble ($348,647), both by First Down Dash.

But he has not turned his back on the show industry. Walter bred and raced the graded stakes-placed Corona Cartel gelding Cartel Caliente, who earned $50,077 on the track. In 2009, Cartel Caliente qualified for the AQHA World Championship Show in senior barrel racing and performance halter, and in 2010 qualified in both senior heading and performance and also became the 48th AQHA Supreme Champion.

Like many AQHA members, Walter is a successful rancher and farmer. He also is a son of a rancher and horseman. Walter was raised in the small southwestern Kansas town of Lakin. One of his great-grandfathers was a founder of the town, coming in with the railroad about 1872. Another great-grandfather showed up a short time later and started a general store. The family has been there ever since.

The Fletcher family has always had horses, which led to him meeting the girl who would become his wife while he was a member of the rodeo team at Colorado State University. Married for 45 years, Walter and Pat raised three children: Eric, who works with Walter in the farming and ranching operation; Ben, who is a chef in Breckenridge, Colorado; and Katie, who lives with her husband, professional photographer Chris Humphrey, in Owasso, Oklahoma, and has children Jack, 11, and Patrick, 8.

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Walter has been farming and ranching since 1965, when he graduated from college and came home to help his father in the business, while also serving in the National Guard. Almost from the time he joined his dad, they started expanding the business. His dad died in 1975, but Walter continued the operation, and today he and his family farm the ground under center pivot irrigation systems and run cattle on ranch land south of Lakin. Walter also served two terms on the local school board.

Walter was elected to the AQHA Executive Committee in 2002 and became president in 2007. He was elected to the AQHA Board of Directors in 1993, the year after he began his nine-year tenure as a member of the Racing Committee, on which he served as chairman for two consecutive terms. He was a member of the Racing Council for 10 years and was also chairman of that group for two consecutive years. In addition, he has served on the Hall of Fame selection committee, the Professional Horsemen’s Council and the Affiliate Council.

“It’s a great honor to go into the Hall of Fame with the people who are in there,” he said. “It’s an elite group.”

And Walter is still a busy man.