Ranching Heritage Programs
Learn more about the Ranching Heritage Breeders program, Ranching Heritage Challenges and the Young Horse Development Program.
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Moorhouse Ranch, Texas
“I didn't choose ranch life; I inherited it. It's probably in my blood,” says Tom Moorhouse as he sits in the living room of the only place he’s ever called home, on a ranch just west of Benjamin, Texas. “My granddad ranched all his life,” Tom says. “He ran cattle in Indian Territory in the 1880s, before he came to Texas. He came out here to King County in 1908 and bought this ranch around 1920. He lost it though, in 1934, during the Depression. There was also a big drought at that time in this part of the country and he probably just ran out of water. But my father was able to buy it back in the late ’30s, and we’ve been here ever since. “So, we’ve always ranched,” Tom says.
They’ve always had horses, too, and the quality of those horses is why Moorhouse Ranch was named this year’s winner of the AQHA-Bayer Best Remuda Award,an honor that goes to those ranches that have been judged to have the best remuda of saddle horses.
Tom says that the foundation for their horses came from an uncle who, in the early 1940s, gave Tom’s father, Togo Moorhouse, a young stallion called Yellow Coley. He was by the uncle’s stallion, Moorhouses Yellow Wolf.
“Yellow Coley kinda was the beginning of our horses,” Tom says. “His colts were tough, and they were fast, and they had a lot of cow sense. We rode the horses that went back to him for years and years.”
Togo bred many of Yellow Coley’s daughters to some stallions that the nearby Four Sixes Ranch was using, and the ranch’s remuda kept improving. Other stallions the Moorhouses have used through the years include Zero Trouble Ace by Limestone’s Ace from the Waggoner Ranch and Blob Of Pep by Peponita from the Four Sixes. Blob Of Pep also sired some good ranch horses, and one of his sons, Nifty Nig, out of a Zero Trouble Ace mare, is currently being used as a stallion on the ranch.
The most recent stallion purchased by the ranch is Seven S Shining Gold, by Shining Spark out of a Zan Parr Bar mare. Nicknamed “Waurika,” he came from the Stuart Ranch at Waurika, Oklahoma.
“We have had seven foal crops out of him now,” Tom says, “and he has really sired some good horses for us. In addition to breeding him, we ride him on the ranch, in ranch rodeos, everywhere.”
Moorhouse Ranch is also part of the syndicate that owns Paddys Irish Whiskey, who stands at the Four Sixes, and Tom says he is very pleased with the foals from that sire.
In addition, through the years, the Moorhouses have bought some mares from the Beggs Ranch, another neighbor, and from the Pitchfork Ranch. Bloodlines from both of those ranches are in the broodmare band today.
Moorhouse cowboys ride only geldings, with a couple of exceptions being some of the stallions and the fillies that they ride for a couple of weeks.
“We’ll ride the fillies for a week or two,” Tom says, “when we first start the colts, so we can see if there are any of them we want to add to our broodmare band. And we will occasionally ride some to put in a sale somewhere.”
The Moorhouses run about 20 broodmares, and all are pasture bred. The stallions are put out with the mares about April 1 and picked up July 1.
Each cowboy on the ranch will have a string of five to six horses that he uses in his daily work.
“Those horses are as close to being theirs as you can get,” Tom says.“They don’t have ownership of them, but no one else rides them unless they have permission. Each cowboy is responsible for the training and health of the horses in his string.”
The selection of colts each year to add to a cowboy’s string is done by longevity in most cases, however, there are exceptions. “If we get a colt that isn’t too gentle, we’ll probably make sure one of the younger men gets him,” Tom says. “We won’t give it to an older man because we don’t want to see anyone getting hurt.”
The Moorhouse breaking program begins in the summer, before the foals are weaned. At that time, all the mares and foals are gathered, and the foals are halter broke.
“Usually after working with them for about a week, they will lead, and you can pick up their feet,” Tom says. “We are careful when we’re working them; we don’t jerk them around. We are very careful not to build any resistance in them; we keep that in mind the whole time.”
The Moorhouse foals are usually weaned in late September or early October, and they are taught more about leading then. Then they are turned out until late in their yearling year."
Typically, on the day after Christmas, all the yearlings are gathered and the breaking process is begun. A friend of Tom’s, Ronald Lewis, supervises the colt breaking with a method he learned from Ray Hunt.
“We try to ride them about two weeks,” Tom says, “and by the end of that time, they are started pretty well. We will have ridden them outside some, and they will have had a rope dragged on them."
“We don’t ride them a whole lot until they are 3. We might ride them around a working trap or prowl on them a little while they are 2, if we aren’t doctoring, but we don’t doctor on them that young; don’t want to put that kind of pressure on them. And sometimes we ride them just to be riding them. We have a big round pen, and we might rope on one a little in there, get him to looking at a cow.”
Togo Moorhouse was unmarried back in the late 1930S when he first bought the ranch, and he had no problem living in the only structure on the property, a half dugout with a couple of rooms that had probably been built before 1900. However, when he and Lucille married in 1942, it was time to start some improvements. Rooms were added, and today it’s a beautiful home located next to a small lake and surrounded by numerous tall shade trees. However, Tom, born in 1946, is next to the youngest of four Moorhouse boys, and he remembers when they didn’t have electricity or running water.
Today, Ed, the oldest of the four, is the only one who didn’t follow Togo into the ranching industry. He sells real estate. John, the second-oldest, ranches near Seymour, and Bob is the retired general manager of the Pitchfork Ranch. Each of the sons owns a quarter interest in Moorhouse Ranch, but Tom, as the operator, leases his brothers’ land.
Tom wanted nothing in life other than to ranch and be a cowboy, and when he graduated from college, Togo and Lucille moved to town and Tom and his wife, Sue, moved to the ranch. Sue died in 1987, and today Tom is married to the former Becky Elliott, who grew up on the Waggoner Ranch. She and Tom have a son, Gage, a senior in high school who, like his father, believes there’s nothing better than to be horseback. Tom says, “Gage is interested in the cattle business, but right now he is more interested in cowboying, which is typical of that age. But I’ve told him several times, like my daddy told me, there is a lot more to running a ranch than riding a horse. You have to learn the business end of it, and the public relations. I have sat on a horse way too much myself to be a good ranch manager. That is the truth, and I don’t want Gage to get too carried away with the cowboying and forget that.”
With their families combined, Tom and Becky have five children, but only one besides Gage is interested in ranching. Tom’s daughter, Jody Lindemann, and her husband, Douglas, have some ranching interests near Wichita Falls, Texas.
Tom runs a cowboy outfit. Calves are dragged to the fire, and horses are roped from the remuda. He puts a chuck wagon out each spring and fall, when the cowboys are either branding or weaning, and everyone stays at the wagon until it moves to the next area on the ranch.
“It isn’t like we stay out for weeks at a time,” Tom says. “We stay as long as it takes to finish at a particular ranch and then come home for a day or two. We need to come home periodically to check on everything around where we are living.”
Moorhouse Ranch has typically been a cow-calf operation, although Tom and his family have always run a few yearlings on wheat. Recently, they have started cutting down on their cow numbers and running more yearlings.
“It’s not that I want out of the cow-calf business,” Tom says, “but the yearlings are more flexible. If it gets too dry, you just don’t buy as many of them.”
Tom runs his cattle in some rough country. Much of the ranch is cut up with deep canyons, and those, along with the mesquite and cedar thickets sometimes make it hard to gather a pasture or even trail a cow. But that’s why the Moorhouses have horses.
“It takes good horses to maintain a cow herd in this country,” Tom says, “and I think we’ve got some of the best.”