angle-left 50-Year Breeders: William and Anne McKinney

50-Year Breeders: William and Anne McKinney

Creating good solid ranch horses has been a passion for the Montana breeders on the Little Powder River.

William and Anne McKinney have been raising American Quarter Horses for 50 years. (Courtesy photo)

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By Richard Chamberlain for The American Quarter Horse Journal

When William “Bill” and Anne McKinney began breeding American Quarter Horses in 1968, they built their operation on traditions established in Montana’s Tongue River Valley around 1884, when their ancestors homesteaded the ranch.

“The heart of our program was continuing time-honored tra­ditions of cattle and land stewardship,” Bill says. “Our horses contributed greatly to continuing those traditions.”

Bill and Ann leased their first stallion, Wiggy Web, from Tom Risinger of Denver. Under the McKinneys’ guidance, the 1964 sorrel stallion by Wiggy Bar and out of Coy’s Spider Web by Littlejoethewrangler covered some of the family’s brood­mares and stood to the public for three breeding seasons.

Then the McKinneys decided to outcross their cow-bred mares to a more Thoroughbred-like stallion, hoping to produce horses with the endurance to withstand rough ranch country. For this purpose, Bill and Anne selected 1984 sorrel stallion Borrego Chick, who was by Docs Borrego and out of Jill Bar Chick by Three Chicks. Borrego Chick’s offspring developed a reputation as the ultimate cowboy’s horse, because of their ability to work long days riding out, moving cattle, checking fences and completing other duties that required great fortitude and stamina.

Other sires include the King- and Three Bars (TB)-bred Royal Rocky Bar (Royal Tony Jazz-Rocky Bar Holly by Holly Bar Hank) and Rapid Zepher (Rapid Bar-Queen Aleta by Golden Zepher).

As the McKinneys’ breeding operation developed, they evolved their program to suit the changing needs of the ranch­ing industry by integrating working cow horse bloodlines. This also gave their horses a competitive edge in cutting, reining and working cow horse events.

“We wanted our horses versatile and able to go any direction, ranch or rodeo,” Bill says.

At the height of their program, Bill and Anne kept 18 brood­mares and one stallion on their land in Montana’s Tongue River Valley. Since then, the operation has expanded to include a ranch on the Little Powder River near Broadus, Montana, and a training facility in Laramie, Wyoming, where Bill and Anne’s granddaughters condition their horses for competition.

Today, the ranch in Montana is home to 10 mares descended from Doc O’Lena and Royal King, as well as top cutting sire Dual Pep. Their program has produced horses that have excelled in roping, barrel racing, cutting and reining.

The family’s current stallion, The Flirty Sparky, is a 2000 palomino by Silks Shining Spark, son of six-time leading NRCHA sire Shining Spark, and out of the Zippo Pine Bar-bred mare The Flirty Zipper. To date, this well-bred stallion has produced 108 foals in 14 registered crops for the McKinneys.

Through the years, Bill and Anne have consistently aimed to produce horses that embody certain key traits. Ultimately, their goal remains to produce a Quarter Horse with good hocks; flat knees; a balanced poll, withers and hip; nicely sloped shoulders; and, most importantly, a good mind. An animal meeting these standards can best carry out necessary tasks in accordance with the deeply rooted ranching traditions that the McKinneys have held dear for five genera­tions.

“Horses were vital to ranching production,” Bill shares. “We instilled those traditions in our children as our family grew.”

To this day, the family’s ranch functions using those same practices and relies heavily on their Quarter Horses to achieve the tasks at hand each day.

Through AQHA, Bill, Anne and their family have experienced many opportu­nities as breeders and competitors, and they hope to see AQHA flourish by encouraging beginners and promoting more active involvement for current members. Bill and Anne believe this would allow even more people to gain beneficial relationships and connections both across the United States and internation­ally, just as they have done for the past 50 years.

“The American Quarter Horse allowed us to forge relation­ships with fellow competitors,” Bill says. “These experiences contributed greatly to our program.

“Our horses made it possible to make connections with folks, some that formed lifelong friendships over the past 50 years,” Bill continues.

Most importantly, Bill and Anne’s dedication to breeding quality American Quarter Horses created an avenue for them to make memories with their children and grandchildren. While the arena recognition and numerous awards the McKinneys have received with their horses are important, time spent with family – both blood relatives and their AQHA family – has been even more meaningful.