A woman with an eye for horses, Harriett Carlton Peckham devoted her life to improving the American Quarter Horse. She built Buena Suerte Ranch, a 350-acre facility at Roswell, New Mexico, that in the 1970s and early 80s was considered one of the finest operations in the Quarter Horse industry. The facility was renowned for its lavish party preceding each running of the All American Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs.
Remembered as the First Lady of Quarter Horse racing, Harriett was associated with some of the sport’s greatest – and fastest – runners, including multiple world champion Go Man Go, famed broodmare sire and champion Easy Jet and champion Rocket Wrangler, sire of Dash For Cash.
Born May 9, 1930, Harriett was a member of a prominent Houston family. Harriett and her brother, Snider, boarded riding horses near the old Arrowhead Park in Houston, where they became interested in racing American Quarter Horses. Some of her most prominent memories were of fox hunting in east Texas.
In 1950, Harriett married William Peckham, a Houston businessman also interested in horses, and with Snider, the couple began acquiring blue-blooded racehorses. From Frank Vessels Sr., founder of the Los Alamitos Race Course, the Peckhams purchased three-time world champion Go Man Go, the first of three Hall of Fame horses she owned who would precede her own induction into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.
At one time or another, she also owned such marquee racing Quarter Horses as Miss Jelly Roll, the dam of champion and All American winner Pie In The Sky; Miss Assured, the stakes-winning dam of Hall of Fame horse Streakin Six; Miss Olene, the Hall of Fame stakes-winning dam of four stakes winners, including champion Little Blue Sheep; stakes winner and successful sire Real Easy Jet and the stakes-winning AQHA Champion St Bar. In her own name, Harriett bred 51 race winners from 71 starters, including two stakes winners and the earners of $630,079.
Meticulous stud care was industry protocol, and Harriett handled some of the greatest running sires of the era at 350 Acre Buena Suerte Ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. At the Peckham Farm in El Paso, she revolutionized the industry’s emphasis placed on broodmare care. Every mare under Harriett’s care was handled at least twice daily, individually haltered and led up to the barn from the pasture, making the facilities, in one writer’s words, “a Four-Star Hotel for Horses.”
“If nothing else,” Harriett once said, “the Buena Suerte Ranch made everyone get on the stick and start taking care of the mares.”
A lifetime member of AQHA, Harriett was a member of the AQHA Racing Committee and a Gold Patron of the American Quarter Horse Foundation. She also was a member of the Ruidoso Downs Jockey Club, and each summer she hired high school students to work on her farms and ranches. However, honors and money were never Harriett’s motivations.
Harriett always said, “The studs are my business; the mares are my heart.”
Want to learn more about Harriet Peckham? Purchase a "The Bold & Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse" companion book from Quarter Horse Outfitters to learn more about the stories and history of the 12 women in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.