Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deep in Quarter Horses

I’m frequently asked how many horses we have here at the ranch. I smile slowly and reply, “A lot: anywhere from thirty to thirty-five.” The curious look back at me in surprise and I say, “Yes, we’re deep in quarter horses at my house.”

Pete’s been actively breeding quarter horses since he was nineteen. He selected our main herd sire, “Dudley,” officially, Zan Bar Freckles, for his stunning appearance and versatility. Dudley is a great ranch versatility horse and roping horse competitor. He has produced athletic and very well dispositioned off-spring throughout his breeding life. In order to emphasize athleticism and cow sense in our breeding program, Pete next selected , “Riggs,” officially Hesa Stylish Pepto, as our main sire. Riggs has competed in the Snaffle Bit Futurity, the NRCHA Reined Cow horse event at the Colorado State Fair, and several smaller competitions. He demonstrates great athletic ability and the same calm and even disposition so characteristic of the quarter horse and important to our breeding program.

The development of the American Quarter Horse began long ago. In the 1600s, American horses in the East were of Spanish descent with bloodlines rooted in Arabian Barb and Turkish stock. When the colonists began importing English horses to Virginia, they were bred to this native stock of Spanish descent and used for farm work and transportation, marking the beginning of the emphasis on horses that were versatile and practical. At the same time, horse racing became popular after the farmer’s physical labor was done. As the pursuit of racing progressed, so did the desire to breed a quicker, faster horse for short distances. These horses were the precursors to the modern day quarter horse.

As America expanded west, horses provided transportation and help with driving large cattle herds across long distances to railheads and developing areas of pioneering settlement. Today, the American Quarter Horse is still highly valued for its ability to move and cut a cow. Its versatility, athleticism, and even disposition are hallmarks of the foundation horses that first made up the registry of the American Quarter Horse Association beginning in 1941.

I recently visited with my neighbor, Jo Semotan. As she drew her hand over the soft cover book, torn ever so slightly on the spine, she said, “This book’s never been out of my house, but if you’d like to look at it, I’d let you take it home.” That book was the original registry of the American Quarter Horse, printed in 1941 when the foundation horses were identified and registered for the newly formed AQHA. Jo’s family had been at the heart of developing some of the early bloodlines of the American Quarter Horse association while living in Deep Creek just over the aspen covered ridge to the west of our ranch. Her father, Quentin, and her mother, Evelyn, were pioneers in the development of the foundation quarter horses using bloodlines like Ding Bob, Mary McCue, Saladin, Star Duster, and Mary Nile.

As a young man, Quentin was hired as a trainer by Evelyn’s uncle, Marshall Peavey. Marshall settled in Deep Creek in the early 1900s and began raising commercial Herefords and race horses from quarter horse bloodlines. While training for Marshall, Quentin met and married Evelyn and the two went on to shape and promote the quarter horse breed. Marshall and Quentin help establish the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association. Quentin and Evelyn’s Star Duster, purchased as a yearling in 1945, went on to win Grand Champion at the National Western Stock Show in 1948 and the Champion of Champions at the Southwest Livestock Exposition Fat Stock Show also in 1948. In his career, Star Duster won 46 out of 47 showings. Quentin and Evelyn’s ability to match sires and dams was evident in the success of their breeding program: their horses often topped the National Western Livestock Sale and word of their fine horses resulted in many tourists and interested buyers stopping by their ranch on the weekends to either purchase a horse or simply appreciate the animals they had produced.

Star Duster left the Elk River Valley in 1957 after being sold to Ralph Bell in California. He was sold four years later to Thane Lancaster of Idaho who used him as a breeding sire until his death at 31. Quentin and Evelyn’s fine eye for horses continued to pass down into our own breeding program: from a gray gelding called, Smokey, to Dudley, who both go back to Quentin and Evelyn’s Star Duster.

Yes, we’re deep into quarter horses here at the Kurtz Ranch and enjoy being a part of a great quarter horse tradition in North Routt County.

Please click on this link: for further information on Riggs, Dudley, and our breeding program.


Alisha said...

Andy mentioned Star Duster came from your area, but never expanded on the details. Great entry, what an honor it must have been to review the original AQHA registry!

Mary B. Kurtz said...

Thanks, Alisha. I was quite surprised when she handed that book to me. She also gave me two other old books on quarter horses to review that belonged to her mother, Evelyn Peavey Semotan.