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Foundation Quarter Horse History
Foundation Quarter Horse - The Old Sorrel
AQHA Hall of Fame Stallion
|Karen Griffith Farms · 34440
State Route 7 · Pomeroy, Ohio 45769
|Call: (740) 992-5782 · E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Old Sorrel (1915) - AQHA Hall of Fame Stallion
The main business of the King Ranch revolves
around thousands of head of cattle. Hundreds of saddle horses are
required to run the ranch. Most of the cowboys are vaqueros
of Mexican and Indian descent who have lived on the ranch all their
lives. Cattle were made to be worked by horsemen and the King Ranch
vaqueros are among the greatest. They savvy horses and cows.
The owners of the King Ranch have always been cowmen, who when on
the ranch put in a day's work, generally in the saddle. They know
and demand good cow horses. Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., the man most
responsible for their Quarter Horses, found that the racing Thoroughbred
left something to be desired as a cow horse. This is why the ranch
started its horse program which eventually resulted in the now famous
King Ranch Quarter Horses.
Although Bob Kleberg was not sold on the Thoroughbred as a cow horse
the South Texas Billy horse did not fill his eye either. Billy horses
were too compact to fit Kleberg's desires, so he looked for a sire
of Quarter Horse breeding with which he could perpetuate the qualities
he admired in both types. He wanted to eliminate some Thoroughbred
characteristics and combine the good features of the Thoroughbred
with the temperament, maneuverability and cow sense of the Quarter
Horse. Caesar Kleberg, who ran the Canales division of the ranch,
saw eye to eye with Bob, and it was Caesar who actually purchased
the prototype for the King Ranch Quarter Horses, the horse that
was to become known as The Old Sorrel.
The colt was about six months old when Caesar first saw him in 1915.
He was sired by Hickory Bill and out of a Thoroughbred mare owned
by George Clegg which came from Kentucky. The colt was not delivered
to the King Ranch until the fall of 1918, shortly before the end
of World War I in Europe.
When the Clegg horse arrived at the ranch, it was named George Clegg
after its breeder. However, as the years went by, the vaqueros
around the ranch just referred to him as "El Alazan Viejo"
or The Old Sorrel. The name stuck. He was registered as The Old
Sorrel. When he was broken, both Bob and Caesar Kleberg rode him
until they were satisfied he could do it all. Some of the things
they were especially looking for and found were temperament, cow
sense, endurance, intelligence, and a good mouth.
Bob Kleberg knew exactly how he was going to breed the horse he
wanted. He had been most successful in setting characteristics not
long before when he created the Santa Gertrudis cattle.2
He planned to repeat approximately the same program with The Old
Sorrel by selecting outstanding mares. He also had some Quarter
mares which he planned to use in his program.
The top colt of the first cross of The Old Sorrel and a Thoroughbred
mare was Solis. It must not be assumed that Solis was selected immediately
from the first colt crop. There had been a continual elimination
process which Kleberg supervised. The bottom half were gelded and
put in with saddle horses. The top half were carefully broken and
ridden by the family and the other top horsemen. Then they were
ranked in all their activities. Selected fillies were also put through
this routine. When the top three or four stallions were selected,
each was given a carefully screened group of half sisters and some
hand-picked Quarter mares for an outcross.
When the foals of this second cross arrived, they went through the
same process of culling and selection. It was then decided that
Solis was best. In 1940, when the first registrations were being
made by the association, eight sons and grandsons of The Old Sorrel
were being bred to bands of mares who were daughters and granddaughters
of The Old Sorrel. Something like three hundred mares were involved
in the program, and another five hundred of both sexes were still
being tested and culled. It was from these groups that the horses
were selected to be registered. Just over one hundred were registered.
Some of the more familiar sires of the horses registered were Solis,
Tino, Cardinal, Ranchero, and Little Richard. There were also ten
or twelve mares by Chicaro. In almost every case, The Old Sorrel
was the sire or grandsire.3
As time passed, some great horses were produced, all bred about
the same way. Take Wimpy, for example. He was half Quarter Horse
and half Thoroughbred, close to what Bob Kleberg wanted. To define
Wimpy's breeding in another way, a son of The Old Sorrel was bred
to a daughter of The Old Sorrel. The son had a Thoroughbred dam
and the daughter a Quarter Horse dam.
This breeding employed by Kleberg may seem a little close, or tight,
as inbreeding is sometimes called. It may be tight for the average
breeder with only thirty or forty mares, but when undertaken by
a master breeder and geneticist like Bob Kleberg--using several
hundreds of mares--it works. Proper individuals and careful culling
insures success, and the desired characteristics are set.
Other examples of Kleberg's breeding were Peppy, who won the Fort
Worth show in 1940, and Macanudo, who won the Kingsville show a
few months before the Fort Worth show. Peppy was by Little Richard
by The Old Sorrel and out of a daughter of Cardinal by The Old Sorrel.
Macanudo was by The Old Sorrel and out of a Hickory Bill mare. All
were top horses. It is to the credit of The Old Sorrel that his
colts have been outstanding in all activities, roping, cutting,
racing, and showing. They are all-round horses.
2 Robert J. Kleberg,
Jr., had done the next to impossible by establishing a new breed
of beef cattle, the Santa Gertrudis. This was a Brahma-Shorthorn
cross that was ideally suited for the hot, damp climate of the Gulf
Coast. Before the creation of the AQHA, he was well on the way toward
creating his own breed of sorrel cow horse, by crossing the Thoroughbred
and the Quarter Horse. When the AQHA was formed, Kleberg joined
the association and registered his horses in the Quarter Horse Official
Stud Book. For an excellent description of the King Ranch activities
read The King Ranch, by Tom Lea.
3 The officials making
the first inspection trip to the King Ranch were Jim Minnick, Lee
Underwood, and I. We were escorted on our rounds by Bob Kleberg,
Dr. J. K. Northway, and Lauro (Larry) Cavazos. Dr. Northway is internationally
famous as a veterinarian and was Kleberg's consultant on livestock
matters. He had been intimately connected with both the Santa Gertrudis
and the Quarter Horse programs. Cavazos was the ranch foreman. He
knew the history and location of every animal on that ranch. Incidentally,
he was one of the two or three outstanding horsemen I have ever
known. Reference is made here to the following works by the above
men: Robert J. Kleberg and A. O. Rhoad, "The Development of a Superior
Family in the Modern Quarter Horse," The Journal of Heredity,
August, 1946; Dr. J. K. Northway, "Like Begets Like," The
Cattleman, September. 1965. Another excellent treatise on that
ranch's horses is "King Ranch Horses,' Cattleman, September,
This story was taken from the book by Robert Moorman Denhardt
- Quarter Horses: A Story of Two Centuries. (For more reading,
check out another book by Denhardt - The King Ranch Quarter Horses.)