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Foundation Quarter Horses and Paint Foundation Horses

Foundation Quarter Horse History

Left: Foundation Quarter Horse - Peter McCue
AQHA Hall of Fame Horse
Karen Griffith Farms ·  34440 State Route 7 · Pomeroy, Ohio  45769
Call: (740) 992-5782 · E-mail: griffith@frognet.net

Want to learn how the American Quarter Horse began? This page is for all of you students of pedigree that need more information about the Foundation Quarter Horse. Foot notes and places to find further reading on Foundation Quarter Horses are located at the end of each story.

All of these great animals are found 'up-close' in Karen Griffith Farms' senior stallion, Atahi. Click here to see Atahi's great Foundation Quarter Horse pedigree. I will be adding more of the old Foundation Quarter Horses soon.

Some of the Great Paint Foundation Horses will be included on this page. (Mister J Bar - coming soon!)

You can either read the stories straight through, or click on the following jump links to go directly to your foundation stock horse of interest. Hope you enjoy!

Peter McCue  |   Little Joe (and Joe Moore)  |   Traveler  |   Della Moore
Midnight  |   Chief P-5  |   The Old Sorrel


Peter McCue (1895) - AQHA Hall of Fame stallion

Dan Tucker sired many great horses, but without doubt the greatest was Peter McCue. Peter McCue's blood had greater influence on the development of the Quarter Horse between 1900 and 1940 than that of any other single individual. His sons were in demand and scattered among all of the principal Quarter Horse areas. For example, Hickory Bill in South Texas, Harmon Baker in Central Texas, and John Wilkins in North Texas. The same was true in other states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, where sons of his were found out-running, out-performing, and out-producing all rivals.

Peter McCue's breeding explains his phenomenal success and tremendous ability. He was by Dan Tucker. Dan Tucker was a Shiloh and Steel Dust cross. Peter stood 16 hands high and weighed 1,430 pounds. He and Joe Hancock, his grandson, and Old Fred are the largest Quarter Horses to influence the breed significantly.

The first fame came to Peter McCue on the race track. He was principally a sprinter, running most of his races in Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois.5 While in Texas he spent much of his time in the vicinity of San Antonio. Those who knew him best claim that despite his size he was the fastest horse ever to run a short race. He ran what could be one of the fastest quarter miles ever run by a horse and recorded by more than one witness with a watch in hand. Three independent railbirds clocked him in twenty-one seconds flat. Since it was five o'clock in the morning and just a workout, it was not, of course, official. One other time he was supposed to have been clocked by several watches in the same time. Both of these could have been scored starts, although the modern records are getting closer to this time each season.

Peter McCue's speed was phenomenal, but he was a freak horse, as an examination of his pictures will show. Bob Wade ran a quarter in twenty-one and one-fourth seconds at Butte, Montana, and Rainbow by Senator, the horse of her day in Colorado, ran several races in around twenty-two seconds. Races run under twenty-two seconds are fairly common when some sort of a score or running start is used. Shue Fly ran an unofficial quarter at Albuquerque in twenty-one and two-tenths with a scored start. The present world's record is twenty-one and eight-tenths for a standing start quarter set in 1957. When the American Quarter Horse Association, known as the AQHA, first listed official track records in 1945, Shue Fly held the quarter-mile record with a time of twenty-two and six-tenths.6

Peter McCue, when in San Antonio, was owned by John Wilkins, who later sold him to Milo Burlingame, who took him to Oklahoma. Some years later he was purchased by Coke Roberds. Roberds then kept him and cared for him until Peter McCue died in 1923 at the age of twenty-eight.

Among the famous race horses sired by Peter McCue are Carrie Nation, who at one time held the world's record for the five-eighth of a mile, and Buck Thomas, who ran forty-nine races and won thirty-eight. Many of Peter McCue's sons were kept as sires.

He represents one of the most important modern strains, and his bloodline has been carried on through his many sons and daughters. Some of them were Harmon Baker, Sheik, John Wilkins, Buck Thomas, Harry D. Hickory Bill, Duck Hunter, Carrie Nation, Chief, Jack McCue, and Badger. Harmon Baker sired Sancho, Harmon Baker, Jr., Seal Skin, Dodger, Big Nigger, and Little Joe (New Mexico), John Wilkins sired Joe Hancock.

Hickory Bill sired Paul El, Little Hickory Bill, Sam Watkins, and the Old Sorrel. Carrie Nation was the dam of Billy Sunday. Sheik sired Nick. Buck Thomas sired Bill Thomas, Jack McCue sired Barney Owens, Miss Santa Fe, Nancy M, Warrior, and others. Badger sired Old Midnight. It has been the privilege of few modern Quarter Horse sires to exert the influence that Peter McCue did upon the modern "short-horse.

5 For a good account of Peter McCue see Wayne Dinsmore, "The Racing Record of Peter McCue,' The quarter Horse Journal, February, 1964, or "The Story of Peter McCue," Quarter Horse, September, 1948, by J.M. Huffington.

6 Melville H Haskell, The Quarter Running Horse [1945]. This is the yearbook and register of merit of the American Quarter Racing Association.

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.)  Go to another story


Little Joe-(1904)

Little Joe of Alice, Texas, is the only horse of this name that has proved himself great enough that everyone knows he is meant when the name is spoken. His sire was Traveler, his dam Jenny, his full brother King (Possum). Traveler never would have been so famous were it not for King and his younger brother Little Joe--especially Little Joe.

Dow and Will Shely bought Traveler in 1903 and brought him to their ranch between Alice and Alfred, Texas. The next year George Clegg looked over the crop of colts. George bought one. He said that the colt, named Little Joe, was so little he could put him in a chicken coop, and his wife wondered if he had to pay money for him, he was so tiny. But the colt grew up to have the same short back and big britches carried by his sire. He was also fast, and George raced him at every opportunity for four or five years. His first race was against Carrie Nation in San Antonio, and when he beat her he was a marked horse.

Some years later Ott Adams bought Little Joe but never ran him. He wanted a proven race horse to breed to his fast mares. He bred Little Joe for a number of years and then sold him, not because he wanted to, but because he was broke and needed money and O. W. Cardwell, of Junction, was willing to pay for him. Little Joe died on the Cardwell ranch in 1929. In a letter to Helen Michaelis, Cardwell wrote, "Little Joe crippled himself in a chute in 1929 and I had to shoot him." There is more to the story, but the above is sufficient.10 Some people still argue whether Rondo or Little Joe did the most for the South Texas Quarter Horse.

There was no doubt in Ott Adams' mind that Little Joe did more for the Quarter Horse than any other horse since the Civil War. His get and grandget are still some of the best in the business. George Clegg, who raised Little Joe, considered him the fastest Quarter Horse he had ever run and probably as fast as any that ever ran in Texas. That's taking in considerable territory. O. W. Cardwell, who was never known to be at a loss for words, wrote, "Openly by many and secretly by more, he is considered the greatest most ideal sire of this century. Men who have his blood do not wish to change, and outsiders are hunting for it."11

Many great horses are sons and daughters of Little Joe. Some of his get include Ada Jones, Plain Jane, Adalina, Nita Joe, Balmy Days, Joe Moore, Zantanon, Grano de Oro, Old Poco Bueno, Pancho Villa, Dan, Rainbow, Clear Weather, the Northington Horse, Mamie Jay, Little Sister, Clementia Garcia, Jim Wells, Pat Neff, Cotton Eyed Joe, Lupete, Lady Love, Ace of Hearts and Dutch.

The names of his grandget are equally famous and include Miss Panama, Skidoo, Miss South Saint Mary's, Hill Country, Stella Moore, Hobo, Red Joe, Sunny Jim, King, and Billy Van. His great-grandget include Squaw H. Hank H. Clementine, Joe Barrett, Bo El, Bolo, Big Chief, Jesse, and countless others.


Joe Moore was one of Little Joe's most famous sons--not because he was a race horse nor because his head was so stylish, but because he produced so many horses that could run, rope, cut, and win shows.

In another section, the story of Della Moore is told. She was the dam of Joe Moore. Ott Adams bought her just to breed to Little Joe in order to have a suitable replacement. He bred Della to Little Joe the day she arrived on the ranch. The first foal she delivered was a filly. The next year she was dry. The following year she foaled Grano de Oro, a fine bay stallion. Ott still did not have the stud colt he wanted. Della's next and last colt was Joe Moore. He was foaled on March 23, 1927. Ott took one look at the foal and was happy.

Joe Moore grew up into a splendid bay stallion so typically a Quarter Horse that no one would ever mistake his breed, even if he were drawn down and ready to race. He was, in the usual manner of the early Quarter Horses, a small horse when height was considered. He always looked big but measured small. Some horses may be like some men. Take Napoleon, for instance. Nobody ever thought of him as being little, but he was. Perhaps it was the same with Joe Moore. When you walked up to chin him, you found his withers were just 14-2 hands. He was, outside of his head, which was a typical South Texas head, perfectly proportioned for a Quarter Horse. He had good hips, hind legs, shoulders, middle, forelegs--everything one could wish.

All of Joe Moore's life was spent in siring foals, such as Bumps, Hobo, Adam, Kitty Wells, Buddy Lewis, Lucky Boots, Payday, V Day, Jo-mo-ca, Joe Etta, Stella Moore, Monita, Lee Moore, Joe Less, Poquita Mas, and others too numerous to mention.

Once Ott sold Joe Moore to J. Rogers of Menard, Texas. This was the only time the two were separated, and Ott spent sleepless nights until he was able to rescind the sale and bring him home. Joe Moore certainly was one of the best, if not the best, of Little Joe's colts. When Joe Moore died, Ott buried him near Little Joe, whose bones he had brought back from Junction and buried on his farm. Today, all three, Little Joe, Ott Adams, and Joe Moore sleep under the same Texas soil--three individuals to whom the Quarter Horse owes much.

10 Letter dated in Junction, Texas, on February 13, 1940. Denhardt Files, Little Joe Folder.

11 Letter dated in Junction, Texas, on January 7, 1940. Denhardt Files, Cardwell Folder.

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.)  Go to another story


Traveler (1900?) - AQHA Hall of Fame stallion

It is most unusual, although not without precedence, for an unknown sire to beget a strain of horses. One such was Justin Morgan; another, Old Fred. Traveler, could be listed as the third, for he is a sire who came out of nowhere to establish a strain of Texas Quarter Horses. From the ignominious position of pulling a scraper on the Texas and Pacific Railway, he rose to become the great Quarter Horse sire of his generation.

Traveler's history has been traced back to Eastland County, Texas, where he was working on the railway. He was just a sorrel work horse in a large remuda owned by the contractor. It has never been adequately explained just how it happened that a stallion was allowed with the horses, but there is no disagreement on this part of the story.7 Traveler was not a young horse when he left the railroad -- his age has been estimated at between eight and ten. He had to be broken to the saddle, even though trace-chain marks showed on his side and collar marks on his shoulders. He had been worked plenty but not ridden. According to one old-timer, he pitched terrifically but showed great intelligence and soon quieted down.

There are several stories about how he happened to leave the railroad. One has a man named Self trading a mule for him and driving him home hitched to the wagon with the remaining mule. Soon he was racing. One of his first races was against a mare named Mayflower. Will Crutchfield rode Mayflower. Bob Berry tells in a single sentence how the race came out: "Crutchfield could not have thrown a rock off Mayflower and touched Traveler's Dust."8

Still another story has John Cooper and Brown Seay, who owned a saloon in Granbury, Texas, buying Traveler. One day Cooper drove to San Angelo in a buggy with a mule team. He noticed Traveler working the railway fill pulling a fresno and admired him. He stopped on the spot and traded one of his mules for Traveler. When he got back to Granbury, he called his partner out to see Traveler, and they went for a ride. When Seay tapped the mule with the buggy whip the horse stepped out. Then Seay remarked, "He sure is some traveler." According to this account, that is how he was named.

In all of the stories, Brown Seay owned Traveler for a time, and while Seay owned him he ran one of his best races against Bob Wilson, the top Quarter Horse in Central Texas. When he beat Wilson, his fame was made. Everyone who saw him commented on his powerful rear end. In a letter to me, George Clegg said that Traveler had "the shortest back and biggest butt"9 he had ever seen on a saddle horse. He added that he was a speckled sorrel and bred colts with gray hairs in their tails. He also bred quite a few colts with glass eyes. He bred his last colt in 1911.

Curiously, if it had not been for two mares, Fanny Pace and Jenny, Traveler might not have been considered the great sire he was. With Fanny as a dam, he sired Judge Thomas, Judge Welch, and Buster Brown, who was also known as Jack Tolliver. Bred to Jenny, he produced Little Joe, King or Possum, and Black Bess. None of his other colts ever came near to equaling any of these six.

Little Joe sired Zantanon, Joe Moore, Cotton Eyed Joe, and many others. Zantanon sired Hankin's King, Chico, San Simeon, Sonny Kimball, and many more. Possum sired Guinea Pig, who sired Tony, and Red Cloud, who in turn sired Mark.

Other of Traveler's well-known get were El Rey, Booger Red, Old Crawford, Texas Chief, John Gardner, and Chulo Mundo.

Traveler passed through several hands after he left Brown Seay, who was interested in him primarily as a running horse. For a while, he was used as a ranch stallion and bred mares on Chris Seale's ranch near Baird, Texas. Traveler left the San Angelo country about 1903, staying briefly at Comanche, Big Lake, and Sweetwater. From Sweetwater, he was taken to South Texas by Will and Dow Shely of Alfred. Truly, Traveler was an exceptional horse.

7 Traveler was for the most part a mystery horse. Well-known writers have offered contradictory stories concerning him. Those interested in Traveler would do well to read Lewis Nordyke, "Traveler Country," The Quarter Horse Journal, December, 1954, and Nelson C Nye, The Complete Book of the Quarter Horse, 215-26.

8 Nye, ibid., 216

9 Letter dated in Alice, Texas, on December 14, 1939. Denhart Files, Clegg Folder.

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.)  Go to another story


Della Moore (1912) Pedigree - Photo

A stallion's opportunity for good or bad can appear on two or three hundred colts during his lifetime. A mare, on the other hand, has only ten or fifteen chances to show her worth. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why this seems to be a male world most of the time. Nevertheless, ever so often a female will come along whose influence is so great that she cannot be ignored. Jenny, for example, was the dam of both Little Joe and King (Possum). Della Moore was the dam of Joe Moore, Joe Reed, and Grano de Oro. It is clear that Della Moore was not just an incubator. There is no other Quarter Horse, stallion or mare, who has as many descendants outstanding in every performance classification. A matriarch such as she can influence and has influenced the Quarter Horse world for many years.

One must travel to Louisiana to start the story. Here in the Cajun country horseflesh showing fleetness was a commodity well understood. Louisiana is in many ways the home of the modern short-horse if racing is the criterion. It produced more fast short-horses between 1900 and 1940 than any other single area in the country. Della Moore was born a few miles north of Scott, Louisiana, on a farm owned by Ludovic Stemmans. When the occasion offered itself, which it did with some regularity, Ludovic was happy to match a race with one or more of his horses. His favorite horse was Bell, a daughter of Sam Rock, who was a smooth sorrel mare of about 15 hands. However, she had taken the slack out of so many horses she was getting a little hard to match, so he decided to breed her. He was about to breed her to Dewey, the fastest horse around his area, when suddenly Dewey was matched 256 yards and lost. Therefore Bell ended up at the court of Dedier, the winner, and the resulting offspring Ludovic called Della Moore.

In the early 1900's, Della ran her first race when she was still suckling her mother. The Cajuns were never noted for patience, and Ludovic wanted to see his new filly run. So a "milk race" was arranged with one of his neighbors. These races were common then and served a dual purpose; they gave breeders a line on their prospects and at the same time gave them an opportunity to bet some money, furniture, wagons, or whatever else wasn't tied down.

The colts were taken to the race track and then not allowed to nurse their mothers for a while. They then were held at the starting chute by two men while the mothers were led nickering away, up the track, generally 156 yards. At the given signal the colts were turned loose, and away they sprinted looking for milk. Della Moore was the easy winner, and her feed and board were paid in advance. By the time she was in her second year, it became more and more difficult to match Della. She was too well known in the parishes around Lafayette. An agreement was made between Ludovic and a friend, Demonstran Broussard to race her farther from home. Broussard later transferred Della Moore to Boyd Simar, another race horse man who traveled all over the Southeast racing short-horses. Boyd lived a couple of parishes south, in Abbeville.

Boyd Simar's life was running horses; it had been his father's before him and was his son's, Paul's, after him. Boyd and Paul became well known in short-horse circles when they trained race horses for Jack Hutchins and Johnny Ferguson.15 Both Boyd and Paul spoke Cajun French by preference and English only with an inimitable accent. Della lived up to Boyd's expectations, and he won a lot of money on her and lost most of it betting on his other horses.

Texas in those days had many "bull rings," small circular tracks, some only a quarter of a mile around. If no "bull ring" was available, at least a straightaway path could be found. At most fairs and celebrations race meets were held, although parimutuels and organized betting were prohibited. Betting itself was common, and the sheriff was often the stakeholder. Top horses such as Della Moore could not get in the races (all the others would withdraw), but generally a local horseman could be talked into a match race if conditions were right. When Boyd could not match Della any more, he sold her to Henry Lindsay of Granger, Texas. Early in 1920 she was taken to a race meet at San Antonio and stabled next to the fine stallion Joe Blair, one of the fastest race horses alive. His famous match race with Pan Zareta had taken place several years before, at Juarez, when he had established a new world's record of thirty-nine seconds for three and one-half furlongs. He was still in his prime. While Joe Blair and Della Moore were in San Antonio, stabled in adjoining stalls, the horse known as Joe Reed was conceived. Boyd Simar had no idea how or why Della was bred to Joe Blair, for she was racing at the time.

One day George Clegg told the owner of Little Joe, Ott Adams, about a Louisiana mare he had seen that could run even better than she looked, and she was a walking picture. They talked about Della Moore's breeding, and Ott decided she might be the one to give him a son to replace the aging Little Joe. Ott wanted to see Della Moore and at the same time look over her colt, Joe Reed. He did, and he then knew she was the mare he wanted. Her stature, her clean-cut limbs, and her femininity would cross well with Joe's compact masculinity. And with that breeding, speed on both sides, he felt the offspring should fly. The owner promised to call Ott when he was ready to sell.

Some time went by, and Ott Adams began to get restless. Little Joe would soon be twenty years old, and Ott still did not have Della to breed to him. He decided he wouldn't wait any longer. He drew some money out of the bank. He had to pay $600 for Della, a large sum of money in that day for an old mare that could no longer run. However, Ott figured time was running out on both Little Joe and Della Moore and there was no choice.

As soon as Della Moore arrived in Alice, Ott bred her to Joe. Her first foal by Little Joe was dropped August 16, 1923, a beautiful little sorrel filly he named Aloe. John Dial came by to see Little Joe's and Della's first daughter and liked her so well he bought her on the spot. Ott bred Della back to Joe when Aloe was nine days old, but she did not stick. She came in regularly, but Joe could not seem to get her in foal. Ott was to learn later that she would foal only every other year regardless of whom she was bred to or how often.

In 1925, Della foaled Grano de Oro. For some reason, good as the colt was, he did not satisfy Ott, so when Joan Dial showed up, Ott sold Della's second colt to him just as he did her first. She would not settle that year. On March 23, 1927, Della Moore foaled the bay horse colt sired by Little Joe that suited Ott, and so he gave the new colt his sire's first name and his dam's last, Joe Moore. Ott was satisfied with Joe Moore and sold Little Joe to O. C. Cardwell of Junction. Della Moore foaled one more filly before she died in 1930--the filly Panzarita by Paul El.

Thus ends the saga of Della Moore, a peerless race mare and the grande dame of the Quarter Horse world.

15 I managed the Hutchins and Ferguson Quarter Horses while Boyd and Paul Simar were training for them. It was directly from Boyd that I obtained most of my information about Della Moore and other Louisiana short-horses. Several times I made trips into Louisiana with, or after, race horses and so came to know many of the men connected with Dedier, Flying Bob, Della Moore, and other well-known Louisiana race horses.

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.)  Go to another story


Midnight (1916)

Peter McCue had many grandsons and granddaughters, but none ever did more for the Quarter Horse breed than old Midnight. Midnight's sire, and Peter McCue's son, was Badger. Badger was more famous for his running than for his progeny. It was while he was being handled by two Oklahoma men, Roy Cockran and Reed Armstrong, that he gained his fame. He was kept so busy running that little time was left for siring colts.11 When a stallion is bred very much, he loses his interest in racing. Only two known progeny of Badger were foaled, one being a mare and the other the stallion Midnight.

Midnight got his name because he was so black as a foal. He died almost pure white, as is common for gray horses. As a mature horse he stood 14-2 and weighed 1,150 pounds.

The dam of Midnight was Nellie Trammel.12 She was sired by Pid Hart and had been bred and raced by Thomas Trammel. Trammel, and his partner Newman, of Sweetwater, Texas, were two of the best-known race horse breeders in Texas during their day. In Texas, they occupied a position very similar to that of the Watkinses of Illinois. In fact, the two establishments often bought or exchanged stock. Dan Tucker and Barney Owens, two of Trammel's best short-horses, were obtained from Watkins.

Nellie Trammel was a clubfooted mare, but she could really move on soft ground and was seldom matched unless the ground was soft. She came into the possession of Jess Cooper and was bred to a common horse. She produced such an outstanding foal by this horse that Cooper decided to take her to the best short-horse he knew and give her a chance. He loaded her up and took her to Badger and talked Reed Armstrong into giving him a service.

When Midnight was born, he looked so good that Jess's brother Al bought half-interest in him. Together they broke and trained Midnight for racing. The first race Midnight ran for important money was a match against an imported horse from Cuba. This was in 1920, and each side put up $500. Midnight scampered across the line an easy winner.

When Reed Armstrong heard that the Coopers had a Badger colt out of the clubfoot mare that was running, he thought he would get some of those Cuban pesos. He had a top sprint horse, A. D. Reed, a son of Peter McCue, and he expected no trouble from the iron-gray Midnight. Midnight, however, had other ideas, and he ran away from his uncle, A. D. Reed, and the Coopers had dollars to go with their Cuban pesos.

It was a little rough to match Midnight after a couple of races like this, and the Coopers sold him to Red Whaley. To get a race, Whaley had to approach the best. He challenged the Waggoners, and when he beat the Waggoner horse, the Three D purchased Midnight on the spot. He was then five years old.

He ran for the Waggoner outfit for several years and then was turned out with some mares. Sometime later he was purchased by the JA Ranch, who wanted a little speed with their cow horses. After serving the JA Ranch for several years, he was purchased by Aubray Bowers and taken to his final home. Bowers took good care of the old horse and got several colt crops from him before he died in 1933.

Walter Merrick bought his last horse colt and called him Midnight, Jr. With him he won sixteen straight match races. Midnight, Jr., was out of a Billy the Tough mare.

Old Midnight had his heyday before the formation of the AQHA, but, nevertheless, twenty-three of his get were registered by the association. This indicates the esteem in which Midnight horses were held. Some of the better-known sons of old Midnight were, besides Midnight Jr., Chubby, out of Fourth of July; Rainy Day out of Old Alley; and One Eyed Waggoner, out of a Yellow Wolf mare.

11 According to notes made by Helen Michaelis, Armstrong raced Badger (he called him Grey Badger) successfully until he was about six, and then Armstrong sold him to a farmer who wanted a work horse, and so he was gelded. Denhardt Files, Armstrong Folder.

12 I am inclined to believe the information regarding Midnight's dam much as it was reported by Nelson Nye in "The Story of Midnight," Quarter Horse, March, 1948. Helen Michaelis gave a somewhat different version. Since Helen, Nelson, and I interviewed the same people and came up with different stories, the truth will probably never be known. Helen points out that Walter Merrick wrote to H. S. Bissell that he had heard two conflicting stories about Midnight's dam: (1) T. O. Gouse, of Elk City said he was present when they bred the mare that foaled Midnight. He said she was a cripple-footed mare that was never broken but showed wonderful Quarter Horse conformation. Her breeding was unknown. (2) Another fellow told him Midnight's dam was a big chestnut race mare that ran the Crawford area. She was called the "Negro mare" because she belonged to a Negro. She came from the East and her breeding could not be checked. Denhardt Files, Unregistered Studs, A-J.

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.)  Go to another story


Chief (1916)

Chief was foaled in 1916 or 1917, and he died in 1946. He spent his entire life of twenty-nine or thirty years in the ownership of Claud Stinson of Hammon, Oklahoma. He is buried east of the Stinson barn under some large locust trees, under which he used to stand for hours, drowsily switching flies with his tail, raising a little cloud of dust each time he stamped a foot.

Chief was not a small horse as Quarter Horses are judged. He mounted up well in the withers, and while you would not say he could drink out of a teacup, he did not have a bad head. He had long, strong muscles and good, clean, flat bones. Wear and tear blemished him somewhat, but he had come into the world with good straight legs. Claud claimed he was an excellent saddle animal--fast, intelligent, and not excitable when working cattle or racing. He showed he had been ridden, for he had several saddle scars. His small, round, dark hoofs were noticeable. His pasterns were short, as a working horse's should be.8

Fast horses were to the young men in the days when Claud Stinson was growing up what hot-rods are to modern youngsters. Thus Claud developed a good eye for horseflesh. He owned one mare he especially liked because she could fairly fly. Her name was Bess, and Claud enjoyed her speed by matching her in quite a number of races. Then he got married, and somehow he no longer had time to train, match, and race.

He decided to breed Bess and raise some fast horses. The first colt she foaled was sired by Jeff C and was called Little Annie. She got tangled in barbed wire and came out lame. Claud rebred Bess to Jeff C, and the next foal was a filly he named Nettie Stinson. Reed Armstrong bought and raced Nettie at the same time he had Grey Badger.9 Nettie Stinson ran so well Claud figured that Little Annie, who was bred the same way, should be a good brood mare. He bred her to Peter McCue, the best horse he could find. Chief was the result, and he satisfied Claud in every respect.

In a letter written in 1947 and printed as an article, Claud had the following to say about Chief:

Chief was never raced very much and was never in good running condition at any time he was raced. We would take him out and run him a little and he outrun some of as fast horses as was ever in this country. The last time I run him was at the age of twelve years. I started him in a quarter mile free-for-all at the fall race meet at Seiling, Oklahoma, and again at Canton the next week, running first both times. Chief's best distance was probably 300 or 350 yards. I think Chief could run as fast as any horse could run at the distance, as he was as fast breaker as any horse I've ever seen.
I showed him at-halter at Elk City in the Western Oklahoma Quarter Horse Show in 1941. He took first there, at the age of 24.10
While Chief may not have been the most famous of Peter McCue's offspring, certainly his blood has been a steady and beneficial influence to the Quarter Horse as a breed.

8 This description is taken from notes made by the author when he went to see Chief, Denhardt Files, Chief Folder.

9 Grey Badger, also called Badger, was the sire of Midnight. Reed Armstrong was one of five brothers, all seemingly horsemen. Reed married the daughter of a buffalo hunter, Jake Meek. Reed's brother John trained horses for the King Ranch. Dan Reed trained for Van Vactor who was well known in Oklahoma and Texas for his fast Quarter Horses. Reed was born around 1874 and lived variously at Elk City, Sayre, and lastly at Foss, Oklahoma. Denhardt Files, Armstrong Folder.

10 "The Story of Chief," The Quarter Horse, February, 1947, 4.

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.)  Go to another story


The Old Sorrel (1915) - AQHA Hall of Fame horse

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, 1940.

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.)  Go to another story


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