Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Running “W” Horses Are Born

     The Running “W” brand is adorned by some of the most famous Quarter Horses in history. The king ranch, initially built to raise cattle began raising horses because the founder, Richard King, knew to raise the best cattle one must have the best horses. This led to one of the most notable and famous horse breeding programs in the United States. 

      In the 1800s, the Quarter Horse made its debut on Texas ranges. While racing was a large event in Texas from 1850 to 1940, Jared Lee, an associate of King Ranch stated that the ranch did not race their Quarter Horses, “they are used for ranch work, what there were originally bred to do for Captain King.”
Although Texas is now a permanent home for Quarter Horses, the land was not always so welcoming. For instance, Captain King bought his ranch near the Santa Gertrudis Creek where a large amount of wild mustang and cattle were already grazing. While King gathered the cattle he let the mustangs be, buying horses from the Mexican towns of Mier and Camargo. The wild horses remained untouched until Robert J. Kleberg, Sr. was in control of the ranch. He trapped the wild herd and traded them for better bred horses from Tennessee to Mississippi.
     On August 3, 1854, King purchased an American stallion for $250 and an American bay for $300. A few months later he spent $600 on a sorel stallion named Whirlpool. Later on King purchased several more stallions from a farm in Kentucky, paying between $300 and $1,000. These purchases were large at the time, especially when compared to the $300 spent on purchasing the ranch as a whole.
Once on the ranch, King meticulously picked out broodmares for his new stallions focusing on foundation, size and color. From 1885 to 1910, King Ranch became one of the leading producers of horses and mules.
Following King’s death in 1885, Robert Kleberg, Sr., took over the horse program in particular. Originally seen merely as a lawyer and tenderfoot, his knowledge of the Quarter Horse, cattle and the business earned the ranch hands respect. After Robert Kleberg, Sr. came his son, Robert (Bob) Kleberg, Jr.. His active role in the Quarter Horse breeding program shows what extrodinary accomplishments King Ranch achieved. Throughout his years on the ranch, Kleberg’s education in genetics enabled him to succeed in improving the quality of the cattle and Quarter Horses.
     The horse that became the foundation sire of all the King Ranch’s Quarter Horses was known as Old Sorrel. Kleberg, Jr. came across Old Sorrel who, even at such a young age displayed all the qauliteis he was looking for in Quarter Horses. The colt, as well as its mother, was bought for $125 and brought to the ranch. He obtained all of the necessary training of a Running “W” colt such as habituateing himself to the boiling tempatures, the dust and unfriendly landscape. Kleberg, Jr. reffered to him as “the best cow horse (he) ever rod, but also a damn good running horse. He had a well-balanced look and the feel of a race horse.”
     Due to selective sorting based on which mares would do Old Sorrel justice in breeding, the mares were the best at King Ranch between 1927 and 1937. Until his death at 31, Old Sorrel remained on the King Ranch. By 1993, most of the Quarter Horses of King Ranch had 90% Old Sorrel lineage from one or both parents.
The ranch went on to produce the number one registry in the American Quarter Horse Assocaition, Wimpy P-1. 
As well as Wimpy P-1, the King Ranch produced other well-known champions such as Mr. San Peppy, Peppy San Badger (Little Peppy), both earning the National Cutting Horse Assocation world champion title in 1974 and 1976.

      Bold Venture, the 1936 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, was added to the breeding program in 1939 and became the only horse to sire two Kentucky Derby winners, both out of King Ranch mares. Middleground, also sired by Bold Venture, won the 1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. In 1946, Assult became the seventh Triple Crown champion in turf history and the only Texas bred horse, to date, to win the Triple Crown. Assault was the greatest of the King Ranch’s major stakes winners, completing a racing career that brought eighteen victories and total earnings of $674,720. Assault retired in 1948 for a short time but due to being an unsuccessful breeder ran a few more races until he was retired in 1950 for the last time. Assault died at the age of 28.

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