Believe it or not, Thoroughbreds were once a preferred mount of ranchers in the American west. They had the stamina, size, and strength to move herds of livestock through large expanses of rough terrain. Many historic ranches incorporated Thoroughbred bloodlines into their breeding programs. In fact, the first twenty horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, which are considered foundation sires of the breed, are all descended from Thoroughbreds. Of the first twenty, Rialto, Chief, Colonel, Sheik, Whiskaway, and Little Richard have Thoroughbred grandparents, and Joe Reed and Oklahoma Star have Thoroughbred parents. While most ranchers today ride distant descendants of Thoroughbreds, some continue to ride, rope, and wrangle on the full-blooded versions.
Osh Kosh Josh
Osh Kosh Josh, also known as “Nero,” was bred by Floyd Jay Parker in Utah. He is by stakes winner Speed Dial and out of Kelsitay. His pedigree also includes Phone Trick, High Counsel, and Northern Dancer. He started twice and earned $855 on the track. His best effort was a second-place finish at Wyoming Downs.
Nero is now nine years old and owned by Heidi Reid and her husband. He works on a fifth-generation ranch in southeastern Idaho. The operation grows wheat and alfalfa and runs a herd of Angus cattle. Over the years, Nero has become a jack of all trades. He moves cattle, ropes calves for branding, packs into the mountains, and plays polo. Each spring he helps drive cattle to the summer rangeland and every fall he gathers cattle from the hills and river bottoms and brings them back to the ranch for winter. Heidi says that Nero is a great horse. Many of her friends have used him when they come to help on the ranch. He exemplifies the versatility of the breed.
Cora Elizabeth, also known as “Cobra,” is a California bred mare by graded stakes winner Grazen and out of Mark Set Go. Her pedigree also includes Marquetry, Alydar, and Rubiano. She made starts at Pleasanton, Del Mar, Los Alamitos, Santa Anita, and Golden Gate Fields. She retired from racing in December of 2014 after never finishing better than seventh place.
Cobra was purchased by Meredith Barrett from a horse rescue in Denver, Colorado. She works on a 70,000-acre ranch in central New Mexico. The operation uses horses to gather, brand, and check cattle. The ranch is located in rough, rocky country. Since the pastures are so large, it is easiest to cover ground at the trot. Cobra is an energetic and athletic horse and thrives in this environment. Meredith and Cobra will often travel 10 to 30 miles in a day! Meredith says that she is the most calm and confident when working cattle. She may have been bred for racing, but few horses have more dedication to the job than Cobra.
Sixty Sixty, also known as “Old Man Sixty” or just “Sixty,” was bred in Illinois by Lawrence Karp and Harry Levy. He is by Canadian Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Regal Classic. His pedigree also includes Vice Regent, Mr. Prospector, and Nodouble. He has the pedigree and presence of an old soul. He began racing at two years old, made sixteen starts, won four races, and earned $70,297 on the track. His four wins were at Hawthorne Race Course and Arlington Park. When Sixty retired from racing at age five, he started his second career in eventing.
Sixty is now eighteen years old and owned by Kenneth Roberts. His third career is working on a large Angus farm in central Missouri. The operation is located on several properties and typically uses trucks and UTVs for regular ranch work. However, on one 300-acre property, Kenneth uses Sixty to inspect fences, move cattle, and check newborn calves. The entire operation calves about 800 head each year, so this is no small task. Kenneth says he would let Sixty retire if he did not seem happiest with a saddle on his back. He may not be as strong or as sturdy as he once was, but he is still just as willing. Kenneth hopes every horse that comes after him meets the standard this chestnut Thoroughbred has set.