Riding the Wagonhound

When the riders of the second annual Legends of the American Quarter Horse?trail ride stepped down from their horses at the end of the second day, they were tired ? but they were all smiling. The day before, they had spent seven hours in the saddle, following a scenic trail up and around the side of a mountain and then back down. The second day had started with gathering 750 yearling steers out of a 2,500-acre pasture and counting them through a gate into another pasture. That day finished with some ranch sorting competition among the trail riders. It had been a good two days of riding one of the most beautiful ranches in the country aboard some of the best ranch horses.

Wagonhound Trail Ride. AQHA photo

Wagonhound Land and Livestock, owned by Art and Catherine Nicholas and located just south of Douglas, Wyoming, along the Laramie Range of the Rocky Mountains, hosted the 2011 ride benefitting the American Quarter Horse Foundation. Wagonhound is a working cattle ranch that supports more than 2,500 Red Angus mother cows, along with a few thousand yearlings, and the horses the cowboys ride to work the cattle come from one of the best set of mares in the country.

Those mares, along with the ranch?s stallions, WR This Cats Smart, winner of the National Cutting Horse Association Open World Finals, and Genuine Masterpiece, the 2010 AQHA World Champion junior working cow horse, who also placed in the top 10 in junior reining at the 2010 World Show, produce one of the top remudas of ranch horses. The ranch also breeds some mares to PC Frenchmans Hayday, a horse owned by Mel Potter but to whom Wagonhound has lifetime breeding rights. PC Frenchmans Hayday has won more than $350,000 in professional barrel racing and finished in third place for the 2005 AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Heeling Horse of the Year award.

Wagonhound Land and Livestock was formed in 1999 with the purchase of the original Wagonhound Ranch, along with several adjoining ranches. Today, its 150,000 acres vary in elevation from 5,000 to 9,000 feet and include a 4,000-acre farming operation for alfalfa hay. The ranch?s history goes back to the 1800s, when the cattle drives came up from Texas and the pioneers traveled through on the Oregon Trail. Many wagons, as they crossed the creeks, broke their ?hounds,? which is the under part of the wagon that connects the tongue and axle to the reach, allowing the wagon to turn. A tough-to-cross creek became known as Wagonhound Creek, due to all the broken hounds, and this part of the ranch became Wagonhound Land and Livestock, a name that now applies to the entire ranch. The ranch?s brand, ?quarter circle, bar, quarter circle,? is a territorial brand that loosely resembles the wagon?s hound.

?This ride is the signature fundraising event for the American Quarter Horse Foundation,? says Chris Sitz, Foundation director, ?but it also serves as a reminder of what our American Quarter Horses are born and bred to do. We rode some of the best American Quarter Horses you could hope to find, each one of them used daily at the ranch by its cowboys.?

Laina Banks, chairwoman of the Foundation Council, says ?We appreciate Art and Catherine Nicholas and the whole Wagonhound team, as well as each of our Legends participants, for their generous support of the event. It’s such a blessing to enjoy the company of people who have an appreciation for the working cattle ranch and the work of the Foundation?

Gary Lynn Olson of Great Falls, Montana, was one of the trail riders, and although she shows working cow horses, this ride was something new for her.

?It was more than I was expecting,? she says. ?I thought, as we rode out of the arena and through that first creek, that I probably don’t own a horse that would even cross that ? and it was the easiest one we crossed all day. The terrain changed so much, and I loved it when we got up into the timber. As I looked back, out over the countryside, I was just awestruck. I love being up where you can see forever.?

Gary Lynn says, ?And everyone talked as we rode along. I thought, ?Gee, what a cool bunch of people.? We all had more in common than just the horses, but the horses were the big thing. What a fabulous way to enjoy a beautiful ranch on a summer day, horseback.?

If you’re interested in participating in future rides, contact Chris Sitz at (806) 378-5032 or csitz@aqha.org. The Resort at Paws Up Ranch in Greenough, Montana, will host an AQHF ride September 20-23.

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