Jerry Wells

Jerry Wells

Inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2022.

2022 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Wells

text size

Horseman Jerry Wells scored 61 world championships in AQHA competition, a record that stood for many years. And by the way, they were not all halter horses. Jerry loved to rope, whether in jackpots or rodeos or show rings, and won an AQHA world championship and a reserve world championship in tie-down roping. He put roping points on three AQHA Supreme Champions, including the very first, Kid Meyers, the AAA racehorse that Jerry showed in halter, western pleasure and roping to take the inaugural award in 1967.

Jerry also kept a hand in the running horse side of the industry, where he had five finalists in the All American Futurity and won the 1988 running as co-owner of Merganser, the first 2-year-old racing world champion since Special Effort in 1982.

“Jerry entered the business at a time when the ‘bulldog’ Quarter Horse was still very much a part of the landscape,” says AQHA Past President Frank Merrill. “More than any single individual that I can point to, Jerry singlehandedly changed the halter horse industry. With Otoe, Boston Mac, Te N’ Te, Impressive and Conclusive, Jerry injected the type of Thoroughbred breeding with stock horse conformation that changed the industry forever. He used those stallions to inject hybrid vigor into the breed and came up with individuals that at first were taller, more elegant and yet maintained that all-around athleticism that enabled them to work on the rail and compete in all of the cattle events.”

Born November 9, 1940, Jerry grew up in Sulphur, Oklahoma, where in his early teens, he discovered a knack and talent for handling horses. At 20, he went to Texas to work for Matlock Rose and, later, George Tyler, where among his lessons in high-level horsemanship he learned to fit a halter horse. Jerry then returned to Oklahoma to develop a horse for another mentor, Dr. Jack Donald, whose 2-year-old Sugar Bars colt, Otoe, clocked AAA on the track. Jerry traveled the country with Otoe as a 3-year-old, winning the American Royal, The Chicago International, National Western in Denver, as well as the Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston stock shows, making Otoe an AQHA Champion that became a leading sire and Hall of Fame horse.

By the late 1960s, Jerry was in business for himself. He and wife Betty bought land and built a ranch at Purcell, Oklahoma, where by the late ’70s they were breeding 750 mares a year and were among the nation’s elite owners, trainers and exhibitors. Jerry and Betty sold the Purcell ranch in 1982 and downsized to a new place at Sulphur, where they raised their children, Nancy and Marty. Betty and Nancy were both Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racers, and Marty filled his permit as a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tie-down roper.

Jerry died May 3, 2008. Horses bred in his own name earned 1,523 points and three reserve world championships. As an exhibitor, Jerry earned 2,148 points in halter and 130 points in tie-down roping.

Honored in the halls of fame of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and the World Conformation Horse Association, the horseman left an indelible mark on American Quarter Horses.

“What it all boiled down to was a natural eye for a horse and an overwhelming will to win,” noted Frank Holmes in The American Quarter Horse Journal. Few people ever questioned his judgement. When Jerry Wells decided that a horse had the tools, you could bet it did.

He was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2022.


Biography updated as of August 2022.