Ranching Blog: Outcrosses

Ranching Blog: Outcrosses

Even in a closed ranch herd, it’s important to carefully outcross.

A sorrel mare and her foal stand in a pasture

text size

By Jenn Zeller

As a cowgirl and aspiring horseman who lives on a commercial cow-calf ranch, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as roping and dragging calves to the branding fire on a horse you raised and trained. 

It’s a pretty cool thing – to throw a leg over a horse, rope a live critter and take it to the fire. Not only is it good for the horse, but branding helps us, the rancher, identify our calves from the neighbors’ calves. 

This excitement is exactly what I experienced a month or so ago, when I rode my little red mare, “Cosmo,” registered as DX And The City (Poco Tivio Pep-Fleefoots Dakota Sun by Dakota Kinger), at the neighbor’s branding. I hadn’t roped or drug anything off of her in two years, yet she walked into the branding pen like a boss, and came out with plenty of double hocks. I’ve pretty much exclusively had her on the trailer running barrels around the country – in seven states so far this year – so ranch work is always a nice change for both of us!

Yet how we get to the roping of bovines, varies for all of us – not only in the training, but in the breeding and raising of our talented equine partners. After this year, I have a completely new appreciation for those of you who only own mares. We are long-time breeders and our horse program, for the most part, has been a closed herd: We own both the stallions and the mares. 

I won’t lie – that makes life pretty dang easy. But this year, mostly due to my affinity for a certain type of barrel horse, coupled with the fact that for the betterment of your herd you should outcross occasionally, I’ve run around like a crazy person getting mares to stallions.

When we choose outcrosses, we look for several things. Primarily is a stallion of sound mind who passes on that trainability and willingness to their colts. Whether they have a show record or not isn’t of foremost concern to us, as there’s plenty of good, producing stallions making very willing horses that are overlooked by the public. 

The size of the stallion isn’t a primary concern, either, as our mares will put size on the colt regardless. 
For us, it’s adding conformation that will cross well on our foundation mares, refine their heads and shorten their top line. 

First up this year was a trip to Ranching Heritage Breeders Perry Quarter Horses in Leoti, Kansas. I took my other little red mare, “Bombshell,” DX Nukethis Bombshel (WDX Nukem-Fleefoots Dakota Sun by Dakota Kinger), to breed to their stallion “Romeo,” Bob Hes Quick (Bet Hesa Cat-Quick Tee Jane by Instant Playboy). To say I’m excited about this cross would be an understatement. 

Bombshell has raised two colts for me – both chromed to the hilt with flaxen manes and tails. And Romeo is a stout little red roan, with mane and tail and chrome to spare. And that’s before we talk about the fact that he’s a badass ranch horse for them, and has earned nice list of accolades in the show pen, as well. There’s no way this colt won’t do any job I ask of it.

Next, I took our big red mare, DX Nukelele (WDX Nukem-Miss WDX Snippette by Sniper Buck) over to Lemmon Performance Horses in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. “Nukelele” is a foundation-bred mare with excellent size and bone. She’ll cross on their stallion RBL Peptoboonshine (Peptos Blueprint-HT Nifty Degree by Hunkey Tonk). He’s a pretty impressive cow-bred beast, with mind and looks to spare. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s my favorite color: Black! Nukelele’s babies have all been gorgeous and gentle, which leads me to the last outcross on the 2021 breeding schedule.

“Luna,” Shesa Quick Dasher (Such Easy Cash-Shesa Quick Streak by Quick Coverage), is crossed on our ranch stallion “Chachi,” Poco Tivio Pep (Peppys Rosebud-Tops April Star by Doctor Tivio). I purchased Luna two years ago as a project horse. Go ahead and laugh – because now this big, lanky, running-bred mare is crossed on one of the most trainable, cow-eatingest stallions I’ve ridden and I couldn’t be happier about this cross. Granted, this one is a total accident; let’s just say that Lutalyse doesn’t always work.

Every single one of the stallions on this list have been used on their respective ranches and have proven themselves in their respective careers. 

Ranch work, as we all know, is good for the horse (and our souls). That roping I spoke of at the start of this article – well in about three years, I’ll be roping and dragging calves on all of these babies, too – we will be doing that long before we go chase cans on them. 

And so the cycle will continue – the long-standing tradition of throwing a leg over a good horse to help you get the ranching job done.

Jenn Zeller is an aspiring horseman, photographer, freelance writer, barrel racer and collector of horses and chickens. She resides in South Dakota on the DX Ranch, a third-generation cattle ranch where the family raises Angus and Brangus cows, as well as Quarter Horses. Contact her at jennifer@thesouthdakotacowgirl.com.