50-Year Breeders: J. Kenneth Pickinpaugh

50-Year Breeders: J. Kenneth Pickinpaugh

Kenneth continues the tradition of breeding good using horses today, and has now registered horses for 50 years.

cremello palomino mare and foal fall leaves (Credit: Ron Estes)

text size

Wyoming rancher J. Kenneth Pickinpaugh bought his first stud horse when he was just 12 years old, and joined his dad and granddad in the breeding business. They had a herd of broodmares, and they used the stud to breed ranch horses to work their livestock.

His granddad, Ralph, first homesteaded the land near Douglas, Wyoming, in 1915, and his dad, Johnie K., continued the tradition. At one time, they had around 60 mares, because it took a lot of horsepower to get their jobs done.

Kenneth continues the tradition of breeding good using horses today, and has now registered horses for 50 years. He registered his first foal in 1967. The many generations of horses served to work cattle on the ranch, which currently is stocked with Black Angus cow-calf pairs.

“When we got to papering those horses, I bought a stud, Bauchman Lad,” Kenneth says.

The 1955 stallion was a son of Diamond Bob and out of a King P-234 mare, going back to Ed Echols, and he would sire good horses, and even ranch stud Chicory Lad. Kenneth also used the Hershey’s Kisses stallion Spear Three Dude.

Their broodmares were mostly Robin Reed- and Hancock-bred.

No good long-term breeding program grows without experimentation, and that happened, too.

“I bought a direct son of Azure Te and Tonto Bar Hanks – that was the wrong cross,” Kenneth noted with a dry humor. “That didn’t work. A little too much blood in there. Especially on the Hancock mares.”

There was a time, he noted, that “you had to be pretty much a cowboy to ride one of them” – he even sold some horses to bucking strings, but he quickly culled his herd and adjusted his direction. His focus is on Hancock and Blue Valentine horses.

“I took all the buck out of them horses,” he says. “In the past 15-20 years, I haven’t had any of ’em fire. And I’ve got horses in 34 states and ol’ Mexico. They all sold by word of mouth, I don’t advertise anything, they just come here and buy them. Apparently, they’re pretty good horses.”

He currently breeds about 15 foals per year, all pasture-bred and ranch raised. Almost all are sold privately straight off the mares.

A few of his top stallions include the Vincent Hayes-bred Blue Valentine grandson Hancocks Go Bar, and the Blue Valentine stallion Little Bros, who was a good-tempered sire and produced what Kenneth describes “as good of a stud as I ever owned,” the 1988 roan stallion Bros Gallopinggalord.

“He had a good disposition, and he produced colts that had good dispositions,” Kenneth says. “You could just step on them, ride them around the corral three times, open the gate and let them go. Some of the best dispositions you’ve ever seen.”

His current sires are the blue roan stallion Babes Rowdy Bleu Man and the grullo WYO Roan Chukar.

His ideal horse, he says, stands 15.1-15.2 and weighs in at 1,200-1,300 pounds. They have a decent head, and a good disposition. He raises most of his own broodmares.

“If I have a mare that produced a colt that doesn’t have a good disposition, that mare is automatically gone,” he says. “If they don’t produce a good disposition on those colts and they aren’t good minded, I don’t need ’em.”

But the demand meets the supply, as he sells most of his horses as weanlings.

Kenneth and his wife, Barbara, celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2019. They have four kids, sons Steve Taylor, Shane and Jamas, and daughter Taffie. His sister and her husband, Vicki and Francis Horn, also are involved in horses.

Several of the kids still have horses and ride. Kenneth has been forced to retired from the saddle after suffering a severe back injury, but he still enjoys breeding the kind of horses that horsemen want to ride.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to get this (award),” he says, with good humor in his voice. “It means a lot to me; I worked hard at it. People work hard “All of mine go to cowboys or people using them to ranch on or to rope cattle on,” he continues. “That’s where they should be, those Hancock horses.”