50-Year Breeders: Riverdale Ranch

50-Year Breeders: Riverdale Ranch

Laura cherishes the Legacy award that has capped her family’s half-century career.

palomino foal in pasture (Credit: Tara Matsler)

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The Underhill family’s Riverdale Ranch in Brighton, Colorado, has been a successful racehorse breeder for years, but it all got started with a hunting dog.

“That was a long time ago, back in the 1950s,” says Laura Underhill. “My husband, John, had the Weimaraner hunting dogs, and he traded a dog for a registered Quarter Horse mare. We bred the mare and got fillies, and we kept breeding and getting fillies, and we got started in the training and racing of them.”

It was a good trade, as at the height of their operation in the 1980s, “we had 240 head altogether,” Laura says. “We had 40-some babies one year.”

John has passed away, and Laura is now 90, so their herd has dwindled.

“Over the years, you cut down,” she says. Family friends now handle the breeding of the Riverdale broodmares, but Laura enjoys having a few mares in her own pasture. “You have ones that are kind of like your babies,” she says. “You can’t part with everything. They get almost like your kids; you get attached to them.”

Riverdale Ranch and the Underhill family have bred 132 race starters that have notched 51 wins on the track, with 26 Register of Merit winners and more than $90,000 earned. Among the money earners are Lets Go Flyer, a 2000 black mare sired by Dash Over Cari, a Riverdale-owned stakes-winning son of First Down Dash, and Lassaleo, a 1968 mare by the ranch’s Hy Leo Bob.

The first stallion in the Underhills’ lineup was Reddie Hornet, a 1958 grandson of Joe Reed II, the American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer who was by foundation sire and Hall of Famer Joe Reed, No. 3 in the AQHA studbook. Others in the stallion battery included Quick Whip, a 1973 grandson of Triple Chick and Quick M Silver; Texas Truck, a 1980 son of Truckle Feature; the 1997 Thoroughbred Mukkabed; and their last stallion, Heart Of A Fisherman, a 2005 son of Fishers Dash.

Laura cherishes the Legacy award that has capped her family’s half-century career. “It’s beautiful,” she says of the trophy. “I really love it.”