Ranching Heritage Breeder: K2 Ranches

Ranching Heritage Breeder: K2 Ranches

This program focuses on producing a good, reliable athlete for every task needed on the ranch.

Two cowboys ride horses amongst cattle in a grassy field at K2 Ranches in Arkansas

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By Andrea Caudill

Their breeding program’s goal is simply stated: To breed an athlete with good size and a good mind. 

For the past 30 years, these are the horses being produced at K2 Ranches’ Killian Quarter Horses at Pineville, Arkansas, in the north central part of the state and nestled in the greater Ozark Mountains. 

The AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder breeds ranch horses with quality cutting horse bloodlines to use in its cow-calf operation, which features mostly Angus and Angus-cross cattle. 

The ranch is spearheaded by Tim Killian and his father, Darrell, but it is a whole-family operation. 

Darrell was raised and still lives on part of the original ranch, purchased by his grandfather 97 years ago in 1923. In the 1970s, Darrell and his wife, Margaret, began purchasing land to add to the original acreage and began ranching on their own.

They had horses right from the start for both breeding and riding – Margaret was very active in regional and state horse shows as a youth, and was a rodeo queen – but by the 1980s, they had downsized their horse herd to only a few working geldings.

When Tim returned home from college to start helping run the ranch in the late 1990s, he had a dilemma.

“I got moved back home and found us out of horses,” Tim remembers. “So we started trying to build our horse program back up.”

Their breeding stock today includes about 20-25 mares, two stallions and a rotation of about a dozen riding horses to use for ranch work. They sell most of their horses as weanlings, but retain some for the remuda or to sell as trained prospects. 

The Killians sell their horses through the Ozark Foundation Breeders Association, a members-only group that also includes Ranching Heritage Breeders Gemstone Ranch and 4W Quarter Horses; the group’s annual sale is scheduled for September 19. 

“What is enjoyable to me about the horse business and building a horse program is it‘s just fun to build the program,” Tim says. “There’s always a place to go with the breeding and a way to get better.”

As they were developing their herd, Darrell and Tim chose to concentrate on mare power as much as finding good stallions. 

They have stocked their herd almost exclusively with own daughters of powerhouse stallions Freckles Playboy, Paddys Irish Whiskey, Rockin W, Once In A Blue Boon, Powder River Playboy and Playboys Buck Fever. 

One of their favorite mares is Dynamite Irish, a mare bred by the AQHA Best Remuda-winning S Ranch Ltd., and a daughter of Paddys Irish Whiskey and out of the Doc O Dynamite mare Serena Dynamite. They have two of her daughters in their broodmare band, as well as two geldings used for ranch work.

“Every colt that she has produced has been exceptional in demeanor and conformation,” Tim says. “All of our horses are special and due to the sheer number of horses that we have, we try not to get too attached, but ‘Irish’ is different. You can ride her at any time, and she would rather hang out with people instead of horses. She has definitely become a member of our family.”

Killian family poses for photo

The Killian family (left to right): Timi Lynn Killian, Jesse Kinder, Margaret Killian (sitting), Darrell Killian, April Killian (sitting), Tim Killian and Kenlee Killian. PHOTO: Courtesy K2 Ranches

Their two stallions are Shonuff Bet Hesa Cat, a red roan son of Bet Hesa Cat out of the TR Dual Rey mare SDP Show Me Off; and Dualin Once, a red roan son of Once In A Blue Boon out of the Dual Pep mare XL Diana Dual. 

The mares are hand bred, so that the Killians know with certainty that the mares were covered and when to expect them to foal. 

The foals are halter broken at a few weeks of age, and then are handled extensively every few weeks after that. They are taught to tie and stand, and their lessons are regularly reinforced. 

“As a breeder, you want your horses to stand apart,” Tim says. “Our pedigrees and the quality of our horses help them do that, but they’ve also been handled and they’re gentle. We’ll go (to the sale) and tie those colts up and they’ll stand there all day. People will come in and can pet them or do whatever.”

Any horses the Killians retain are started at 2 years old, and gradually put into full work as a ranch horse. 

It is a labor of love for the family, which includes Darrell and Margaret, Tim and his wife, April, and their daughters, Kenlee and Timi, and Timi’s fiancé, Jesse Kinder.

“It’s just a way of life for me and my family,” Tim says. “Once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to get it out. It’s a lot of hard work, but very rewarding and very fulfilling. For me, it’s very rewarding to raise these babies, watch them come out and develop, and watch people take them and make good horses out of them.”

The AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder program highlights working cattle ranches that breed high-quality American Quarter Horses primarily for ranch work. Horses bred by these ranches are given unique opportunities through Ranching Heritage competitions open only to these horses. For more information, visit www.aqha.com/ranching.