Ranching Heritage Breeder: Memory Ranches

Ranching Heritage Breeder: Memory Ranches

Close attention to bloodlines produces results for this Nevada breeder.

Ranching Heritage Breeder Memory Ranches, a cowboy in a yellow slicker riding a palomino horse pushes a herd of cattle.

text size

The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Andrea Caudill

The Pearce family has been producing quality livestock for decades, and they believe in the science of breeding a better animal at their Memory Ranches

They raise registered Red and Black Angus cattle on their ranch near Wells, Nevada, and they focus on elements that will create a successful product – things like birth weight, growth, metabolism and PAP-testing (Pulmonary Artery Pressure, which reveals animals at risk for respiratory or heart issues). This scientific approach has resulted in a uniform breeding program that provides a premium product.

Their horses are no different. For more than 20 years, these AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders have selected for horses that thrive in the work being done – a solid ranch horse with an aptitude for roping. 

Monty Pearce grew up in a ranching family, and when he married wife Merry nearly 50 years ago, they began building their own legacy. They originally operated in Idaho, but moved to Nevada a few years ago. They raised seven children, three of which help operate the ranch today – son, Luke, with his wife, Amber, and their children Dalli, Rietta, Arena and Hondo; daughter Merrily; and son Clancy. 

“We really go after black-type rope horse lines, lines that have absolutely proven themselves as rope horses,” Luke says. “Then we use them on the ranch. They’ve got to be tough, they have to have enough bone, they have to have the right kind of mind to be able to work cows and go back to the arena and be both sound minded and sound bodied.”

Their ideal horse stands 14.3-15.2 and wears at least a No. 1 shoe, so that he is stout enough to thrive in the work being asked.

“I like a horse that will travel, not one that you have to pedal all day to ride, he’ll move free and easy,” Luke says. “At the same time, it means they’re a pretty athletic horse, so you go to the arena and they’re fast and quick footed, and they have a practical application there as well.”

Their breeding program encompasses more than 100 broodmares and about a dozen stallions. It is based in Driftwood blood, but includes the blood of legends Colonel Freckles, Oklahoma Fuel, White Lighting Ike, Sun Frost, Azure Te and the speed influence from Ivory James. 

“We’re constantly massaging that (Driftwood base) and trying to figure out the best crosses,” Luke says. “You can only linebreed so long before you have to bring in an outcross, then with the outcross the greatness is made again. So we’re always looking for the right kind of outcross blood to put back on our Driftwoods.” 

Their horses are pasture bred and raised.

“We run them on the mountain,” Monty says. “We’ve done that for years, and it really works because we have excellent legs on these horses. We just don’t seem to have the foot and leg problems that most people seem to get into. Our philosophy is that horses are built to be a mobile creature, not a corral animal. We feel getting those colts out and putting them out to those higher elevations develops their heart and lungs, their stamina, their tendons and sinews. It’s the complete picture – those colts learn to handle up and down, creeks, brush, rocks, and widens their versatility and produces a horse with fewer problems.”

The foals are halter broken in the fall after they’re weaned, and then they’re turned back out in the mountain pastures to grow up. They’re gathered and started under saddle as long 2-year-olds, then turned back out again. They are worked again as 3-year-olds and then they begin full ranch work as 4-year-olds. 

The horses are used to work the cattle on the ranch, and they’re also trained for arena roping. The family starts and ride all their horses at the ranch. 

Fillies are sold private treaty, but their geldings are all sold at their every-other-year production sale, which will happen next in 2021. The majority of the horses offered at the sales are 3-5 years old.

They catalog half of their 3-year-old crop, all 4-year-olds, and then the 5-year-olds that they had reserved two years earlier. At their last sale, more than half of their customers were repeat buyers. 

“We don’t sell any geldings outside the sale,” Luke says. “If they’re in those age groups, they do not leave (via private sale). There’s no (pre-sale) cherry picking. You have to come buy him in the sale.”

For decades, Memory Ranches has worked to put together livestock that produce, year in and year out. So far the results are proving their theory. 

“Horse and cow genetics aren’t that different, it’s just a matter of what you’re selecting for and how you’re locking those genetics in,” Luke says. “We feel like our understanding of breeding bulls has helped us in our horse genetics program.”

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 AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge competitions open only to these horses. For more information, visit www.aqha.com/ranching.