Ranching Heritage Breeder: Sunup Ranch

Ranching Heritage Breeder: Sunup Ranch

This Minnesota Ranching Heritage Breeder carries on a long tradition of good horses.

Ranching Heritage Breeder Sunup Ranch

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By Andrea Caudill

Over its more than seventy years of existence, Sunup Ranch has produced a lot of good horses. They’ve sold those horses to virtually every state in the United States and quite a few countries around the world. And all of those horses were produced not in the ranching meccas of Texas or the broad expanses of the West, but in the lush and cold rolling hills of central Minnesota. 

An AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder, Sunup Ranch breeds working American Quarter Horses that can help them work their cattle and get a job done. 

 Founded by Reed and Barbara Kettlewell in 1950, Sunup Ranch is now managed by their daughter Vickie Kettlewell and her husband, Greg Booth. 

“My parents placed a lot of emphasis on the structural correctness and temperament of their horses,” Vickie says. “We like to emphasize those very same things. Everyone likes a good working horse. Some of those characteristics – such as the expression, the typey head and the symmetry – is important. The word I might use is a horse that has a little extra class about them. They take your eye.

“The correctness through the legs and feet (is important),” she continues. “Also very important to us is that the horse is a very tractable horse, one that most anyone could get along with and take in various directions. We still emphasize the versatility of our horses. We don’t peg into a niche; we believe the horse should have the ability to do a lot of different things. And over the years they’ve certainly proven that, from speed events to horses that have gone on to be jumpers, hunter under saddle, to eventing, cutting and working cow horses and rope horses. They’re not pegged. Every horse has its own nature and set of ability, but we feel most of them can do a range of things pretty darn well.” 

Sunup Ranch is also an AQHA Legacy Award winner, and has bred more than 1,200 foals for 50 consecutive years. It continues today.

 “It’s driven mostly by passion,” Vickie says. “You have to have that if you’re going to go through the daily work it takes. It can be very hard work and it’s every day.”

Barbara was a student of pedigree, and in 1952 purchased the ranch’s foundation sire, a son of Bert named George Paul. His blood continues in the ranch’s herd today. 

In addition to raising cattle and horses, the ranch offers agri-tourism, which introduces the public to what really happens on a ranch. They host tours that allow people to see horses, cattle, foals and calves, as well as wildlife and birds. They offer horse-drawn wagon tours of the scenic ranch, as well as fun hands-on activities that include gentle American Quarter Horses. 

The family gives back to the industry in other ways, as well, and have donated horses to the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program, which pairs a qualified youth member with a weanling bred by a Ranching Heritage Breeder.

“We did it because we felt pretty strongly that giving a youth an opportunity to work with a young colt and seeing it through a couple years or more of its life is really important,” Vickie says. “Having youth work with a young horse is such a tremendous opportunity for them to learn a lot. I think that’s a really rich experience.”

Commitment and legacy have been foundational practices at Sunup Ranch since its inception, and even with its many changes continues with the commitment to breeding a good ranch horse today. 

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.