AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders of the Year

These are the award winners, American Quarter Horse breeders who exemplify the ranching lifestyle.

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AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders are working cattle ranches that produce five or more registered American Quarter Horses each year for ranch work. Nominees for the AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year award are chosen by their peers, with the winner chosen by vote of the AQHA Ranching Committee.

AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year Award Winners

2019 – Open Box Rafter Ranch, Faith, South Dakota

Open Box Rafter Ranch is operated by Jim and Joni Hunt, who established their ranch in 1990, but four generations of their families before them also ranched, raising cattle and horses in South Dakota. The Hunts raise alfalfa, run around 600 cow-calf pairs and 100 yearlings, and have a large herd of about 100 broodmares. An inaugural member of the Ranching Heritage Breeders program, which began in 2011, the Hunts have bred open show champions, AQHA world show and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers. They assisted in establishing the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program and, to date, have donated 55 registered foals to the program.

2018 – Miller Land & Livestock, Big Piney, Wyoming

The ranch is managed by Mike Miller, along with his wife, Tara, and their sons, Will and Wes. The Millers, who were approved as a Ranching Heritage Breeder in 2015, run approximately 2,000 cow-calf pairs and 1,800 yearlings on land that has been in their family for 124 years. The working ranch horses also include notable show, rodeo and Ranching Heritage Challenge competitors. 

2017 – Crago Cattle Co., Bell Fourche, South Dakota

Crago Cattle Co. is operated by the Crago family, which is headed by Margaret Crago and her sons, Bruce and Ralph, and their families. The Cragos oversee a 1,200-head cow-calf operation, another 700 head of feedlot cattle and 1,200 head of stockers. They also keep 400 head of sheep and raise about 2,000 acres of hay. Ranching Heritage Breeders since 2012, the Cragos have bred American Quarter Horses for more than 60 years with successes in the show pen, rodeo arena and AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenges. 

2016 – Box O Quarter Horses, Gordon, Nebraska

The inaugural winner of the Ranching Heritage Breeder Award, Box O Quarter Horses is owned and operated by Jecca and Cash Ostrander. The Ostranders care for 800 head of Angus-Limousin-cross cattle and have a remuda of 45 registered American Quarter Horses they breed and use for daily ranch work. The Ostranders were accepted into the AQHA Ranch Heritage Breeders program in 2011 and began competing in AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenges. They are also donors to the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program.