Courtesy of America's Horse
Story by Jim Jennings
Texas’ R. A. Brown Ranches earned the Remuda Award for raising some of the best cow horses in the country.
When R. A. (Rob) Brown Jr.’s grandfather established his Throckmorton, Texas, ranch in 1903, one of the first things he did was to make sure he had some top horses. He had been in the cattle business since 1895, and he knew the value of a good cow horse.
When R. A. Brown Sr. inherited the ranch, he followed that same philosophy. Brown recognized early the importance of a good horse, and he made sure his family and cowboys had plenty of them.
R. A. Brown Sr. died when his son, Rob, was only 29, but the value of a good horse was already instilled in the young man. It’s something Rob has never forgotten, and it’s something he makes sure his sons and sons-in-law know today. R. A. Brown Ranches is a family operation that encompasses more than 77,000 acres. Rob and his wife, Peggy, and their sons, Rob A. and Donnell, and sons-in-law, Jody Bellah and Todd McCartney, along with spouses and children, run more than 2,500 head of cows. That takes good horses.
Their good horses were recognized back in January, at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention, when R. A. Brown Ranches was named the 1998 recipient of the AQHA/NCBA Best Remuda Award. The award was created by the two associations, along with sponsor Bayer Animal Health, to recognize ranchers who raise the best cow horses. The Brown Ranch is the sixth to receive the award.
Rob Brown says his dad had a number of good horses, but he thinks the one that is really the foundation of their breeding program today was a horse called Blue Gold by Blue Rock out of a Hollywood Gold mare. Blue Rock was by the Thoroughbred Lost Cause by Eternal and out of a Yellow Wolf mare. Blue Gold’s dam was by Hollywood Gold out of a daughter of King O’Neill.
Next came the Eddie horses. Eddie was a stallion that belonged to the Haythorns in Nebraska. Rob’s dad sent six mares to Haythorns to breed to Eddie back in the ‘50s, and the fillies that resulted from that mating were subsequently added to the Brown’s broodmare band. Rob says, “We got a little band of those Eddie mares started, and crossed about 20 of them on Blue Gold. With those colts, you could do anything you wanted to do horseback.”
All of the aforementioned horses are still in the bloodlines of R. A. Brown ranch horses, and their pedigrees are strengthened by the recent addition of a six-year-old gray stallion called Hesa Eddie Hancock. He traces back to both Eddie and Blue Gold. The Browns as well as some of the other top ranchers in the West Texas area think the young stallion is already doing a great job in producing ranch horses.
Brown says, “We’ve always had horses that had a lot of stamina because we ranch in a big, dry country, and we don’t change horses at dinner. We may ride a horse 30 or 40 miles a day, and think nothing of it. We’ve kept a little more bone, a little more size under our horses, but there’s a reason for it.”
Brown is trying to keep his broodmare band down to about 35 head. He pasture breeds all his mares, usually dividing them among three stallions. He turns the stallions in with the mares about April 1, and picks them up around the first of July.
“We get an 85 to 90 percent foal crop every year this way,” he says. “We try to breed them when the grass comes in spring. Most of our colts are born in March and April. That’s Mother Nature’s way to make it happen. We’ve got some mares that have foaled within the same week for 15 years.
“Practically every mare on this ranch was raised here, as was her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother,” he continues. “We’ve brought in very few outside mares over the years.”
Brown says, “We’re pretty aggressive animal breeders, in both our cattle and our horses, and it’s worked for us for a long time. My grandfather started it, and my kids are staying with it. We need these horses, so we’re going to try to make good ones.”