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Purpose Built Excellence: The American Quarter Horse at King Ranch

When a man sets out to tame a desert, he’s already got a vision, an idea, and maybe even a plan. So it was with Captain Richard King and the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas. His plan involved building a ranch, certainly, but the opportunity involved converting the wild grasses and pastures into beef, and that required very specific tools. In addition to cattle, King needed cowboys and horses. Further, he needed both to have strong backs, patient singularity of focus, and unwavering work ethics. Cowboys adopt these characteristics early or take up another trade. It’s hard to imagine a more patient human than a cowboy, a true technician who knows when to push and when to give, who quietly asserts authority and sense of purpose along with the underlying message that cows and cowboys working together will achieve faster results and better outcomes. In the Kineños he found his cowboys, and that community grew strong and flourished on his new Ranch.
To complement his new cowboys, Captain King made early efforts to harness the best of the traits of the wild horses that roamed his growing Ranch, to develop a true working partner built for the specific demands of ranching. From this mother of necessity came an innovative breeding line that would define Quarter Horses for the century to come. In fact, King Ranch has been breeding Quarter Horses longer than folks like the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) have been keeping records. But these developments have, from the beginning, been archived in the minds and saddles of cowboys and ranchers around the world.
Led by Captain King’s grandson, Bob Kleberg, the Ranch’s program began with early success with Old Sorrel, a colt who joined the Ranch in 1916 and sired King Ranch’s fame in the emerging Quarter Horse business. A testament to this success was Wimpy, a grandson of Old Sorrel. Don’t let the name fool you. Wimpy was the number one stud, literally, when the AQHA was founded in 1940. The momentum continued building, though, as the program grew in support of its reputation, bolstered by Kleberg’s related interest in breeding Thoroughbreds that charted a history of wins that traced all the way to Assault’s 1946 Triple Crown victories. King Ranch set the standard for horse breeding, and that was only the beginning.


Read Tom Lea's "King Ranch"

Another of Old Sorrel’s descendants, Mr San Peppy, is said to have changed the course of horse breeding programs by expanding the expertise beyond the challenges of ranching and into the emerging performance specialty of cutting. Mr San Peppy excelled in both categories and was the first horse to be named both the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Open World Champion and AQHA World Cutting Champion in 1976. Never one to rest on his laurels, Mr San Peppy was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame at the ripe old age of six in 1974, the youngest ever, and was the first horse to win over $100,000 (in 1978 dollars) in open cutting competition. After 20 more years of daily ranch work and trips to the breeding shed, when at last it came time to rest, Mr San Peppy was buried on the Ranch while his foals went on to great success in both NCHA and AQHA competition.
Ten generations later, Old Sorrel’s bloodline is still setting the standard. Coronel Del Rancho, the latest of his line, is the first horse bred and owned by King Ranch to be named AQHA World Champion, a title that runs in his blood as a descendant of other notables such as Mr San Peppy, Peppy San Badger, Dry Doc, Rey Del Rancho, and Wimpy. Described as strong, quiet, athletic, and very trainable, Coronel is working and training with Ben Baldus, a veteran of large ranches and most western disciplines, who seems uniquely positioned to foster Coronel’s continued and impressive achievement.
The success of the Old Sorrel line is woven into the products that bear the Running W brand. For generations, the King Ranch Saddle Shop has been the purveyor of choice for traditional western wear and leather goods that stand the test of time. Captain Richard King’s vision, it seems, never goes out of style, whether you’re taming the desert or the dinner party, the barn or the board room. Seasons change, but commitment remains. And it wears the Running W.

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Captain Richard King had a vision when he settled alongside the Santa Gertrudis Creek in 1853. Several years later, the Ranch established a Saddle Shop to offer ranchers and cowboys the saddles, tack, and accessories of a quality suited to meet every need of the harsh range.

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