Stallion Showcase 2023: Not “just” a rope horse– Sellers Quarter Horses focus on filling a niche
Ryan Sellers has stood on the red carpet at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity.
But he says one of the high points of raising good horses is the text saying a buyer had pulled four checks at the local jackpot on a horse he’d bought from Sellers six weeks earlier.
“It’s nice to see people having success at all different levels with the horses we’ve raised,” Sellers said.
The latest accomplishment was a 10th place showing at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Futurity in Forth Worth, where NU One Time Blues, a 3-year-old red roan stallion Sellers raised and owns with Jack Bogart, took home a $20,000 check for beating 290 other horses.
But Sellers wasn’t trying to raise a reined cow horse.
He was trying to raise rope horses.
“Our goal has always been to fill the rope horse niche,” Sellers says. “Most people just rope off the horses that cull out from something else. We wanted to raise them specifically to be rope horses. That’s what we tailored our program to be. We ventured off into the cow horse world and got some luck there with a horse that’s supposed to be a rope horse.”
But their focus is still on the rope horses.
While the performance horse industry has their favorite stallions, it’s the mare side that Sellers focuses on.
“The biggest thing is the mare side, if the family has produced not just once, but multiple times, we’re interested,” Sellers says. “I’m flexible on the sires they’re out of. Everybody likes the modern day stuff because that’s what everybody knows, but there’s still people who don’t care if they have a son of whoever.”
Sellers has done the research to find the genetics that are carried through the strength of the mares, and crosses those on the sires he think will be complementary.
“Conformation is the biggest thing we look for on the mare side,” Sellers said. “Ability is up there, disposition is huge for us too. It’s always fun to win when you’ve got a professional riding them, but those are very few in numbers, so we need horses that everybody can get along with, so disposition is a big thing.”
Tommy Girl is an example of the kind of horse they like. The 10-year-old brown mare was a finalist at the 2016 AQHA World Show in junior heeling and qualified for the 2017 and 2018 AQHA World Show in junior heeling and junior tie-down roping. She won high point honor roll open division for all ages in the heeling points. She’s also been to Nebraska high school rodeos with Sellers’ sons aboard.
Mr Baron Jules, a 2004 buckskin stallion, has also been to the big show, earning 497 AQHA points in heading and heeling. In Georgia to the National Junior High Finals Rodeo last year, a Mr Baron Jules son carried Steele Smith to a team roping championship. Sellers’ son, Trey, also rides him in high school rodeos.
“It’s fun to get out there and see the kids perform and have success on good horses,” Sellers says.
At the Sellers place, south of North Platte, Nebraska, the grand tour includes the stallion barn, the vet’s office, where the on-site vet does all the microscopic work for the stallion collection and embryo transfer operation, the pens for recip mares, pens for broodmares and pens for babies up for sale. That one’s nearly empty.
“Most of our horses are sold as babies, right off the mares,” Sellers says. “People buy them in the summer and pick them up at weaning, and most buy off pictures and videos–a lot are people we’ve never met. There’s one lady in Idaho who has bought three or four babies from us every year for six or seven years, and we’ve never met her. A lot of people are that way.”
The special horses, like NU One Time Blues, typically go to Matt Koch, who starts them. In the case of that red roan stallion, Koch saw some potential for him beyond the roping arena, so took him to the cowhorse pen.
For the rope horses, once Koch puts a foundation on them, Sellers sends them to Brad Lund or JD Yates to add the roping training and show them.
But Sellers focuses on a breeding program that is always moving forward, producing the best rope horses he can.
That has required making some changes to their program. They started embryo transfer seven or eight years ago, and were hiring it done, having to transport mares to wherever they could find someone that could harvest embryos, and paying for board. So Sellers decided to turn the barn’s tack room into a vet room, and hire a vet to handle all their embryo transfers on-site. They’ve established a reputation in the industry and now people fly in embryos to have Sellers put in his recip mares. “That’s worked really well for us,” Sellers said.
“The ET lets us sample a lot more things,” Sellers says. “For half a dozen of our own mares we get to sample our studs. We sample our outcross studs quicker, and see if it works or if it doesn’t. The horses I liked as an individual ended up not working, and ended up proving my theory, that you need to worry more about the mother and less about the individual.”
The bloodlines Sellers counts on to have a consistent foundation to build on started with Sensation Cash, a son of NU Cash and Snip Gay Bar. A full sister to Sensation Cash won the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, another sister was fourth and the stallion himself was eighth, so Sellers could see the strength in the mares of the family. Sensation Cash also won AQHA Performance Champion, 307 AQHA points and one halter point, plus AQHA superiors in heading, heeling, and tie down roping.
Several of Sellers’ broodmares are by Sensation Cash, further affirming Sellers’ belief in that mare line.
One of the latest stallions Sellers is trying out is CR Tuff Super Cat, a 3-year-old sorrel by Woody Be Tuff and out of Sarahs Super Cat. He’s currently in training with Brad Lund, but Sellers is looking forward to seeing how he contributes to the rope horse program himself, and as an outcross sire.
Other lines that Sellers has incorporated include Shining Spark, through his stallions, DT Shiner and BFR Igniting Sparks, who also brings Smart Little Lena genes. “We bought DT Shiner as a yearling because of his sister,” Sellers said. “She was one of the better mares I’d ever seen. Another sister won the World twice, and his mother is a really, really good mare. His colts are turning out that way too.”
When Dean Tuftin, who bred DT Shiner, dispersed his Oregon rope horse operation, Sellers bought several mares and colts, which are all working out well for him.
Sellers also added some First Down Dash and Streakin La Jolla through Sixes Liason; and NU Cash and Peptoboonsmal through NU One Time Blues.
“We’re always trying new ones, but we always end up going back to our main ones,” Sellers said.
When the program has sent horses all across the United States, plus to Brazil, Panama and Venezuela, and is successful from the high school rodeo at Arthur, Nebraska, to the Black Hills Stock Show to the Oil Can Classic Futurity, Redbud Spectacular and AQHA World Show in Oklahoma, the Rope Horse Futurity Association World Finals in Fort Worth, the Snaffle Bit and the local jackpot, Sellers figures he’s headed in the right direction.