The Weaver Way: Stan Weaver reflects on his time in AQHA leadership and the horses that helped him get there
A horse purchased in 1971 ultimately set the trajectory of Stan Weaver’s life. Born and raised a rancher, Weaver’s dad bought his first American Quarter Horse that year. The family has been raising Quarter Horses and Weavers on the Big Sandy, Montana ranch ever since.
In 1981 Weaver and his wife, Nancy, purchased their first Quarter Horse mare, Stormy Dun Dee. From there they “just grew.”
And grow they did– their broodmare band now hovers around 100. It wasn’t ever something Weaver pursued, it all “just kind of happened.”
Raising cattle, horses and kids on the Weaver ranch was always the dream. Becoming a renowned Quarter Horse breeder, and eventually president of the American Quarter Horse Association, a role he will be concluding at the end of 2019, is a fringe benefit Weaver still doesn’t quite believe came true.
“I just like raising good horses,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we would have horses accomplish such great things.”
A herd of legends
A yearling out of that very first mare Weaver and his wife bought was named AQHA High Point Horse of the Year after qualifying in five events for the 2009 AQHA world show. Ima Tuff Missy took home the silver globe in the heading that year.
This is just one of many stories Weaver has to tell of his colts. The accolades are nice, but each spring when new life hits the ground that’s what keeps Weaver in the game.
“When we first started raising horses we just did it for our ranch like we did when I was growing up,” Weaver said. “It was in the mid ’90s that we decided to have a production sale and started acquiring more horses to fill that.
Ima Bit of Heaven was the stud they built their foundation on. He was born in 1996, out of Smart Little Lena and Peppys From Heaven, an own son of Peppy San Badger. From that foundation they built a reputation that has seen horses in all 50 states and several foreign countries excelling in any discipline that involves a horse and a cow, and then some.
Not just any horse meets Weaver’s high standards. Keeping with the definition of the American Quarter Horse, Weaver demands speed, cow sense, solid feet and versatility in his herd.
“We have a lot of Smart Little Lena, especially in the mares,” Weaver said. “I really like the cutting bloodlines, so we are using two grandsons of Highbrow Cat.”
Speckled sorrel coats are evidence of the late Highbrow Cat, but the proof is also in the performance. As Weaver continues using cow horse lines, he’s started adding some new blood to the mix.
“In the last few years we’ve added a little more speed through our grandson of Dash For Perks and a Frenchman’s Guy son,” Weaver said. “We’ve stayed pretty true to our cow horse lines over the years though.”
Keeping with the foundational roots of the American Quarter Horse, Weaver also cited Grays Starlight, Tuf N Busy and Peptoboonsmal as major contributors to his colts.
“Stan has a great understanding of what a good ranch horse is,” said AQHA CEO Craig Huffhines. “There are so many facets of our great Quarter Horse that can be utilized thanks to the versatility of that animal and Stan understands the impact the horse has on the different segments of the industry.”
As a rancher, Huffhines said Weaver has his finger on the pulse of the equine industry. From his ranch in Big Sky country, Weaver stays connected to every segment of the Quarter Horse world: racing, western pleasure, cutting, reining, and everything in between.
“What I like about Stan is his ranching roots,” Huffhines said. “I have an affinity for people who work with their hands, with livestock and natural resources, and who have an appreciation for good genetics and marketing good stock. Stan has all of that.”
More than a ribbon
In the early days, Weaver showed a lot of colts simply because he harbors a fundamental understanding of marketing livestock. When you have a high-quality product like Weaver, it essentially sells itself. Eventually.
“You have to advertise a lot to promote your horses and we did that in the early 2000s,” Weaver said. “I think a lot of people believe just because other people can sell horses that means they can. Sometimes people just expect it to come and they don’t work for it.”
Weaver worked for his place among the AQHA elite. Not only is he raising top Quarter Horses, he’s using them to run his commercial cowherd.
“Everyone is different and has their own situation but running our horses and cattle together works for us,” he said. “Horses utilize some country that cattle won’t. Some of our country is rough and steep. The cattle tend to hang around water but horses will trail back and forth.”
Weaver’s common-sense way of thinking can be attributed to his ranching heritage. Known for his quiet demeanor in even the most chaotic situation, perhaps it was developed through years of working cattle.
“When you work with people who make their living ranching, you get a different perspective from them,” Huffhines said. “Within the equine industry things can be very fast paced and intense sometimes. Stan has been that really calming presence on our executive committee.”
Big changes are never easy, especially when it comes to the technology variety. Stan stepped in to lead the AQHA through turbulent waters.
“As president Stan had to navigate a really challenging year with a lot of transformation,” Huffhines said. “Stan brought a lot to the table, his humble, servant heart being one of them. He is always thinking about our members.”
Through the summer months, the association didn’t just deal with the unrelenting Texas heat. They were also under fire from membership as wait times on registrations and transfers stretched long on account of the technological updates.
“Stan has fielded hundreds of phone calls from members with concerns about the computer system,” Huffhines said. “He explained our situation and in extreme cases he helped make connections for those in crisis mode.”
Although the AQHA is a member-driven organization, they are in the business of data management. It just comes with the territory. It’s also why merging new and old technology was mandatory for sustainable success as an association.
“Stan’s legacy as president will be for charting the course during such a challenging time,” Huffhines added. “One thing we cannot forget is that each executive committee member sacrifices five years of their life.”
The AQHA president finds his stride where the rubber meets the road. Stan spent a significant amount of time overseas making connections with international members.
“This whole deal is a partnership – the ranch and my time on the executive committee,” Weaver said. “Nancy has had just as much to say about our success as I have.”
Both Huffhines and Weaver agree, without a strong family foundation to keep the home fires burning the executive committee couldn’t do their job. It’s safe to say, the family behind Weaver helped prepare him for this challenging, life-altering year.
“When you have leaders with a humble, servant heart, amazing things can happen,” Huffhines said. “That’s been Stan’s gift to the association.”
Direct from the president himself
Q: What are some things that helped you be successful during your time on the executive committee for the AQHA?
A: Being on other boards – cattle and school boards – has prepared me to work with the other members on a committee or board. I think that’s the biggest thing about working in a group, is being able to work together and respect each other’s opinions. Even though we don’t always agree, by the time we get done and have a decision we all support it. It was a big learning curve for me when I got on the executive committee when it came to the show side of things. I showed in reined cow and cutting horse classes. The show team taught me a lot about the other disciplines. In return, I was able to expand their knowledge on the ranch horse industry.
Q: What is it like to be the president of an association?
A: The thing about it is you are on the committee for five years and each year you move up. When you’re president they have prepared you because you have watched the presidents that came before you very closely. I think the AQHA does a good job in the way they get their committee members ready to be president. Everyone has things they want to work on and for during their time on the committee and as president. This year we had a lot of problems with our computer system. We have gotten through most of it, but it’s been a real stressor for everyone involved.
Q: What were some of the trials you faced in your year as president?
A: We had to cut the budget down and try to find ways to raise money and increase our income. I am kind of proud of the fact that when I first started on the committee they had to withdraw from the reserve ever year. This year we will be running at a balanced budget. The new computer system has taken a lot of time this year as well. We had to write a new computer program and change everything over to the new system. When we released it to our members, it didn’t work quite like we thought it would. We had to make some adjustments while we were still operating in it. We did lots of testing before it went live, but you just don’t know what you don’t know until it’s functioning. We are starting to the see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: What goals did you set out to accomplish?
A: I had two goals: do more for the ranching community and try to do more for the international membership. We formed the ranching committee two years ago and that’s been a big step towards recognizing ranchers and doing more for them. We have our ranching heritage breeders and the challenges. Ranchers are the ones who founded the AQHA and we wanted to get back to that. I have always said that if you want to be an international organization then you need to act like it. I don’t feel that we reached out to our foreign affiliates like we should have and we’ve changed. We’ve made it easier to register their horses than it was before and we’ve improved our communication with our international membership. There are American Quarter horses in 102 countries with 52 of those registering 50 colts or more per year.
Q: What experiences in your time on the executive board help illustrate what the American Quarter Horse means to you and its members?
Direct from the President Himself
A: We have the ranching heritage program where breeders give a colt away to one of our youth. The letters I have gotten from those kids that got a horse has been hearting warming. They enjoy those horses so much and it means the world to them to have it. One of my favorite nights of the year is held at the AQHA Hall of Fame where we recognize breeders who have been raising Quarter Horses for 50 years. Almost all those people are old ranchers. They tell their life story and what horses mean to them and then they always thank the AQHA and tell us how proud they are to be members. I think the history of the American Quarter Horse and what it means to so many people showcases this association best.
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many successes in the arena in 2020.