AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders: Travis Quarter Horses
The American Quarter Horse Association has named Travis Quarter Horses among their 2021 Ranching Heritage Breeders. The Travis family operates out of Creston, Iowa, and consists of three generations of farmers, ranchers, and Quarter Horse breeders that live within two miles of one another.
The patriarch, Bruce Travis, and his wife Dee raised four children amidst agriculture and quality Quarter Horses. “We all farm and ranch,” says Bruce. His oldest son, Jamie, and his son, Tristan, have a cow herd together, from which they raise and sell bred heifers annually. The next son, Clint, and his son, Jake, also sell red and black bred heifers out of their herd of mother cows. Third son, Adam and his children are passionate about training horses, of which there is no shortage around home. Their daughter, Mallory, and her husband, Kevin, raise registered Red Angus for their own business, Lents Farms Red Angus, and their children are involved in showing cattle.
Ranching in Iowa may look slightly different from ranching in western states. Whereas western cowboys will use their horses heavily for spring and fall work, the Travis family use their horses most during the winter months. In fact, when Bruce Travis initially submitted their application for Ranching Heritage Breeders, they encountered some resistance from the AQHA. “When I applied to AQHA, they said we weren’t using our horses that much.” On the contrary, they gather cattle several times a month due to the smaller pastures and stalk fields that they graze. “We are out driving cattle when it’s ten below. Nobody in their right mind would be out there gathering on horses, but we have to do it,” says Travis. “We don’t have 36 sections. We probably run off 2,000-3,000 acres of ground. So in the winter, we are moving cattle all the time to different stalk fields. It’s a different kind of ranching. We can run a pair on 2.5 acres, or 2-3 yearlings, which is fairly heavy.”
If their ranching counterparts in Wyoming were gathering 240 calves in the fall, it would often be a simple gather in one pasture; however, the Travis family may have to ride up to eight pastures to gather their calves. “I have 15 grandkids and they all ride. It’s not unusual to move a group of cattle with 20+ riders. We don’t outnumber the cattle, but we always have plenty of help. I love every minute of it,” Travis laughs. Each family member is involved.
The family’s main model for selling horses is marketing their weanlings. “We don’t sell very many broke horses. With 15 grandkids, somebody is needing a horse. Most of the colts are gone before they are yearlings,” he says. They currently run 24 broodmares. The AQHA’s stipulations for the Ranching Heritage Award include: raising Quarter Horses for the specific purpose of operating a cattle ranch; having at least five broodmares for producing the remuda; being a breeding member for over 10 years; and various membership specifications.
The Travis family has a wide range of bloodlines incorporated into their breeding program. Currently they have four main stallions, including: Claytons Blue Train (Claytons Bluewood by War Train); Poco Dakota Hancock (Rey Black Buck by CJ Driftin Hancock); Sandmans Cash (Tigress Skip by Flash One); and one of the oldest in the program, Flash One (Flashalil by Dash For Perks). Each member of the family has a favorite line. “Jamie and I prefer the Driftwoods; Kevin, Mallory, and Adam prefer the Blue Valentines; and Clint likes Dash for Cash.
They seem to have most of the bases covered with the goal of producing a well-rounded, shapely colt with a good mind. If one family member owns a long mare, they breed to a Blue Valentine stallion; similarly, if one has a wide mare, they may use a Dash For Cash stallion. Yet, they are not above using outside bloodlines to further their program. For example, they purchased a half-sister to High Brow Cat (by High Brow Hickory), Bueno High Brow. Additionally, they chose to breed a few mares to an outside stallion for 2022, Stylish Metallica by Metallic Cat for his abilities as a reined cow horse. “ It’s nice to have the different bloodlines to mix and match a little,” Travis says.
One hobby unites the family outside of agriculture: cowboy mounted shooting. The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association has unofficially recognized them as the largest family in the association with 32 shooting members.
Though the sport is not directly related to the ranching heritage, it is an excellent avenue for a good ranch horse, according to Travis. “It’s a great niche for us. We compete about once a month and people get to see these horses that we’ve raised. A good ranch horse excels at mounted shooting. They have to run hard, turn back, and it’s a different pattern every time,” he says.
The family hosts a shoot annually, which includes a futurity for anyone who is riding a horse four years old or younger out of a Travis mare or by a Travis stallion. The winner of this futurity takes home a $1,000 cash prize. During the event, they market the foal crop by showcasing brood mares and colts a pen adjacent the arena, and also displaying photos of the babies for sale. Travis estimates 75% of their colts go into the mounted shooting discipline.
For more information on Travis Quarter Horses, visit their website at https://www.travisfamilyquarterhorses.com/.
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