Teaching, breeding and competing: Golliher family does it all
From the decision to cross two bloodlines, to the training process, to the finished performance horse, Golliher Quarter Horses is there for every step of producing a quality Quarter Horse. The Golliher family is a 69-year breeding legacy in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
The family was honored this year by the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association as 50-Year Legacy breeders.
Jerry and his wife, Sue, along with their daughter, Zeann, and Jerry’s brother, Warren and wife Jan, continue the breeding program that was founded in 1948.
The late Zodar Norman (Z.N.) Golliher purchased his first registered quarter horse stallion at the 1948 Denver Stock Show that year, named Fire Fly Chief.
A son of Fire Fly Chief, called Pharo, won the gelding class for Z.N. at the Denver Stock Show. The gelding was featured on a Justin Boot ad for a time.
In 1955, Z.N. moved his family to South Dakota, after losing interest in farming. They relocated to Hoover to raise sheep, cattle and horses near the Moreau River. “Back then, sheep was the better money-maker,” recalls Jerry.
Z.N.’s passion for horses was passed down to his son, and Jerry began training horses at 16. “The first person that ever paid me was John Tischer. I got three dollars a ride.”
Jerry received his degree for Business Administration from BHSU. “When I got out of college, dad built a little indoor arena.” The barn measured 50 by 157. “In 1968, it was a pretty good sized building,” he says. Since then, he has ridden well over 2,000 horses.
He also had a grandson of the legendary “King,” which they called “Roper.” Fire Fly Chief Junior was another favorite performing stallion for Gollihers. “I placed in the cutting at the NHSFR on him and then bulldogged on him, and a girl also ran him in the barrels and won the all-around at the state high school rodeo,” says Jerry. That barrel racing girl was Joann Smeenk-Johnson.
Then came a stallion called Red Mans Fox, before the Gollihers started breeding for speed.
Z.N. leased Diamond Dial, by Johnny Dial for two years. They raised a colt by him that won the National Finals Rodeo Barrel Racing average, ridden by Becky Carson, Jerry says. “He hauled Diamond Dial up here from New Mexico in the back of his pickup,” Sue adds.
“Then he had a stud called Sergeant Jay and he was by Moon Deck,” continues Jerry. “He leased him for two years, when Moon Deck was a world champion running horse.”
“He got Range Duster, who was by Wild Deck who was by Top Deck, out of a Three Bars mare. All of the running mares went from Top Deck to Three Bars, so he was concentrated,” he says. Sergeant Jay and Range Duster were out of the same mare.
“He brought his sire, Wild Deck, up here, and Zodar partnered with a group of people and stood him over at Newell,” Sue adds. Z.N. was also a part owner of Shake it Special a son of Special Effort.
Now, Gollihers’ senior stallion is Flying Z Ace by Bills Ryon who has a 113 speed index. Ace’s mother is a full sister to PC Fire N Smoke, the Cowan stallion. Their young stallion Zisco is by Flying Z Ace out of a Disco Jerry bred mare. This mare also produced “Spanky” who holds the barrel racing arena record at the Mesquite, Texas pro rodeo.
Both Jerry and Sue were competitive in several rodeo events each. Sue was the 1979 Calgary Stampede barrel racing champion, and won the Women’s All-Around the first year there were two events in the South Dakota Rodeo Association. Matter of fact, she and Eva Edwards are the reason a second event was added. “We fought and fought to get a second event,” Sue remembers. The committee allowed goat-tying as a one-year trial, usually providing the girls with huge billy goats. “They’d bring a goat that stood this tall,” as she held her hand 3 feet above the ground. We had to under leg them.” The event stuck, and the association later added breakaway roping and mixed team roping for women.
Jerry’s professional and amateur rodeo career led him to several SDRA and Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association year-end titles, countless local victories and with a wealth of knowledge. They passed their love of competition and horses onto their daughter, Zeann, who was named from the quick pronunciation of her grandfather’s name, “Z.N.” Zeann is a College National Finals Rodeo round winner.
The Gollihers’ contribution to South Dakota’s Quarter Horse scene does not end with the sale of a well-bred horse.
The operation moved from Hoover to Belle Fourche, where Golliher Indoor Arena was eventually built in 1984. The mares and colts are usually kept at Warren and Jan’s farm west of the house in Spearfish. Warren was a family medical doctor in Spearfish for years, and is now retired.
The barn was first used for team roping jackpots, but barrel races came shortly after. Before the 4D concept was used, the Gollihers used Open, Novice and three Youth divisions.
The jackpots continued, and Sue also began producing the 8-State Barrel Futurities in Belle Fourche. It was the second oldest 5-year old futurity in the nation, which she produced for thirty years in an area where no other futurities were in existence. “If we’re thinking about promoting quarter horses, those barrel futurities have been one of the most promoting boosting things for the quarter horse industry,” says Jerry.
For 25 years, Zeann, Jerry and Carole Hollers have hosted a breakaway roping clinic in the barn. Over 800 students have been taught, and the clinics are now hosted three times yearly, due to increased attendance.
The barn, along with Jerry and Sue, is available to those who are eager to improve their horsemanship and become better competitors. “We are kind of getting away from the horse breeding, and we don’t raise as many colts, but we feel like we’ve helped promote and encourage the growth. It takes a lot of knowledge and labor to make a winning horse, and you gotta have a place to do it,” says Jerry.
Jessica Ryan roped on a Golliher horse throughout her high school career, after her good breakaway horse was hurt in the eighth grade. She and “Buzzy” were an instant fit. Ryan’s little sister, Molly, also has her own Golliher horse, called “Silky.”
Golliher horses are easily trained, thanks to Jerry’s start, says Jessica. “They just know how to start them from the ground. Words don’t even describe his style. You can point them in any direction you want them to go.”
According to Ryan, Jerry and Sue are very knowledgeable. “Jerry just kind of took me under his wing. All through high school, I probably roped there three or four times a week in the spring. I could call either of them for any advice. They always made me call them after every rodeo just to see how I did.”
“Their horses are amazing. I’m actually looking into buying another one. I know that if I buy one from him, he’ll help me with anything, all the way through,” Ryan says.
Jerry and Sue were honored by the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association as persons of the year in 2013, are members of the Casey Tibbs Museum Hall of Fame and were parade marshals in the Belle Fourche Roundup Fourth of July parade in 2014. Jerry is in the BHSU Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Jerry and Sue affirm that raising horses has to be a passion. Jerry says, “With cattle, you turn feed into money. With horses, you end up turning labor into money.” The word “labor” does not come close to describe the effort the Golliher family has put forth, developing South Dakota’s Quarter Horse industry, from start to finish.