Blanton Bred Horses: Alive and Well In Montana
for Tri-State Livestock News
A legendary line of rodeo and performance horses emerged in the 1940‘s, ‘50‘s, and ‘60‘s that were of the same type, temperament and ability, and were sought after by ropers throughout the southwest. The horse that is credited with starting the line of horses is Lucky Blanton, foaled in California in 1936. Because of the years, however, and the fads and trends of other bloodlines, the bands of fairly pure Blanton horses are few and far between. The greatest number of line bred Lucky Blanton horses in the country can be found in southwest Montana at Witham Performance Horses, Twin Bridges, Montana.
Cleve and Anna Marie Witham, son August, six, and daughter Stella, three, and one on the way in September, have Montana Blanton horses. Cleve had always admired the Blanton bred horses and says, “In 2007, we had been breeding some mares for a while and we were raising a few colts every year. I had the opportunity to buy the best colt I’d seen in 2006 and that was Maverick Blanton. The Lucky Blanton horses just fit what we were doing.” Whitham continues, “We had mares of Joe Hancock, Driftwood and Leo blood, so I just started buying two or three mares a year from the Hoar’s down in Wyoming to build my mare band. Then a couple of years ago, I got to buy the core of their mares and they were mostly daughters of Never So Lucky, Wyoming Blanton and Red Mark Blanton.”
“All of the mares that we are breeding are linebred Lucky Blanton, with the exception of two, and they are linebred Driftwood. We have kept a good bunch of young mares for replacements, but they’ll get ridden for quite a while and we’ll learn more about them and only keep what really fits our program,” explains Cleve. “The drought has caused us to cut back some, so those young mares that would normally be going into the band will get ridden even more.”
In a partnership with Dave and Doreen Shumpert of Ault, Colorado on some of the mares. they also use Shumpert’s stallion Espuela Tonto and Rockin J Dances Lad. “This year we turned Maverick out with the wet mares and lad went out with the maidens. In addition, Dave is using Tonto on some of our partnership mares down at his place,” says Whitham.
When Whitham bought the Red Mark Blanton and Wyoming Blanton daughters, he also bought Red Mark Blanton, though the aging stallion never moved to Montana. “I didn’t want to move him to our climate. He was getting pretty stove up by then, so I just left him with Dave in Colorado. Dave, Doreen and their girls are really the ones that made it happen,” says Cleve, “They were the reason we were able to get some Red Marks those last few years. He died last October and Dave buried him on their place.” Whitham added, “ He was quite a horse. He had the best disposition and was just an all around horse, so his daughters are pretty special to me,” says Whitham, adding “Red Mark was definitely a great filly sire. I have kept two of his sons out of really good mares and will ride them for a while to see if one of them will make a stallion.”
Cleve credits his Dad with helping them get into the good horses that they now raise and says “I’m still partners with my Dad and he helped us get Maverick bought and several groups of mares. He always encouraged me and helped us get into the business. I couldn’t have done it without him.”
A banker by day and a rancher at heart, Cleve and Anna Marie usually run mother cows and raise some roping cattle but the lingering drought has caused them to disperse the cowherd. A few head were kept to work the horses on, but for now, they are just in the horse business.
“We have a nice place to work the colts here in our barn. I start them in the winter of their two year old year indoors and then try to expose them to as much as possible after that,” says Witham. “We usually put about 90 rides on them and then try to get them into the right hands to take them on and promote them. The teams ropers know what they are and buy a lot of them and we have sold a few to some tough barrel racers.”
“They have good bone and feet, are sound, stout and easy to get along with,” says Witham, “What we have is still as pure as they were 50 years ago due to the line breeding.” Raised in a ranching and rodeo background, Whitham knows just what he likes in a horse and the Lucky Blanton horses are that horse.
“I’m going to raise what I like to ride. I want my kids to be riding horses that they can go and compete on and win with and the Blantons can do that. My six year old son August rides Maverick as he’s the best broke horse we have and so reliable. They’re both six year olds so they get along great!” says Witham.
The Lucky Blanton horses are alive and well and thriving under the guidance of the purists who rate the line as the best that can be found and the Montana Blanton horses are no exception. Under the watchful eye of Cleve Witham and his family, they will carry on to yet another generation.
Contact information: http://www.withamperformancehorse.com