Heartland Television show features Stirlings ranch horse Rocket
The top-watched television drama in Canada is a show called Heartland. It’s a family program that has been on air for five seasons and can be seen on U.S. stations as well. The main character is a teenage girl who has a special touch with troubled horses. As such, the show is chock-full of Quarter Horses to play all the parts.
Set in Alberta, it has gorgeous scenery besides all the pretty horses. One of those fair cast members has South Dakota roots.
The palomino gelding that the show’s father rides is Als Dun Driftin, raised by the Allen Stirling family. The 11-year-old gelding was sired by Stirling’s stallion Magnum Drifter, out of a mare their daughter Angie used in high school rodeo for pole bending and occasionally barrels.
Allen and Fran Stirling, Newell, SD, along with their grown kids Angie, Casey, Lane and TR, use their horses for every task on the ranch. During his years with the Stirlings, the palomino gelding they called Rocket did it all. Whether it was tagging calves or doctoring a cow in the pasture, he was able to do the job. When hauled to the rodeo arena, Rocket was used in team roping, picked up broncs, and carried flags. Nothing ever shook him and he was a solid using horse at every job.
It’s no wonder that Rocket was such a good all-around individual. His genetics equipped him to be. By a solid, working stud and out of a mare of proven ability, it would follow that he would be the same.
“He was from Magnum’s first foal crop. He was always friendly and in your hind pocket right from the get-go,” Allen Stirling said. “We had four full brothers and sisters and one half-brother out of that mare. Angie still has one of the full sisters.”
The bloodlines behind Rocket reads as a “who’s who” of South Dakota performance horses. Magnum Drifter was sired by Chuck and Mary Crago’s Taylor Jess Tivio and out of a daughter of Cowan’s Sun Frost and out of a Cowan mare who was Orphan Drift and Poco Speedy bred.
On the maternal side of Rocket, his dam Miss Dun Salute is by Tackadial and out of a Classy Son (Glen and Nora French horse) mare who was out of a daughter of Sutton’s Johnny Salute.
It’s hard to find more solid breeding in a horse than Rocket has. That, combined with the education that the Stirlings offered, made for a top ranch horse. People in the horse business have to rotate older horses to keep young stock coming in. When Rocket was six, he was offered for sale and ended up going to Canada to carry flags at the Calgary Stampede. That was the new owner’s plan anyway.
When a casting call went out for a solid, gentle, broke horse to carry the actor in Heartland, Rocket was a good choice. The wrangler for the series knew that Rocket had plenty of ranch experience, and was ready to do try this new job. So Rocket went from his ranch and rodeo life to the relatively cushy “star” gig that he’s doing now.
Stirling chuckled, “It’s kind of neat to watch him on TV. I’m just waiting to see that big Bar A Bar on his hip!”