Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year
The AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year award returns to South Dakota for the second time in its four-year history, as the historic Open Box Rafter Ranch is honored for its contributions to upholding the ranching tradition.
Open Box Rafter Ranch is operated by Jim and Joni Hunt near Faith, South Dakota.
The AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year award, which is presented by the American Quarter Horse Association and the AQHA Ranching Committee, recognizes an outstanding AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder.
The Hunts established their ranch together in 1990, but four generations of their families before them also ranched, raising cattle and horses in South Dakota. Jim’s maternal grandfather, Albert Lopez, established one of the first bands of AQHA-registered mares in South Dakota.
The Hunts raise alfalfa, run a cattle operation of approximately 600 cow-calf pairs and 100 yearlings, and have a large broodmare herd of about 100 mares.
The majority of the horses the Hunts raise are sold each year at their annual production sale, which celebrated 26 years in 2019. They have bred more than 1,000 registered American Quarter Horses, including open show champions, AQHA world show and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers.
The Hunts assisted in establishing the AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program, which partners youth with Ranching Heritage-bred horses to foster education and the love of horses. To date, the Hunts have donated 55 registered foals to the program.
Jim is a national director from South Dakota and has served on numerous AQHA committees, including three years as chairman of the AQHA Ranching Committee.
“Jim and Joni and their family have worked tirelessly to promote the ranching way of life,” said AQHA Director of Ranching Kim Lindsey. “We are proud to award this well-earned achievement to the Open Box Rafter Ranch.”
This award is open only to Ranching Heritage Breeders who exemplify the ranching lifestyle. Ranching Heritage Breeders are working cattle ranches that produce five or more registered American Quarter Horses each year for ranch work. Nominees for the award are chosen by their peers, with the winner chosen by vote of the AQHA Ranching Committee.
The 2019 AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year award will be formally presented to Open Box Rafter Ranch at the 2020 AQHA Convention in March in Las Vegas. The Hunts will receive a custom-designed buckle from AQHA’s Awards Recognition Concepts to mark the achievement. For more information on the AQHA convention, visit http://www.aqha.com/convention.
To learn more about the AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders program, visit http://www.aqha.com/ranching.