Ravenna Land and Livestock prides itself on quality horses, relationships
August 13, 2009
LITCHFIELD, NE – Four generations have made their living at Ravenna Land and Livestock. Each new generation has come forth with new ideas on how to diversify and make the operation more efficient. The third and fourth generation currently making their home on the ranch are mother and son, Katie Swisher and Kiley (Tobe) Hammond.
The pair have continued the quality Quarter Horse operation started in the 1960s by Ira Criffield, who is Hammond’s great-grandfather. Criffield started in the horse business during the 1920s and 1930s by purchasing good teams of horses in the area. Those teams were sent from the midwest to the eastern seaboard, Hammond said. There was a shortage of good teams of horses in the east because of the western expansion.
In the 1930s, Criffield started Ravenna Land and Livestock and built up the reputation of his operation by buying cattle and operating two successful livestock markets. “We got our knowledge of the livestock and horse business from him,” says Hammond. Quarter Horses were added to the family ranch in the 1960s and continued with Hammond’s grandfather, Tom McFadden, who owned the 1983-84 AQHA reining horse champion. “He bought him as a yearling colt and raised him to be a two time world champion, which was unheard of during those days,” Hammond says.
“Neither of us would have half the eye for horses if it were not for the horseman that raised both of us,” Hammond said. “Many generations have contributed to where Ravenna Land and Livestock is today. If not for the great horsemen like Tom McFadden, his father Clyde McFadden, and Ira Criffield, there would be a definite void in our operation.”
Today, Swisher and Hammond focus on breeding working Quarter Horses with foundation bloodlines that require strict detail to conformation and disposition. In addition to the horses, they also have a spring and fall cow herd, a small feedlot and a flock of sheep. Hammond also works as an order buyer for cattle, sheep and goats. “I order buy most classes of livestock,” he said. Swisher is involved in horse health and therapy and is a sales representative for Vetericyn.
The pair own the horses together and work hard to constantly improve their herd. Hammond said they raise foundation-type AQHA horses with working cowhorse bloodlines. Many of their brood mares have bloodlines dating back to King, Leo, Jesse James and Poco Bueno.
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“We mostly stick to the traditional bloodlines,” Hammond explained, “but conformation and disposition are also very important to us. Just because a horse has a good pedigree doesn’t automatically mean it will have good conformation or disposition. We feel all three are important in our operation. If one colt is hard to break or stubborn and that continues to show up in other colts with the same bloodline, we usually terminate the line.
“We also look for horses with a nice head and a long hip and a good chest that stand up on their feet. We want horses with a sound design to them – a muscular Quarter Horse combined with class.”
Consistency is important at Ravenna Land and Livestock. “Our goal is to offer good working cowhorses without integrating any risk that is not proven,” Hammond said. “We aren’t a seedstock producer, we just offer good, working cowhorses.”
Most of the horses sold from the ranch go to other ranches to be working cowhorses. Others become roping and performance horses.
Hammond said they imprint all their colts. Once they are old enough, the colts are taken to Seth and Jenna Adam in Grand Island, NE for 30 days of training. After that, Hammond said the horses are either finished out at the ranch or by Chad Swisher in Taylor, NE.
“We want to sell colts right off the mare or as yearlings,” Hammond said. “We would like to sell them in the fall like a producer does his calves.”
Most of the horses are marketed through the internet or word of mouth, Hammond said. Occasionally, they take some of their prospects to breeder’s horse sales.
“We have horses for sale at nearly every level of training and age,” he said. “We have everything from colts and yearlings to horses that are started and have received some training to finished horses.”
Hammond said customers who purchase a horse can have additional training done. “If they buy a horse, it is an option to have Seth and Jenna do more training,” he said.
Although Hammond rides every day doing ranch work, he is generally so busy he doesn’t have time to compete with his horses. “We are open to having them compete, we just don’t have time to do it ourselves,” he explained.
Swisher is a part of the Nebraska Ranch Horse Versatility Association. “It is basically what our horses do,” she said. “The horses are shown in halter, reining class, and working cow horse class. They also rope and there is a trail class.”
Swisher said it is an AQHA-approved event and competitors get judged on each class and receive points. Swisher is one of the organizers of a Nebraska Ranch Horse Versatility event that will be held August 29-30 at the Lazy K Arena in Grand Island. Clinics will be held on Saturday, with a competition on Sunday.
for more information about ravenna land and livestock, see their website ravennalandandlivestock.com.