Stallion Showcase: Five Arrow Quarter Horses: Conformation, Performance and Disposition
Darrell Schlepp has always had an interest in livestock, although he did not grow up on a farm or ranch. He’s been in the Mobridge area for decades, and just retired last year from a 43-year career at Dakotah Bank. Twenty-five years ago he decided to embark on his own breeding program, and Five Arrow Quarter Horses was born. Since then, the ranch just north of Mobridge has produced scores of ranch and arena horses.
“Horses intrigued me,” he said. “I got into this later in life. I chose to raise horses because they were more ‘hands on’ than cattle, and I hoped they could be of a benefit to friends and family as well.”
Schlepp built his program from the ground up, starting out by traveling with friends to production sales in the area and bringing home a bunch of weanling fillies.
“I figured I could get better quality that way,” he said. “When I started shopping for studs I wanted some speed along with good cow sense; something that ranchers could trust to do a good day’s work that could also go into any arena and compete.”
Schlepp’s first stallion, PC Leatherwood, or “Woody” as he is affectionately known, was also purchased as a colt, out of Todd Cowan’s program. He is sired by PC Fire N Smoak, a grandson of Docs Oak and Sak Em San, and out of a Sun Frost daughter that traces to John Red, Lonsum Polecat and Leo. He has a Driftwood granddaughter, Prissy Cline, on his papers twice.
“I’m always trying to find the crosses that work well on my mares,” he said. “We breed 20 to 30 mares every year and have three studs now, so we can mix and match.”
Currently, the Five Arrow Quarter Horses stallion lineup includes ‘Woody’—PC Leatherwood, a son of PC Fire N Smoak out of a Sun Frost daughter; ‘Pendleton’—FA Pendleton Frost, sired by PC Leatherwood and out of a double bred Sun Frost and Driftwood mare; ‘Drifter’—PC Frosty Drifter, son of PC Boston Bob also out of a Sun Frost daughter; ‘Rockstar’—a son of Eddie Stinson out of a Dash for Cash/Easy Jet mare; and ‘Bullet’—Assend the Train, a son of Freighttrain B out of a Mr. Jess Perry/First Down Dash mare.
“Drifter and Pendleton are pasture breeding for us,” Darrel said. “We have very limited frozen semen on Woody. Rockstar is deceased but we have limited frozen semen for him, and Bullet pasture breeds for us but we also have frozen semen available for sale.”
The other half of the equation at Five Arrow is Schlepp’s other half. His wife, Michele Harrison, grew up just west of Mobridge and the Missouri River, not too far from their current home. She grew up with horses and spent 20 years in Arizona, riding in every discipline imaginable: jumping, reining, mounted shooting and everything in between. When Michele moved back to Mobridge, she started barrel racing. The two have been together for 12 years, and Darrell says that he raises the horses and Michele rides them.
“He had horses when I met him, and I was a horse girl,” Michele said. “Of all the disciplines I have competed in, barrel racing is definitely my favorite. I love the speed and adrenaline of it. I love barrel horses.”
“I’m the owner and the stable boy and Michele rides the horses,” Darrell laughs. “We also have a strong relationship with David and Kristi Alley at Isabel, and their daughter Krystal Dorsey and son Lane Alley. Kristi and Krystal have competed on these horses for years, and they help a lot with getting colts ready for the sale. Krystal competed on Woody through her high school rodeo career, in college rodeos and in the SDRA. He’s been really amazing; I don’t know where we’ll find another horse like him. He was very well-behaved, people didn’t even know he was a stud. Even during breeding season they would pull him out of the pasture, go to a rodeo, and come home and turn him back out with his mares at night.”
Michele also enjoys training horses. While most of the Five Arrow foals are sold as weanlings, she usually chooses a couple to start.
“I like to ride young horses and bring them along till they are 6 years old or so,” she said. “I get them running the pattern and get them used to travelling and being on the road before I market them. I’ve had good success with this. Recently, FA Lynyrd Skynyrd, a horse I started that went to a young lady competing in college rodeo for Cal-Poly, made the top ten in the West Coast region. Most of them go to younger girls or women who want to compete, so I know they are going to get good homes.”
Five Arrow Quarter Horses co-hosted the 22nd Dakota Breeders Classic horse sale at Mobridge Livestock in September, 2021. Other local ranches offering foals at the sale included Pedersons Broken Heart Ranch of Firesteel, South Dakota, Booth Quarter Horses of Timber Lake, South Dakota, Page Mollman, Watauga, South Dakota, along with various guest consigners. The sale has stayed small over the years with a strong focus on quality and programs that complement each other.
There have been ups and downs, as with all livestock. Last year, a freak accident led to the loss of a promising Eddie Stinson-bred stallion. This year, Woody is having some health struggles. But both Darrell and Michele enjoy the business of raising horses, and they are looking forward to next year’s babies.
“It’s really exciting in the spring when the foals start to drop and we get to see what’s there,” Darrell said. “Now that I’m retired I get to do it full time. Our program isn’t just about us; we have a lot of family and friends who help out here and take the horses down the road and show them off.”
“Every spring we so look forward to foaling,” Michele said. “We foal in the pasture, and I am out there all the time. It is just a miracle every time. It’s so much fun to watch them get up and nurse for the first time. We try to start with good genetics and raise them to be as strong and healthy as we possibly can for the people who will ride them someday.”
This year, Five Arrow mares are carrying foals by a new stallion, Assend The Train, for the first time. He is a son of Freighttrain B and out of a daughter of Jess Louisiana Blue.
“We’re pretty excited to see how his foals turn out,” Michele said. “He came off the track, so I have not been riding him, but I plan to ride his babies in the future.”
Horsemen and women all over the U. S. are starting to recognize the Five Arrow brand.
“We try to produce horses that people will be happy with,” Darrell said. “We have a strong repeat customer base, as well as customers all over the country riding our horses. You never know what direction they will go over time. We have horses from New York and New Jersey to California, and Texas to North Dakota, and everywhere in between. We start with the premise of versatility; in my mind, if a horse has the conformation to be an athlete and the disposition to be trainable, he can go any direction. It still amazes me every time we get calls from folks who end up with our horses saying how talented they are. I can name horses from our program in just about every discipline. Many of them go on to become rodeo horses, and a lot of them are just good ranch horses. I still think that is what makes me feel the best, when we pull into a branding, rodeo or barrel race somewhere and I see our brand on horses tied to trailers waiting to go to work. Folks know they can do what they need to do.”
“At times when the market was down we have wondered if we should cut back,” Michele said. “But we added some replacement fillies to take the place of some of our older mares, so I guess we’re not going to quit any time soon. I really enjoy going around North and South Dakota to barrel races on the weekends. It’s a passion—or a disease.”
It has taken years to build the Five Arrow breeding program, but Darrell says there is continually room for improvement.
“Hopefully we can keep producing good horses and keep improving our program,” he said. “I haven’t seen a perfect horse yet and I don’t imagine that I ever will. There is always room for getting better. Michele and I don’t have children, but it’s been a lot of fun to see young kids riding our horses; Kristi’s nieces and great nieces are starting to compete now. It’s neat to see them come up through the family and see our friends’ children and children’s children riding our horses and know that their parents have faith in them to keep them safe. It’s good to know that people can pull these horses out of the pasture and go to a branding or a rodeo and be competitive wherever they go.”
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