The Stirrup brand and good horses | TSLN.com

The Stirrup brand and good horses

Photo courtesy LeRoy and Shirley WetzShirley and LeRoy Wetz pause for a moment at a branding.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

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The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.

Green grass appears to flow across the rolling prairie like waves on a lake, pushed by a breeze that accompanied an afternoon thunderstorm and quick shower. Wild flowers dot the landscape and the lushness of the scene belies the late June date, as the grass is still the vivid green of spring. Draws still have a trickle of water in them, creeks are running and stock dams are full as far as the eye can see.

Western South Dakota’s Meade County is in its Sunday clothes as the gravel road heads southeast of Vale toward the Stirrup Ranch of LeRoy and Shirley Wetz. Colorful broodmares and foals graze the pastures alongside the road, indicating that it’s Stirrup Ranch land on both sides.

LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have been raising horses since the 1970’s. Initially it was just to keep themselves and their young family on good horses. Heavily involved in 4-H, the three Wetz children grew up using horses alongside their folks. “Good horses will sure keep kids out of trouble,” says LeRoy.

The severe economic downturn of the ’70’s necessitated the dispersal of their first band of mares, just as they were in the building stages. The dream to have the mares back never went away though, and in the 1990’s, they started investing in select fillies and a couple of exceptional mares.

Finally, the foundation was in place for the band they wanted to develop. At about the same time, they were able to return to the Wetz Ranch and take over when LeRoy’s dad decided to retire. This great opportunity to ranch on the home place and finally have the mares they wanted was instrumental in building the program they have now.

The Wetz Ranch celebrated its 100th Anniversary last year. It was commemorated by a family reunion at the ranch and the wedding of youngest daughter, June. The outdoor wedding was held on the creek south of the home place and the wedding party arrived on a string of good saddle horses, all born and raised on the ranch and wearing the Stirrup Brand. Even the pastor and ushers were on homebred horses.

The Wetz Ranch has been in the same family for over a hundred years, but the unique Stirrup Brand comes from Shirley’s side of the family. Her grandparents ranched in the northeastern Meade and southern Perkins counties, and instilled in their descendants a love of the land and the ranching life. Shirley was able to buy the brand at an estate sale, thus ensuring that it remained in the family, and it has been adorning cattle and horses ever since.

LeRoy and Shirley, married for 39 years, have three grown children and six grandkids. Their son Dale is at Three Forks, MT, daughter Darla is in Kentucky, and June and her husband John Franklin are at Coahoma, TX. They have hope that some of the family will be able to continue with the ranch someday, but only time will tell.

The Wetz’s currently run around 22 head of brood mares and two stallions. They have some young stock that is either being used on the ranch or will be when old enough. They sell some broke horses every year, but focus mostly on weanlings.

“We ride all of our mares before they go into the broodmare band,” says Shirley. “We sold a couple of nice young mares this year that we just hadn’t gotten ridden. Good mares, just hadn’t had time for them. They couldn’t go in the band, so they had to go.”

LeRoy continues, “We also really watch the disposition. If they aren’t good, we won’t keep the mare around.” He adds with a grin, “We’re too old to mess with the other kind!

“Our goal is to raise good ranch and arena horses. They have to have good minds and good feet to do the job and stay sound.” LeRoy pauses, then continues, “We’re raising what we want to ride. It’s sure nice when people come back and say how nice the horses are and how easy they are to train and how much they like them, so it’s working for our buyers too.”

The bloodlines they have as a common thread in their horses would be the Driftwood/Sugar Bars/Leo combination. Other prominent bloodlines are found too, but that would be what is most common through their mare band. The two stallions they are currently using are Bvr Sugar Leo, a dark dun stallion they bought with Sugar Bars and Leo on his papers, and a home bred stallion, Lonsum Leo King, that is intensely Joe Reed II and Leo bred with the most unique palomino color to be found.

Both Leo (Bvr Sugar Leo) and Rufus (Lonsum Leo King) were ridden and used on the ranch before being promoted to stud duty. When they aren’t running with their mares, the stallions are run together with the youngsters that haven’t been gelded yet and the saddle geldings.

The two stallions are quite different in size, so the more compact, shorter Leo is run on the bigger, framier mares. Rufus, at 16 hands, is used on the shorter, thicker mares. As a consequence, the foals from the two bands are consistently of similar size and come in an array of beautiful colors with minimal white markings.

The mares and stallions all come right up to be petted and handled, as do many of the foals, though they have had minimal handling at this point. The mares are all good sized mares with good legs, a big, broad foot, big withers, deep heart, short back, big hip, and pretty necks.

There are no “hot-house flowers” among them, as they all run out year around and foal outside. They foal in the roughest pasture on the ranch to ensure that the foals are learning from the beginning to keep their feet under them and think about what they are doing. Shirley smiles big and says, “You should see them come running off that bluff above the creek. Those old mares are just flying and those babies are running right off there with them. They have to cross the creek right at the bottom and they don’t slow down. Sure takes care of the clumsy ones!”

The youngsters, yearlings through three year olds, run out in big pastures as well. They mingle with the cattle and sheep on the ranch and learn to cover country and watch where to put their feet amongst the rocks and cactus. They grow up with strong bones and lungs, and a foot able to carry them over any kind of country.

“We don’t start our own colts anymore. We’re getting’ too old for that stuff. We like to do the groundwork ourselves though, ’cause we want it done our way,” says LeRoy. Some younger cowboys take the colts and put the first 30 days or so on them, and they all like to ride them because they are such nice horses. Even some rather “dyed-in-the-wool” gelding riders have admitted that those mares are pretty nice to ride, which tickles LeRoy.

They sell their horses several ways. They are heavily involved in the RQHBA sale held at the Seven Down Arena near Spearfish, SD, (on Aug. 30) and were some of the founders of that sale. They take some to Sheridan, WY (on Sept. 20) for the Sugar Bars Legacy Sale held at the fairgrounds. In October, they generally sell some of the foals that didn’t go to those sales to St. Onge Livestock’s fall catalog sale. These are the less colorful foals, though of equal quality, and give some of the local buyers a chance at a good weanling later in the season. They also sell private treaty at the ranch.

Repeat buyers are a common occurrence, and many of their neighbors are riding Stirrup horses and liking them. They also have sold horses from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Guadalajara, Mexico, New Jersey to California, plus New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, besides the west river area of South Dakota.

The current horse market is a struggle for everyone in the business, but Shirley says, “We’re just going to continue what we’re doing. We’ve never chased fads, but raise what we want to ride.”

When asked if they would do anything different, they concluded that they wouldn’t change much. Shirley says, “We maybe should have tried harder to keep the original foundation mares back in the ’70’s, but that’s just hind sight.” LeRoy adds, “But really, with the mares we have now, how could we have done any better? It all worked out.”

Anyone considering going into the business now is given this advice, first from Shirley, “Don’t do it if you’re not committed to it. You have to stay with it through the tough times.” LeRoy then added, “Start with horses that you yourself would want to ride and go from there.”

They followed their own advice and have built a program of good, solid horses that fit what they need in a horse. They’ve stuck with it through the hard times and are determined to keep the Stirrup brand horses going in the right direction to work for others as well.

Way out east of Bear Butte and Sturgis, on the south side of the Belle Fourche River, lies a ranch that has been running mother cows, sheep and good horses for over a hundred years with the same family. The Stirrup Brand is on the stock now and if LeRoy and Shirley Wetz have their say, it will for many years to come. It’s a tradition worth hanging on to.