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The AQHA office is closed Thursday, December 25, Friday, December 26, and Thursday, January 1.

Stuart Ranch

Story courtesy of The Quarter Horse Journal
Story and photo by Lesli Groves

Stuarts of the Land

The oldest family ranch in Oklahoma doesn't rest on historical markers or tradition. Stuart Ranch, carved out of Indian Territory in 1868, is in the midst of a renaissance "a rebirth" thanks to strategic efforts by the Stuart family and ranch personnel.

The cattle are more productive, the ranch forage is improved, a southwestern Oklahoma division has been added, and Stuart horses are in unprecedented demand. The popularity is partially due to the world's new reverence for ranch horses, but other factors contribute. Stuart Ranch dominates the Oklahoma Range Roundup (the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association annual ranch rodeo) and guys like Roy Cooper seek the Stuart bloodlines for roping.

Stuart Ranch is the 1996 recipient of the Best Remuda Award, given by AQHA and the National Cattleman's Beef Association to outstanding ranch remudas of registered American Quarter Horses. The award began in 1992 as a way to recognize the ranch-type horses that were integral to the foundation of the breed. It is sponsored by AQHA, NCBA and Bayer Corporation.

The Stuart Ranch philosophy for the last 40 years has been that "using" horses and show horses should not be mutually exclusive. The evolution of the show industry has challenged that philosophy somewhat since owner R. T. "Bob" Stuart first sent horses into the arena in the 1950s. Nonetheless, horses with the Stuart's "Seven S" prefix continue to fare well. Terry Stuart Forst, Bob's daughter, bred 1995 World Show Superhorse Genuine Redbud, as well as a three-year-old calf roping finalist, Genuine Hombre.

The ranch maintains around 30 broodmares. All proved themselves on the ranch as using horses, and many have AQHA performance points. Seven S Suzanna has Superiors in heading and heeling. Seven S Zanetta was fifth in calf roping at the 1991 World Show. Her dam, Seven S Specketta, was AQHA's high-point calf-roping horse in 1982. Seven S Cassie placed in calf roping at the 1986 and 1988 World Shows.

The Stuarts stand Seven S Zanaday, world champion in junior heading and third in calf roping at the 1992 World Show. "Zanaday" is by Zan Parr Bar and out of a daughter of Hobby Horse. The Stuarts also use Zans Misty Gold, a Zan Parr Bar son out of a Silver Skip daughter, which they purchased in 1990. He has earned Superiors in heading, heeling and calf roping, and more than once been named "Top Horse" at the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association Ranch Roundup.

For outcross genetics, the Stuarts breed a few mares to outside stallions. The new blood often comes from Carol Rose's ranch, and includes Genuine Doc (Doc Bar x Gay Bar's Gen) and his son Shining Spark (out of Diamonds Sparkle, '79 Superhorse), plus Tim McQuay's Hollywood Dun It. Most of the broodmares represent three or four generations of Stuart breeding. Many trace to the beginning of Stuart Ranch's registered breeding program, which started with Bob Stuart's purchase of the stallion Big Shot Dun from the Wagoner Ranch in 1949.

The single most influential horse at Stuart Ranch has been Son O Leo, a sorrel stallion with a beautiful head and eye, a characteristic still apparent in his great-grand-get, like Genuine Hombre. In 1963, Stuart purchased the two-year-old Son O Leo, a son of Leo (obviously) out of a Sugar Bars mare, from Bud Warren of Perry, Oklahoma. Son O Leo sired 243 "Seven S" horses over 22 years. Three became AQHA Champions. Of 51 to enter the show arena, 36 earned Registers of Merit. Of course, there's no way to measure their performance as ranch horses, but the fact that Stuart used Son O Leo for 22 breeding seasons offers a gauge.

Stuart Ranch maintains 38,000 acres of native rangeland, improve pasture and wheat pasture in three counties. The Blue River division, near Caddo, includes the original homestead and 16,000 acres. The Waurika division is a recent acquisition of 22,000 acres, 120 miles west of Caddo. Between the two, the Stuart Ranch runs 1,400 cows and about 1,800 stocker cattle. Brush encroached upon so much of Stuart Ranch's Caddo division that rounding up cattle took more than a good horse it practically took tear gas. Rounding up something for them to eat is a challenge, too, because every acre overtaken by brush is lost to forage production.

Controlling brush is expensive; reclaiming land that's already overrun can be cost-prohibitive. To combat the problem efficiently, Stuart Ranch works with the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, a multi-faceted, non-profit consulting and research organization created to improve agricultural resources. The Noble Foundation has helped the ranch reclaim hundreds of acres via herbicides and controlled burning. Perhaps more importantly, Noble experts have advised Stuart on replanting the reclaimed land, and introduced them to rotational grazing. The result is an increased yield at both divisions.

In the Noble Foundation's 50th anniversary annual report, published in 1995, Terry Stuart Forst was profiled as Nobles "Cooperator Success Story." The ranch has also been featured in The Cattleman magazine's August issue, the April Rancher-Farmer News and Livestock Weekly. Besides the usual cow-talk, the articles focus on forage management and the ranch's diversification, thanks to Quarter Horses and wildlife management. (Hunting leases figure even more prominently on the ranch's future plans.) Much of the publicity was generated by the AQHA/NCBA Remuda award. It could be timely advertising for the Quarter Horse industry.

Horse production complements cattle production beyond the rather obvious role of providing horses for the cowboys to ride. As past Remuda winners like the Haythorn Ranch in Nebraska and the W. T. Waggoner Estate and Burnett Ranches in Texas could tell you, with the depressed cattle market these last few years, the boom in the horse business is well-timed. Diversity is one of the ways the 128-year-old Stuart Ranch can be preserved for future generations.

From the Anti-Horse Thief Association to AQHA, Stuart ranch owner R. T. "Bob" Stuart Jr. is the great-grandson of Robert Clay Freeny, a Choctaw citizen who acquired property near current-day Caddo, Oklahoma, when it was still under tribal rule. The Stuart Ranch headquarters are on the original site Freeny homesteaded in 1868. Freeny was involved in area ranching organizations. The Anti-Horse Thief Association even held its meetings at the Freeny schoolhouse, located near his homestead. He was also a member of the Choctaw Live Stock Protective Association, and was appointed to the Light Horse Association, an Indian Territory version of the Texas Rangers. Freeny was also involved in politics, serving as county and probate judge and then as county commissioner. When he died in 1924, the ranch was turned over to one of his sons, Judge Robert Clay Freeny, who soon turned it over to his daughter, Ida Freeny.

Freeny Ranch became Stuart Ranch when Ida married Col. R. T. Stuart in 1931, and the two of them ran the cattle operation together. The ranch was well-known for its outstanding registered Hereford cattle.

Their son, Bob (the current owner) was still a teenager when he got his family started in the registered horse business by attending a sale at E. Paul Waggoner's 3D Stock Farm in 1949. Stuart has been a lifetime member of AQHA since 1951. Stuart Ranch is a charter member of the American Cattle Association, now known as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. From the Anti-Horse Thief Association to AQHA, the Freeny/Stuart family has always been stewards of the land and livestock.