Horse Breeding

A Look Into AQHA History

June 22, 2012

Dude ranch entrepreneur and founding director of AQHA Jim Minnick laid a path for a great legacy.

From America’s Horse

Jim Minnick

Jim Minnick. Journal photo.

There are two men who are possibly more responsible for the creation of the American Quarter Horse Association than anyone else: Bob Denhart, whose idea it was to create the Association, and Jim Minnick, who, in the beginning, decided which horses were going to be allowed in it. The bylaws of the Association required that all horses registered had to be a particular type, and they had to be inspected to make sure they were of that type. Jim performed those inspections.

Jim Minnick was born in Seymour, Texas, in 1881. By age 20, he was in the business of buying and selling ranch horses and cutting horses on his ranch in the West Texas town of Crowell. In the early 1900s, Jim became a champion bronc rider and roper. Then, in 1904, he joined Col. Mulhall’s 101 Wild West Show and performed at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, rooming with another performer, Will Rogers. He and Will became best friends, and when Will got his first stage engagement in New York to demonstrate trick roping, Jim rode his horse on stage so Will could rope him.

Many people credit Jim with the invention of the dude ranch. In 1907, he invited 16 of his friends from the New York area to come stay at his ranch in Crowell for about six weeks – at $100 a head. He met them at the train depot in Quanah, 40 miles north of his ranch, with a chuck wagon and a remuda of horses. He had no bunkhouse, so they slept in tents on the ground, the men on one side of the chuck wagon and the women on the other. At the end of two weeks, all but about six of them had had enough.

One of those who stayed was Della Holthausen of New York. Although Della was educated in Switzerland, she loved West Texas ranch life. One day, when her horse stepped in a prairie dog hole and fell, breaking Della’s leg, Jim rented half a railroad box car, put a cot in it and personally escorted Della to Oklahoma City to have her leg set. As it turned out, she never went home. A year later, Jim and Della were married.

In 1940, Jim attended the inaugural meeting of AQHA and became a director of the Association. As its official inspector, he traveled thousands of miles looking at horses. He also judged many of the first shows, including the very first one in 1940 at Stamford, Texas.

Jim died in 1947, aged 66, at his ranch in Crowell. In 1984, he was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

Do you love reading about remudas and ranches? Then read “Best Remudas,” an AQHA book about 15 ranches that won the Best Remuda Award for their efforts in raising American Quarter Horses, essential tools of the trade.