November 12, 2010
Working ranch horses turn in great rides day in and day out, month after month, year after year. It’s their job.
Tom Moorhouse knows ranch horses. The historic Moorhouse Ranch, the 2008 Best Remuda winner, spreads expansively over 75,000 acres of King, Knox and Stonewall counties in the Lone Star State, and is headquartered near the small town of Benjamin.
Tom and his wife, Becky, perpetuate the family’s tradition of fine horses and quality cattle, a legacy born more than a century ago when Tom’s grandfather, Edward Moorhouse, first raised cattle in Texas and Oklahoma Indian Territory.
Currently, the ranch is home to about 100 American Quarter Horses. The breed has always been an integral part of the operation with its versatility over challenging terrain, unfailingly reliable whether riders were working from a wagon, herding cattle or dragging calves to a branding fire. There have been more than 800 foals registered in the ranch’s name.
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Most days, you’ll find Tom in the saddle, attending to vital ranch tasks. And most often, you’ll find him riding Seven S Shining Gold, aka “Waurika,” a 12-year-old stallion, whom Tom says has never let him down.
“Whether I’m out with the herd or dragging calves, he turns in a great ride every time,” he says. “He’s real quiet, real gentle and real good at it.”
A Moorhouse stallion must earn his keep as part of the working remuda, as a competitor at ranch rodeos and ranch horse competitions, and as a breeding stallion with the Moorhouse broodmare band. Waurika has excelled at every challenge presented.
It all began 10 years ago, when Tom went to a horse sale at the Stuart Ranch in Caddo, Oklahoma (Coincidentally, the Stuart was the Best Remuda winner in 1995). At the sale, a green-broke, 2-year old colt caught Tom’s eye. The colt was by Shining Spark and out of Missed Gold by Zan Parr Bar.
Tom went home with the handsome chestnut colt in his trailer. Nicknamed Waurika for a farming community in Oklahoma, the colt set to living up to all the promise of his pedigree.
On the ranch, Waurika was a natural. “He has a lot of cow in him, is extremely agile, and he travels real smooth,” Tom says. “You know, when I was younger, I didn’t ever consider the benefits of a smooth-traveling horse – but now, I really appreciate them!”
As a 4- and 5-year-old, Waurika garnered several prestigious awards, including the 2001 Texas Ranch Roundup Top Horse and the 2002 Ranch Horse Association of America and AQHA’s Best of America’s Horse. That same year, he was the Fort Worth Stock Show’s champion in AQHA versatility ranch cutting, and placed in both conformation and ranch riding.
The competition that stands out in the rancher’s memory, however, is the 2008 Fort Worth Stock Show’s ranch rodeo. First, Tom and Waurika competed in the team penning. “In the herd he’s real quiet, carries his head low, and you would swear that he’s walking on tiptoes in an effort not to get the calves stirred up,” Tom says with a chuckle. “It’s his best event.”
Then, they competed in the team branding and heeled in the team doctoring. Next came the wild cow milking. But before Tom could milk the wild 1,200-pound bovine, he had to rope her.
Waurika chased down the cow, ears pinned, tromping on her hocks. Tom’s rope found its target, but instead of stopping straight, the cow turned off and swung her hind end around. Just at that moment, she hit the end of the rope.
Something had to give.
“The rope broke with a loud bang and hit my side hard,” Tom says. “If Waurika hadn’t been very athletic – not to mention strong – that cow could have jerked him down. It was a dangerous situation, but he couldn’t have handled it better. He’s a dandy.”
Just another day at work for the versatile horse. Waurika left the ranch rodeo competition as the 2008 top horse.
“I tried to think of one great ride he’s given me,” Tom says, “but it’s hard to pick just one. A top ranch horse has to be good every time you climb on board. There are hundreds of different tasks, all done on a variety of terrain – from fields to rockfalls – and a working horse has to tackle everything you point him at. His reactions have to be quick and agile, because everything happens fast. Our safety depends on him.”
“Waurika has a commanding presence in an arena, and he’s strong and smooth to ride,” says Becky Moorhouse. “But the two things I appreciate most about him are that he always seems to enjoy whatever he’s doing and that he’s unbelievably calm. Nothing gets by him, but nothing distracts him, either. We trust him completely. In fact, he’s so gentle that our small grandchildren ride him.”
Tom and Becky’s son, Gage, 18, plans to enroll in ranch management courses at Texas Christian University. All his focus, his parents says, is on the ranch and cowboy life. There will be plenty of Waurika colts for Gage to ride.
The handsome stallion bequeaths his even temperament and sturdy conformation to the next generation, as well as cowy instincts that are indispensable to every working ranch horse.
“I’ll never forget watching Tom rope a calf from the back of one Waurika colt,” Becky says with a smile. “He’d roped the calf when the saddle started slipping forward. Tom just stepped off, but that young colt stood his ground and held that calf – unflinching – even though the saddle nearly slipped over the top of his little ears! It was a treat to watch.”
At Moorhouse Ranch, both people and livestock live to the rhythm of the seasons: spring brandings, summer sortings, autumn cattle drives. There are performance competitions and ranch rodeos for fun. As ranch stallion, Waurika is turned out with the broodmare band each summer, then out to pasture with the ranch geldings during the off season.
But when he’s called to wear leather, you can bet he’ll turn in another great ride, day in and day out.
Three Bars (TB) was definitely a legend, but for the first few years of his life, his flaws seemed to far outweigh his apparently few redeeming qualities. Read about his incredible life, and learn about the founding father of many of today’s top show horses. Download the Three Bars Bloodline Report today!