Nebraska’s Box O Ranch wins AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year
April 10, 2017
When Jecca Ostrander married her husband Cash Ostrander, she didn't know that the string of cowhorses she brought along would earn her the acclaim they have in the past few years.
The cattle ranch in Gordon, Neb., has born the name Willow Creek Ranch since the late 1880s when the first Ostrander laid roots there. Box O Quarter Horses is the horse business Jecca and Cash built since the start of their marriage. Box O Quarter Horses is the inaugural recipient of the 2016 AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year.
Both Cash and Jecca live within 30 miles or less of their birth places, creating strong ties to the area they have forever called home, a rare accolade which AQHA took into consideration for applicants, Jecca said.
"Cash still owns a small portion of the original ground bought in the late 1880s. Our granddaughter is the sixth generation on this ground. Cash's great grandpa located ground and surveyed it for homesteaders," Jecca said. "On my side, my mother's family just celebrated 100 years on the Jensen ranch in Arthur, Neb., three or four years ago."
From her start as a self-proclaimed crazy horse lady, to a woman with a herd of exceptional working cow horses, Jecca's 35 years of effort is paying off.
"We are so humbled and so honored to be recognized in this regard. There were 13 applicants, so I was stunned, absolutely stunned," Jecca said about receiving AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder of the Year. "The program itself is something I believe strongly in. There are horses, like Burnt, that grew up in a pasture, as normal as any ranch horse. He was born in a pasture, raised on grass, and started as a 3-year-old. As an 8-year-old, he was a NRCHA National Reserve Two-Rein Champion. I know there are horses in breeder's pastures that can do what mine have done. You just need to go buy one and give it a try. The ranch horse has a personality, and the ability can be unrecognized because the hours they are asked to perform is just doing ranch jobs."
Burnt is a home-raised gelding with the registered name BoxO Heavens Blue. Jecca said he "got sunburnt as a baby and it stuck like bubble gum." Burnt was the first horse Jecca tested the waters in Ranching Heritage Challenge Events aboard and she is still showing him.
"I distinctly remember wondering if I should sell him in our production sale or keep one that has potential to do big things," she said. "The first Ranching Heritage Challenge Event was in Fort Worth in January of 2012. That following August was the second event in Rapid City, S.D. Clay Volmer showed Burnt to a third place finish in the Limited Open. I showed another mare and placed reserve in the Amateur Cow Horse class. A girlfriend asked me to go with her that following summer in 2013. That's when I got started in ranch riding and boxing."
Box O's main stallion is SNW Heavens King, purchased in 2004 as a colt from Stan and Nancy Weaver in Montana. He is a grandson of Smart Little Lena, a great-grandson of Peppy San Badger, Peponita and Gay Bar King. He has been shown in ranch horse competitions locally but otherwise doesn't have huge accolades, Jecca said.
Box O's most decorated offspring is BoxO Valentine's Cat. She is by Palo Duro Cat and out of some of their oldest lines. Savannah's mom is Tracis Blue Roan, a daughter by Roan Ambrose, who was a daughter by Blue Valentine.
"That mare went to the Snaffle Bit Futurity placed in Level One and Open as a three-year-old and was fourth in National Reined Cow Horse Association World Finals in Limited Open Hackamore," Jecca said. "I could go on and on about this little girl, she's doing so well. We've only had her from the trainer since October. I'm going to campaign her this year in AQHA ranch riding and cow horse. She is already qualified for the AQHA World Show in cow horse. It's such a ride, so fun."
Jecca's niece's husband Clay Volmer had a hand in Savannah's successes.
"We've partnered in this. When Clay won the Limited Open, in the interview in the arena, he said, 'My wife's aunt wanted a cow horse and I said I'd try to make her one.' Bless that man's heart; he took horses not exceptionally high-end bred, and turned them into cow horses," Jecca said. "In NRCHA, he started Burnt in the Ranching Heritage Events and that horse finished as a National Reserve Champion Two-Rein Non-Pro horse. It all started with Clay and I. It's been an amazing experience."
"Savannah was very trainable, and her athletic ability was very good as well," Volmer said. "That mare also was the first snaffle bit horse that I ever trained and showed, so she was very forgiving in the fact that she would allow me to learn in the show pen along with her.
Volmer has four prospects within his program for the Snaffle Bit Futurity this year, one of which is Jecca's upcoming stud, Opus Cat Olena. He is a 3-year-old by WR This Cat's Smart, out of a Smart Chic Olena daughter. As a musician, Jecca was drawn to Opus because of his name.
"It's a musical term. Opus means a compositional set, sometimes a composer's last and we are excited to see what he can compose as he should produce a great set of babies." she said. "I'm very excited about him. We got him from The Wagonhound Ranch. He'll be shown in the 2017 Snaffle Bit Futurity in Fort Worth."
The Ostrander kids have grown and left the house, but one of their children, Stetson, lives on the ranch with his wife Courtney and their daughter Tenley. Sterling, their middle son, and his wife Allie live in Rapid City, S.D. The youngest son, their adventurous one, Jecca said, is in Manteo, N.C., working as a commercial pilot flying banners.
"They're still close enough to be of assistance and help when we can holler at them. We have a production sale every two years. It's August 26, 2017, in Ogallala, Neb., called the Nebraska Quarter Horse Classic," Jecca said. "There are three producers and some guest consignors. We sell all classes from colts up to finished ready-to-haul rope horses, which our emphasis is rope horses and cowhorses, and great horses that will work for a living. I believe in the Ranching Heritage program, which is why we encourage our colts to be Ranching Heritage nominated once they are sold."
Sale information on horses can be found on Facebook at Nebraska Quarter Horse Classic Sale.
The Ostranders are continuing work as normal after their trek to San Antonio, Texas, in March to collect their award. Jecca has since competed at the Ranching Heritage Finals at the Houston Livestock Show. It's back to business as usual.
"As far as Jecca and Box O are concerned, I am very very proud of what they have accomplished," Volmer said. "This has been a lifelong dream for Jecca and now it is coming true." ❖