Jamison Herefords and Quarter Horses focus on genetics, market for success
An interest in purebred livestock and top-notch genetics has always run in the Jamison family. From Gordon Jamison’s grandfather raising Percheron draft horses back in the 1890s to his father purchasing purebred Hereford cattle in the 1940s, and finally, to Gordon Jamison himself, who says he “got serious” about raising quality American Quarter Horses 30 years ago.
Each Jamison was looking for something “a cut above the ordinary” according to Gordon Jamison. The ranch no longer has the Percherons, but when his father began raising Herefords 77 years ago, the family never imagined that they would someday have one of the largest Hereford bull sales in America. In the early 1980s, Jamison never imagined that his Quarter Horse breeding program would be in such demand, either.
“I always had an interest in horses and then, because of our involvement in the Hereford industry, I’ve always been interested in genetics,” Jamison says. “As I began to get more involved in the Quarter Horse side of things, I began to look at ways to line breed them and possibly intensify some genetics that would be repeatable, generation after generation.”
Jamison liked what he saw in the cutting horse world as far as cowyness and good minds, and wanted to combine that with a stronger, more durable body. He wanted a horse that would chase a cow and like its job, but one that was stout and hardy to fit the ranch horse industry.
“Ever since then, that’s been our goal. Stir the two together and get a durable, good-minded ranch horse in just a little bit bigger package,” he says. “We’ve been kind of linebreeding Driftwoods to some extent ever since, and we’ve also added some Sun Frost and Hancock lines as well.”
A strong believer in maternal emphasis, Jamison purchased a small band of mares from the Tequesquite Ranch out of New Mexico to begin with. Those mares were backed by names such as Great Pine and Capital Letters, with the latter being out of a son of Doc Bar. He purchased more broodmares as the program grew, adding Hancock and Driftwood bloodlines, eventually keeping fillies to put back into the broodmare band.
During the Jamison Ranch’s annual Hereford bull sale one year, buyers began to get curious about the horses. “Hey, is that horse for sale? Can we buy him? Or one like him?” they would ask.
“That’s where we started,” Jamison says. “Having cow customers who wanted a good cow horse. Nothing beats that.”
The wheels began turning and Jamison offered five geldings during the next bull sale, then eight, then ten, then twenty. When it got big enough to where the bull sale couldn’t handle the numbers, he decided to switch things up. He called Jay George with United Livestock Brokers and asked for his help.
In 2004, Jamison and George joined forces and that fall created the first combination Jamison Quarter Horses/Jamison Hereford Female sale. As the sale grew, running 200 head of heifers and over 100 head of horses through the ring became more and more of a daunting task but it wasn’t until the 2017 sale that the two were split. Sixty weanlings, 60 broke horses and 10 broodmares sold in October and went to 30 states.
“I’m confident in all the horses that leave that ring,” Jamison says. “We’re trying to breed the ability to where they are level headed with a good mind, no matter what they’re doing. In my mind, horses don’t chase cows because they particularly enjoy chasing cows. I think it’s because they have a good mind and want a challenge. A horse that has that peculiar ability, he will chase a flag, he will chase a goat, he will chase a dog or he will chase a cow. But the solid mind, that is key.”
Through the years, George has seen the program develop and grow and says that the reputation Jamison Quarter Horses has comes from a combination of outstanding quality performance horses, all-around versatile ranch horses, and the fact that Jamison is dedicated and passionate individual.
“He understands the necessity for horses to go out and function, for broodmares to be functional and produce outstanding colts every year and for their ability to travel,” George says. “He lives in the big wide open hard grass country of western Kansas. It’s not a forgiving environment. It’s great cattle country and great horse country and phenomenal range country, but it has its challenges with limited rainfall and severe winter and he expects his livestock to be able to function and survive in that kind of environment.”
It’s not only important that he understand his horses, Jamison also says a man has to understand the market. Sorting colts to decide what sells as weanlings and what colts will be started and sold as saddle horses is a fairly simple process. The market dictates that colored colts sell well so, generally, sorrels and bays are kept back.
“It sounds a little haphazard, but the weanling market is fairly strong lately, so that’s what we do,” he says.
In the past, Jamison brought in colt-starting crews and even had a full time crew for the horse program, but today, he sends his colts to a handful of trusted young horseman for the first 60 days. From there, the colts either return to the ranch to make a living, or are sent to other ranches to learn what a full day’s work is. Depending on their progress, they will be sold as two-, three-, or four-year-olds.
“Gordon knows exactly what every horse on that ranch is by the time it goes to sale,” George says. “That’s because they ride horses on a daily basis and that’s how they get their work done on Jamison Hereford Ranch.”
The horse market today also has a strong demand for well broke, especially “ranch broke,” horses and Jamison doesn’t see the demand being met any time soon because he says there simply aren’t as many cowboys left in the world, horseback every day, making well broke horses.
“It’s hard to do in today’s environment, give a horse enough to do to make him good,” Jamison says. “At 68, I’m not as young as I used to be and you can’t make one good without lots of riding. I have a great group of cowboys that I know and trust to help me out with these colts. My dad told me one time, ‘If you aren’t careful, this thing is going to turn into something bigger than you can handle’ and he was right. Without help, I couldn’t handle this, but I’ve got a lot of good help around me, my family’s all involved to some extent, so we’re getting it done.”