The Clay Ranch Team
From Dan Mullin:
I grew up on a family farm here in Cartwright, back then everyone owned a horse or two. We family used the horses for work (moving cows and feeding hay) but also for entertainment for myself and my siblings (I’m the youngest of 8). As I got older, I spent more time with my Uncle Larry Hicks. He raised horses for a living and I learned lots of my core horsemanship knowledge from him. In 1992 my wife, Colleen and I received our PMU contract and have been raising, training and selling horses ever since. Over the years a lot has changed, but one thing that has remained was the desire to raise quality quarter horses.
We are a family run business and each member has their own “role” for our ranch. My duties are typically ranch maintenance and day-to-day operations. I do work away at a community pasture 4 days a week for half the year so in the summer I lean more on my wife and the kids to keep up with stuff at home. Colleen has her own job in town, but also takes care of the farm books and bills (she’s our own personal photographer too, which works out well for us)! My oldest daughter, Ali, has lived out in Alberta for the last few years, where she has earned Ag Business and Visual Arts credentials – talents she puts together beautifully to design all of our Clay Ranch branding and merchandise. My second daughter, Quinn, typically takes care of any online stuff for us and has been home for the last few summers putting some of those good Clay Ranch horses to work teaching riding lessons full-time through the warmer months. Our son, Von, works at the Turtle Mountain Provincial Park when he's not in school. He prefers to spend his free time playing sports like hockey and baseball, but is a huge help when I’m away, doing the tractor work and helping to check pastures. When it comes to the actual training part of raising horses, that is something that Ali, Quinn and I all enjoy doing.
We put a lot of thought and work into developing a top notch breeding program. We like to have a wide assortment with everything including pedigree, colour, height and build. We try to have a variety of options available so that we have the best chance of matching the desires of our buyers. We have everything from running bred horses and reiners to cow horses and cutters. We take pride in the talent, athleticism, and conformation of our horses, but mostly their minds. The one thing that we require every horse to have is a good mind, this is something that is non-negotiable when we choose both mares and studs. We started our ranch when we were also starting our family, so producing honest, trainable, and forgiving horses has always been a top priority.
All of our horses are registered with the American Quarter Horse Association - our focus is typically ranching and performance hroses, however we are thrilled by the diversity and talent our horses show throughout all disciplines. Over the years, we have sold horses all throughout North America which is something we are very proud of – we love seeing our horses excel across Canada and in the USA as well. In the last few years we have settled into a nice routine of taking a number of our weanlings to our annual production sale in Ravenna, Michigan and a couple of our broke saddle horses out to the Cypress Hills Registered Horse Breeders Association Production Sale in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. In addition to those, we sell a number of horses privately off the ranch. We are excited by the idea of getting into some more of the elite, top performance horse sales and aim to get some horses into a few more of those over the next few years.
In a typical day for us, we like to get up early... that’s about the only similarity from one day to the next – and we like it that way. There’s so much variety from one task to the next, just like no horse is the same, when you base your day around them, no day is the same either … well of course, with the exception of feeding!
We have been fortunate enough to be doing this for almost 30 years, so at this point I’ve given up on trying to pick a favourite horse – there’s just too many good ones to choose from! One of my proudest memories, though, was watching not one, but both of my daughters win the year end award for barrel racing in each of their final grade 12 years in the Manitoba High School Rodeo Association – both on home-raised, all-around geldings that they had trained themselves, and that had become very competitive in four other events as well.
My wife, Colleen says one of her favourite moments was when we got to watch Little Peppy Jac show as a futurity horse and win two bronze reining trophies. We bought him as a young horse and showed him before he went to work for our ranch as a breeding stallion. He produced truly phenomenal offspring and was a part of our Clay Ranch family until he passed away just a couple years ago.
Question: What’s your philosophy for breeding – how do you pick who to pair up/ do you have a favourite bloodline?
When it comes to which mares to put into which stud’s herd, we take into consideration a number of things. Which stallion’s conformation and style will complement the mare’s the best? What pedigree combinations are most sought after – for example, we have a High Brow Cat mare that we almost always put with our Peptoboonsmal stud to have a cross that should make a really elite level cutter/cow horse. When it comes to the runners, we have a preference for horses that have a nice round muscle to them as opposed to the lean, lanky look often seen in run-on-run bred horses – just our personal opinion. With that in mind, we do have a couple super big-bodied run mares that we cross on our off-the-track stud (a mixture of Stawfly Special, Dash For Cash and Marthas SIx Moons). For the most part however, we like to cross some cow-bred horses with the ‘runner’ to create a more versatile, well-rounded horse. We also think about minds, as I said earlier. We put a lot of emphasis on a good mind when we’re selecting our breeding stock to begin with so we don’t have to worry too much about this one when it comes time to match things up, but if we do have a mare that’s a bit more spicy we make sure we put her with a stud that can help tone her down a bit. The last thing we think about would probably be colour and chrome, while we personally love a good old-fashioned sorrel, lots of our customers would like some colour and flash – so with that in mind, we try not to put two sorrels together so that each offspring has a chance of being born with a bit more pizazz.
Question: What does the western lifestyle mean to you?
Answer: To us it has always meant honesty, integrity and good, wholesome living. I was raised by hard working, dedicated farming parents and have always felt that was the true picture of raising livestock and being in agriculture. Just good people trying to make a living doing what they love.
Question: What’s your favourite part of the ranch lifestyle?
Answer: Riding. You just can’t beat that feeling when you swing your leg over a horse that you have bred, raised and trained. Riding a horse like that to ranch, rodeo, show, or just ride down the road at the end of a long day is something that never gets old.
Question: What does a typical day look like for you?