Parsons, Kansas —
When a cowboy has been spending eight hours a day horseback every day since childhood, he wants to be well mounted.
That’s true of most any cowboy, but it takes on even additional significance if the cowboy is 83 years old.
“I’ve ridden some real good horses. I’ve bred my mares to the top bred cow horse sires in the country and produced the kind of horses that will work cattle in the feedlots and the pastures here in the Flint Hills,” said Herb Heine at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning as he stepped off the nine-year-old sorrel stallion, Meradas Flashy Doc, after working three loads of cattle at the Pete Wheat Feedlot near Allen, Kansas.
“I bought this stallion as a two-year-old to breed to my mares, that go back more than 50 years of raising horses,” continued Heine, who daily has a horse saddled before daylight and is “at work” ready to check cattle when the sun peaks up from the East.
It is that longtime record of registering foals with the American Quarter Horse Association that Heine is being honored. “It says 50 years on the certificate, but I’ve been raising horses a lot longer than that,” he emphasized.
The paper showed from a manila envelope in his pickup seat actually recognized Quarter Horse registrations: 1955-2011. “That was the registered colts,” insisted Heine, who seldom gets in for supper much before bedtime.
His wife, June, said, “I don’t know when he’ll be in, but it’s hard to catch Herb, except before light and after dark.”
In his early years, Heine new Quarter Horse’s were the breed for him.
“We all shared a little spotted horse when I was a kid at home, but I knew I wanted a Quarter Horse, and that’s what I’ve been raising ever since. I bought my first registered mare from the Dan Casement Estate sale in Manhattan,” reflected Heine, noting the purchase was a daughter of the renowned Casement stallion and breed foundation sire called Deuce.
“I don’t have any horses related to that mare, but all of my mares trace to a Ready Money W daughter called Okeoto that I bought from Hunter Wheat here at Allen,” said Heine, who grew up north of Alma, Kan., served his country in the Korean War, and has lived at his Lyon County ranch near Allen since 1963.
“That mare, Okeoto, would dodge a cow from here to that hay barn. I used her on the ranch, and my son and daughter would ride her too. She lived to be 26 years old, and has continued to be an influence in my horses,” Heine stated.
“Ready Money W was an outstanding cutting horse that produced top cow horses, and that ability continued through many generations. I still attribute some of the talent in the horses I ride to their Ready Money W lineage,” said Heine, as he recalled “Ready” in action at local events, as the stallion was gaining prominence with Quarter Horse breeders across the country.
Heine is in constant search of the perfect mate for his mares.
“I’ve bred them to the leading cutting horse sires of the breed, and then used their sons as sires in my own program,” Heine said, detailing his breeding philosophy.
“I’ve raised and used sons of Doc O’Lena, Freckles Playboy, Silver Light and Cal Bar (a son of Doc Bar). Excalibar King was a son of Cal Bar and really the best stud I ever owned,” he said, being no small significance considering the number of outstanding horses he’s raised and ridden.
Excalibar King passed away at 23 years of age.
“He bred a few mares that spring and is buried here on the ranch. I’d sure like to have more of his daughters, and so would a lot of other ranchers around here, to raise colts out of them,” Heine noted.
Contrasting majority of cowboys who prefer to ride geldings, Heine said, “I ride stallions and mares. Every mare I have has been used on the ranch, and every stallion I’ve had worked on the ranch, as well as for breeding.”
The mare band has been built by saving daughters out of the top performance stallions.
“I generally kept a stallion until I’d retained a number of daughters, and then I’d sell him to another breeder, and incorporate new bloodlines into my band,” explained Heine, who has hauled mares several states away, often to Texas, to leading studs owned by Carol Rose, Terry Riddle and others.
Admitting that it’s been expensive to breed to the “best stallions in the world,” Heine stated, “If you want to raise and ride the best, you have to breed to the best. There’s sure no money in a horse that can’t work.”
Heine doesn’t know the number of horses he’s raised, but it is well into the hundreds.
“The most I ever had was 20 foals in one year, and a lot of outside mares were mated to my stallions every year, too,” Heine said.
“I have seven foals this year, four out of Meradas Flashy King, and three by Smart Cattile. I didn’t breed any mares back, but I’m planning to mate a couple of Smart Mate daughters to a world champion High Brow Cat son next year. That’s part of the reason I didn’t breed any this year,” explained Heine.
Preferring to merchandize several of his foals at weaning time, Heine has also typically, in addition to horses retained for his breeding, kept several colts to train and sell as performance horses.
Although there is still demand to mate his stallions to customer mares, he said, “I’ve discouraged it, because there isn’t a strong market for the colts, despite how well-bred they are. A top broke horse will still bring some money, but not much compared to the time it takes to make one.”
Heine Quarter Horses have collected money in sanctioned cutting horse competitions with Kenny Fisher and Dean Smith as trainers.
“I rode them every day on the ranch, but not in competitions,” stated Heine, who did successfully compete on a few ranch rodeo teams.
“I’ve worked here for Pete Wheat more than 30 years and did day work for him a long time before that. I usually keep three or four horses shod to check cattle here in the feedlot and 4,000 or more yearlings on pasture,” said Heine, who personally roped and doctored cattle most of his life.
“Now I generally use a dart gun from an air conditioned four-wheeler,” he admitted.
With major horse breeders dispersing, and horse marketing profitability remaining skimp, Heine said, “I keep thinking there will be more demand for these top horses, but it hasn’t improved that much yet.”
However, with no slowdown in sight, Heine assured, “I’m going to keep raising a few colts so I’ll always have a good cow horse to ride.”
Emphatic in expressing acknowledgement, Heine assured, “None of this would have been possible without the help of June, my wife of 54 years, our six children, and now our grandchildren. My granddaughter Nellie really is my sidekick with these horses, a real helper who could continue on with the horses.” £