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Working Ranch - March 2018

bloodlines BY LESLI KRAUSE GROVES King Fritz and the “Chex” Horses Remember Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” trading his family’s only milk cow for three magic beans? The true story of “Fritz and the Quarter Horses” is less fantastic but starts on a parallel course. In 1956, Fritz Watkins, of Wasco, Oregon, decided to start a Quarter Horse breeding program. The AQHA registry was 10 yearsold and Fritz, 39, saw a business opportunity. King Fritz 1956-1975 PERFORMANCE HORSE JOURNAL Raymond Guthrie of Prineville, Oregon, 120 miles south, had purchased three mares in foal from the Robert Q. Sutherland breeding program near Kansas City. When the foals were three months old, Fritz went to evaluate them. Optimistically, he agreed to pay $2,000 for the three baby stud colts and hoped his neighbors back home didn’t fi nd out what he’d gambled. His wife named their favorite King Fritz. Sixty years later, the stallion’s name is still considered an asset in any pedigree. This story is more like a fairy tale if you realize the median U.S. household income for that period was $5,000 for an entire year. Plus, starting a breeding program with three baby colts would generally label you a fool. It did, however, leave ample time to start looking for mares. Whether it was his standards or his budget, or a combination of the two, Fritz didn’t select many. The percentage which produced ultimate show horses was incredible. Ten years later, like Cinderella at the Prince’s ball, a four-year-old King Fritz daughter turned heads at Sacramento’s Cow Palace Stock Show. Named for Watkins youngest daughter, Shirley Chex was escorted by Watkins’ resident trainer, Ray Junker. Except no Fairy Godmother had intervened. According to Les Vogt’s fi rst-hand account in Performance Horse Journal, July 2016: “Nobody knew Ray Junker. He had a poorly shaped hat, a shirttail out in the back, no shotgun but stovepipe chaps that were too short that had R-A-Y written down the side. The mare was lop-eared with a hackamore on with a white cotton rope, like a lead rope, that was way too big… Before the end of the show, he had won the 82 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2018


Working Ranch - March 2018
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