Roans return to Cheyenne Frontier Days
A sense of pride passes through Randy Dunn as he watches the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade. Seated astride various roan horses are dignitaries, the Governor, generals, sheriffs, Pendleton girls and rodeo queens. The calm horses make their way down the parade route, seeming unimpressed by the excitement of the annual event.
What makes Dunn proud is that those horses were born and raised at his Laramie ranch, where Dunn and his wife Laurie run commercial cattle and registered Blue Valentine-bred mares.
“Our family has raised horses and cattle for over 125 years on the same ranch,” explains Dunn. “Consequently, the ‘Running M’ brand is one of the oldest registered brands in Wyoming. Our horses are used in everyday ranch operations, from doctoring yearlings to branding calves, and they allow the upcoming generation of ranchers to improve their horsemanship and cattleman skills. This has proven to produce well-rounded, athletic, gentle-disposition horses that are at home in any situation.”
The couple also has a great trainer on board.
“We are pleased to have Billy Ward ride our geldings for us,” says Dunn. “He is considered one of the ‘greats’ in the rodeo business, and has been to the NFR as a pick-up man for seven years.”
In 2005 the couple entered into a partnership with Ward to exclusively ride and market their geldings.
“The riding and the experience these horses gain make them outstanding arena and using horses,” says Dunn. “The geldings are well broke when we sell them, and they have been hauled to lots of rodeos and parades, have carried flags and have been washed and shod. They have also had many different riders, so they aren’t hooked on one rider.”
“We don’t want to sell a gelding that isn’t well broke, because we don’t want anyone to have problems with them,” he notes. “Through Billy and our sale, we have three world champions riding our horses right now. These are guys who have competed with them at the National Finals Rodeo. Our horses have the bloodlines to be great performance horses, it’s just been a matter of getting them into the hands of capable people like Billy Ward.”
Dunn says it takes continuous work to produce the quality of horses that are in such demand.
“Our family has always raised horses. In the 1930s, they raised remount horses for the U.S. Cavalry. By the late ‘30s they started raising registered Quarter Horses. Over the years, our focus has been to perpetuate the Blue Valentine bloodlines so they don’t die off, because they are such good horses,” states Dunn. “The capacity of their minds is unbelievable, not to mention how easily they can adapt to any situation. When we pull the stallions from the mares, it always amazes people how the stallions can run together the rest of the year. We have 13 studs running together, eating out of the same hay feeder.”
Dunn says the horses, for the most part, have been easy to train.
“Out of the 60 or more horses Billy has taken, there have only been two that took a long time to give it up,” he notes. “We start a lot of them here at the ranch and do some of the groundwork. Some will hump up a little when we first put the saddle on them, but they work through it pretty well. We start most of our fillies, too, because we want to find out what’s in their head before we make a broodmare out of them.”
According to Dunn, the combination of the bloodlines is very appealing to the customers who purchase the horses.
“They can use them many different ways. Some of the horses are world champions in rodeo, while others are used for trail and pleasure. We have a horse right now that is being ridden by one of the Dandies. Our horses make great ranch horses, but they have enough in them that you can take them anywhere and be competitive,” he continues.
Cheyenne Frontier Days has proved to be great advertising for the couple.
“In 2010 we had over 15 horses at Cheyenne Frontier Days involved in the parade, picking up and competing in the rodeo,” says Dunn. “We were proud to have the Governor and the First Lady riding our horses in the parade, along with numerous other dignitaries. You have to really trust a horse to do that – but we’ve never had any problems. I don’t consider any horse totally bomb proof, but I think ours are as close as you could come.”
“These same horses doubled as pick-up horses in the afternoon at the rodeo,” says Dunn. “One of our horses, owned by Mickey Gee, qualified for the short go last year. Being able to compete at Cheyenne Frontier Days shows the quality of these horses. Mickey’s horse even mounted several riders for the steer wrestling.”
The couple handpicks around 25 Blue Valentine horses each year to sell in the “Come to the Source” sale, which will be held at the Albany County Fairgrounds in Laramie on Aug. 27. Although Ward markets many of the geldings throughout the year, he brings some back for Dunn to sell during the annual production sale.
A preview will be held at 10 a.m., with the sale to follow at 1 p.m. Dunn says he has started to videotape his horses at different times to allow people who miss the preview to see what his horses can do.
“People who miss the preview can see my horses on a DVD before the sale,” he explains. “I can forward the DVD right to the horse they want to see, and they can watch it as many times as they wish.”