Nestled along the east side of Ray Roberts Lake in north Texas is a stream of athletic horses and the training complexes that serve as their home.
It’s where many of the top reining horse trainers handle their business.
“It’s really become a reining horse mecca,” said Tim McQuay, owner of McQuay Stables and one of the most recognized breeding programs in the sport. “You fly into Dallas, and you can look at 5,000 horses within two days if you really want to. It’s been good for us.”
McQuay’s facility is one of the complexes featured in the next episode of “The Ride with Cord McCoy,” which airs at 1 and 11 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Sept. 2, on RFD-TV. McCoy tours McQuay Stables in Tioga, Texas, and Tim McCutcheon Reining Horses, with complexes near the Texas communities of Pilot Point and Aubrey. McQuay moved his operation from Minnesota in 1989 and has built a powerful business.
“The biggest reason we moved was Hollywood Dun It,” he said, referring to the champion stallion that became the foundation of the McQuay breeding program. “We bred 40 to 50 mares to him up there. The first year we came down here, we bred right at 80 mares. Every year after that, we bred over 100 mares to him.”
Part of the reason was that mares in the northern climate didn’t have a long reproductive cycle because, as McQuay put it, “Spring doesn’t hit until the first weekend in May.” But there was more to it.
“People come to Texas,” he said. “It’s easier to get horses to Texas. At that point, you had to bring the mares to the stud.”
While training is important to the cause, the breeding program is what has led McQuay to his greatest successes.
“It’s been a good career for us,” he said. “The training business is a good business, but it doesn’t really make a lot of money. It’s not a cheap game to be in the training business, so the stallions have been our profit. When I started with Hollywood Dun It, there wasn’t very many stallions out there breeding reining horses. It was a small enough group that there wasn’t very many people breeding them.
“He did very well with his colts from the very beginning of his colts showing. He helped us pay for this monstrosity.”
Hollywood Dun It produced AQHA world champions, national half-Arab champions and multiple NRHA world champions and reserve world champions, according to the McQuay website. Dun It lived to be 18 years old. In 2005, McQuay and his wife, Colleen, acquired another key stud, Colonels Smoking Gun, in 2005. He continues to be a major player in the family’s breeding program.
“When we got Gunner, we crossed him on the Dun It (mares), and, man, it’s been a good mix,” Tim McQuay said. “In the last 20 years, our industry has changed because of the breeding.”
Technology has played a factor in changes, too. McCoy went to neighboring McCutcheon Reining Horses, where he witnessed the facility’s equine rehabilitation center and spa. Ranch manager Barb Wibbles showed off the center’s Aqua-Tred, which allows horses the opportunity to exercise in water without suffering potential impact injuries from other activities.
“The therapy program is really important,” said Mandy McCutcheon, an owner of the ranch. “I feel like any pro athlete needs to take care of themselves. That’s how we need to take care of the horses.”
Tom McCutcheon told McCoy that one key reason he loves the reining horse business is because of the friendships he and his family have developed over the years. It’s something he shares with Tim McQuay.
“The horse business has kept everybody together,” McQuay said, referring to his family. “We go to horse shows; we spend a lot of time with our families, too.”
That’s a common theme for those who live the Western lifestyle. McCoy has seen it in his family, and he puts it on display for the fans of “The Ride,” especially with the focus on facilities that have so many family members involved in the operation.
“I’ve been real fortunate to have a lot of success in the reining horse world,” Mandy McCutcheon said, “but nothing brings me more joy than watching my son try and do the same thing, and the passion he has for it is just amazing.”
That’s what it takes, and the families in the north Texas reining horse business seem to have a good handle on it already.