Millers honored as 2018 American Quarter Horse Association Ranching Heritage Breeder
Big Piney – Miller Land and Livestock’s ranching heritage in Big Piney comes from generations of horse riders and breeders that work and play in their saddles as a way of life.
Mike and Tara Miller, their sons Wes and Will and grandsons Kaleb and Weston Blu carry on those family traditions as the sixth generation to work cattle and horses.
The Millers brand their cattle – Irish Black, Hereford and Angus crosses – with the historic “67” brand, running about 2,000 cow/calf pairs and 1,800 yearlings. They cover many miles on horseback to work their cattle year-round.
“It is a horseback outfit,” said Mike.
The historic ranch was put together 124 years ago, and James and Millie Mickelson grew very successful raising cattle. Their daughter Mildred married Robert L. Miller. Cattle and horses were very important to this couple – Mike’s grandparents.
Mildred herself brought along 200 brood mares, keeping that many into the 1970s. The ranch’s remuda benefited from great bloodlines introduced to this band of mares, many of the first being workhorses and unregistered quarter horses.
“Even before then people had a notion of what made a good ranch horse,” Tara said. “They looked for good conformation and the most sound, efficient, athletic horses.”
When the American Quarter Horse Association formed in 1940, Mildred chose three of her best mares from her father’s old Zeb breeding to see if they qualified for registration – and they did.
Over the years, these mares formed the backbone of Miller Land and Livestock’s breeding program with new blood top and bottom from Hancock, Ding Bob, Texas Dandy, Mr. Canada Dry, Playboys Buck Fever, Special Dual Pep and Colonels Oak.
“They are the same bloodlines with new stallions brought in along the way,” Tara said of their brood mares today. “We’ve tried to stay current and competitive because we are trying to improve them. They are bred to be smarter and more trainable now.”
Their focus on improvement of the breed with a strong tie to the past is why the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and AQHA Ranching Committee selected Miller Land and Livestock to receive the prestigious “2018 Zoetis American Quarter Horse Association Breeder of the Year Award” at its annual convention, March 8-11, in Fort Worth, Texas.
“The Miller family has proved its dedication to ranching for generations,” said AQHA Director of Ranching Kim Lindsey. “They breed high-quality cattle and ranch horses, and are a model of an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder.”
The Millers breed 15 to 25 mares a year as an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder – from a working cattle ranch that produces five or more AQHA-registered horses each year for ranch work.
AQHA and Zoetis take special interest in ranch horses because they are often capable of going from gathering and sorting cattle on the range to competing in ranch rodeos and performance events.
When cow work is done, the Miller family finds time to move the best young colts forward for barrel racing, cutting, roping, reining and other challenging extensions of the ranch work they do every day.
All of the colts are ridden and their talents assessed – one might show a little extra speed and be trained as a head or barrel horse. Another might spend dark winter evenings with Mike riding in the 100-foot pen, just being trained to work nicely.
“Mike thinks a good ranch horse can do anything,” Tara said. “He’s always working and improving them in a lot of areas. The goal is to raise all-around ranch horses. With exceptional ranch horses, you can go and compete at the highest levels.”
The Millers sell several ranch horses by private treaty and one at the annual Western Wyoming Select Gelding Sale. A couple times a year, they pack up and head for a big show somewhere.
Raised and trained
These horses are all home-raised and home-trained.
A number are colts from the late Playboys Buck Fever, their buckskin stud whose offspring show the same kind of mind and heart.
Mike is a seasoned non-pro and open reining cow horse challenger with more than $600,000 in winnings. He recently placed second overall in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Non-Pro Division at Fort Worth.
The family will make another trip to Texas in March.
“It’s a real honor for us to be able to go down to Fort Worth and celebrate being chosen by our peers to receive this award for excellence in our ranch horses,” Tara said. “And I bet we go downtown and dance a little too.”
The Millers will receive a custom-designed buckle from AQHA and Miller Land and Livestock will be featured in the March American Quarter Horse Journal.
Joy Ufford is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and editor of the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.