Quarter Horse legacy: Famous Flying B horses are perfect blend of ability and durability
Haywood Bellingrath “H.B.” Bartlett was born in Montgomery, Ala. in 1937, the son of a doctor. His family called him “Woody” and wanted him to become a doctor like his father.
Instead, Woody developed a passion for horses. When he was in high school his father bought 850 acres outside Montgomery, which gave Woody a place to keep livestock and horses, and he competed at local rodeos.
Woody went to college at the University of Alabama, but was more interested in roping than class work. He told his dad he wanted to be a veterinarian, and earned his degree at Auburn University. His passion was breeding Quarter Horses, and by 1954 he established the Bartlett Ranch near Pike Road, Ala.
Today, his cattle and horse operation includes three ranches, with locations in Alabama, Texas and Wyoming. Over the years, Bartlett Ranch-bred horses have been used by many ranch cowboys and cowgirls and have also been successful in halter, cutting, barrel racing, roping and other rodeo events.
The Wyoming ranch
Jed Hirschi is horse manager at the Wyoming ranch and also cares for the cattle. The ranch is located about an hour north of Cheyenne.
“Dr. Bartlett always wanted a place out West, and he bought this place in 1998,” Jed says. “Dr. Bartlett has the place in Alabama, this place in Wyoming and a cutting facility near Weatherford, Texas.”
On the ranch, they run cow/calf pairs, yearling steers and 150 broodmares. Currently, they use 13 stud horses, according to Jed. Most mares foal out in pasture, and young horses develop naturally, with room to run, gain athleticism and become surefooted in rough terrain.
“They know how to move their feet out in open country and how to handle themselves around wire or other hazards,” Jed explains. “It’s mostly high desert, with sagebrush, yucca and good native grasses and it makes good pasture for horses.”
For many years, all the two-year-olds were started during an annual colt-starting clinic at the Wyoming ranch taught by Bill “Cody” Smith, a three-time world champion Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association saddle bronc rider. All the foals are halter broken at weaning and handled regularly for the next year and a half until they come to the clinic.
Flying B horses
“Most of the mares are raised in the program rather than purchased,” Jed shares, noting the horse’s history and the success of their sires and dams is important. “We probably have about 25 to 30 mares we’ve bought, but the majority are raised on one of Dr. Bartlett’s ranches.”
He continues, “People know we have proven bloodlines which have been perfected over the last 60 years. Once people own a Flying B horse, nothing compares.” “The horses have good bloodlines and are big and big-boned,” says Jed. “Even offspring of little cutting horses, when crossed with ranch studs, get big,” he says, noting they are more durable than most of the popular cutting horses.
“Our horses have a Who’s Who pedigree on one side, but also have size, or they may have Highbrow Cat on one side of their pedigree, but wear a number one front shoe with strong, sound feet,” Jed explains. “They make excellent all-around ranch horses and can compete with the best in the cutting world.”
“We have some really good studs, but our mares are the foundation of the program, and probably the best set of broodmares in the country,” says Jed. “Our studs are fairly standard, but I don’t think one can find any broodmare bands that will compare with our mares.”
“The studs give some to their babies, but the mares give everything,” he shares. “We have super gentle mares that meet us at the gate. If I pull out in the middle of a thousand-acre pasture, the mares come find me.”
Jed explains, it doesn’t matter what stud they were bred to, the baby will be gentle.
He says, “They learn everything from mom. There is a lot from genetics, but being around her and learning how she reacts to humans, the foals will have the same reaction.”
On the Wyoming ranch, three of the stallions are sons of Metallic Cat, and some of the broodmares are well-bred cutting mares.
“We also have some big, ranch-raised studs putting size and bone onto the cutting mares,” Jed says. “We try to keep uniform size and weight and add some brains with the cutting blood,” Jed says.
The goal is a perfect blend of ability and durability.
“About 10 years ago, most people wanted a 16-hand horse, and now they want a 15-hand horse,” he says. This makes a good size for balance and athletic agility, and also easier for a short person to get on.
Jed has been managing this ranch for 15 years, and he has two cowboys working with him and two ladies who work at the barn. Together, the crew ensures the well-being of each horse from the time it hits the ground to the time the gavel falls at the sale.
The ranch traditionally had sales at Thermopolis twice a year – in May and September. The 2021 sale will likely be the last sale in Thermopolis, Jed says, as the 2022 sale will be held June 4, 2022 at the Colorado State University Equestrian Center in Fort Collins, Colo.
The sale will feature yearling fillies, two-year-old geldings and some aged horses. Aged horses, Jed says, are in demand because they have ranch experience and are used for regular work.
Jed adds, “Horses just need a job, and we have enough country and enough cattle to give them a job and keep them busy. This is a great way to train horses while getting the work done.”
For more information, visit bartlettranch.com.
Heather Smith Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.