Barthle Brothers Ranch and the American Quarter Horse
Sometimes “good” is a way of life. Such is the case at Barthle Brothers Ranch in Dade City where you’ll find cattle, quail, and turkey hunting, some timber and a lot of good horses. American Quarter Horses, to be exact. The bread and butter of the ranching and rodeo world, Quarter Horses are prized for their toughness, stamina, agility, and speed, as well as for their American heritage. At Barthle Brothers Ranch, the Quarter Horses are the ranch; they are found both in the ranch’s history and here in the present, completing the day-to-day operations at this very moment, as important as they have ever been.
The ranch started in the 1930s, when cattleman Joseph A. Barthle sensed the winds of change, knowing that fencing laws were coming to Florida, and began to buy graze land. He also bought four mares for calf-roping and working the cattle, one of which—Mui Benita L—had an impressive blood line. He started a breeding program with Wrangler, a Stallion whose Sire and Dam both had AQHA registration numbers under 1,300. The ensuing offspring were meant for the ranch and the rodeo, as they still are today.
The Quarter Horse operation side of the ranch is headed up by Randy Barthle, as the ranch is still a family affair. Randy handles all of the day-to-day horse operations, except, as he jokingly puts it, “starting the colts. I get the younger guys to start the colts.” Of course, he explains that even though the colts are green, most of them still don’t buck. “We go real quiet,” Randy explains about their training program, “it’s easy-going. You’re not going to win in a physical confrontation with a horse, so why try?”
It’s all a part of breeding for the perfect cow horse to work the ranch and the rodeo, just like it was in the beginning. The ranch averages 75 to 80 horses, depending upon whether people are in a horse-buying mood or not. There’s a certain skill-set in mind when breeding Quarter Horses, explains Randy. “We’re looking for a sturdy, talented, quiet-natured horse with intelligence and a lot of cow sense,” he adds. In short, they breed for a cow pony that can work cattle in the field or rodeo ring as well as handle a young and inexperienced rider. As a result, Barthle Brothers’ horses are very much in demand, both nationally and abroad.
Barthle Brothers Ranch also breeds horses with a willingness to work, and work they do. The horses are used on the ranch just as they were in the old days. “We raise these horses to use ourselves,” Randy points out. “We don’t drive around in trucks, 4-wheelers, or helicopters. We want the cattle to walk anyways; there’s no point in making ‘em run and lose weight,” he laughs. The horses are a necessary facet of ranch life; the operation couldn’t continue without them. Just like yesteryear, the horses prove themselves every day on the ranch, and in the rodeo ring as well. In 2008, Barthle Brothers Ranch was honored with the AQHA’s Legacy Award for 50 years of breeding American Quarter Horses. With over half a century of “good” in the ranch’s legacy, Randy sums it up with, “I can’t think of a better day than riding a good horse, working cattle.”
story by ERIKA ALDRICH
photos courtesy of BARTHLE FAMILY