Horse Division at San Cristobal Ranch
The famous San Cristobal Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, established in 1827 as a joint Spanish and Mexican grant, still has its original acreage intact today. In the late 1800s, New Mexico reflected the rough and tumble nature of the times. Disputes over land grants were complex and passionate. Cattlemen were using the Goodnight-Loving trail that went through the Bojax Ranch on the Eastern Plains.
Families, many from Texas, settled on the ranches in Guadalupe, Quay, San Miguel, and De Baca counties, where they continued to upgrade both the cattle and horses as the 20th century arrived. With all of the history that surrounds these ranches in both California and New Mexico, the Spanish influence remains strong. The California cowboys still continue the ways of the vaquero. They use the traditional riatas, bits, spurs, and tack.
In New Mexico, the ranches surround small Hispanic communities where family, land and religion remain strong influences and provide major values. Over the years, few things have changed. The ranches that make up the Singleton Ranches have been cattle ranches since before records were kept. The traditions and methods of working cattle remain the same.
On the New Mexico ranches calves are roped by the heels and dragged to the fire during branding season; the California ranches head and heel the calves. In both states all cattle are gathered, sorted, moved, doctored and tended to on the backs of our registered American Quarter Horses.
Our cowboys and their families are fiercely proud of their way of life. It takes the entire family to run these ranches. The wives prepare meals for working crews, as well as helping out wherever else they are needed. The children help gather, give shots, brand, and when they are ready, they learn to rope and flank calves. Teaching our children the traditions of ranch life is very important to us. Neighbors are also a big part of accomplishing the work of each season, trading days at each other’s ranches so that everyone gets their work done.
How Horses are Used
on the Ranch
With the size of this operation and our overall rough terrain, the only efficient way to handle the cattle is with good cow horses. Therefore, the American Quarter Horses that we raise and ride are invaluable to the ranches.
Cowboys are horseback on the ranches every day with all the cow work being done horseback. Horseback cowboys prowl the pastures, gather and move cattle, rope and doctor as needed. At branding time, calves are roped and dragged to the branding fire. When it’s time to wean calves, cows and calves are gathered and sorted on horseback, and ultimately they are handled again from horseback when it’s time to ship.
Stallions are used as dual-purpose animals on the ranches, i.e., they are ridden to help with all aspects of the cattle operation and then they are bred to the ranch mares during the breeding season. In the off-season they may be shown.
Halter Breaking and Training
Halter breaking is initiated in the round pen shortly after weaning. The weanlings are handled daily for 4-5 days. After another week of leading, tying and picking up all four feet, the foals become accustomed to general handling.
After halter breaking, all weanlings are turned out on the rough terrain of the San Cristobal Ranch in a 15-section pasture where they roam in hills, valleys, rocks, trees, and arroyos until they are two years old. At that point they are returned to the horse division to begin saddle training.
After 60-90 days of riding, the geldings are distributed to the cowboys on all divisions. Over time, these ranch-raised colts become the cowboys’ most prized possessions. After their initial training, fillies are then selected to continue in the show pen, become a broodmare, or be sold.
The cowboys do not ride mares on the ranches, but initial training indicates disposition and ability that aids in the selection of keeper mares/show horses. Initial training also increases the value of fillies not selected to return to the mare band.
Involvement with AQHA
Several of our stallions and mares have competed in many AQHA shows and also the AQHA World Show. As a member of the New Mexico Quarter Horse Association, we have supplied cattle and helped produce numerous cutting horse events regionally for New Mexico Cutting Horse Association and Four Corners Cutting Horse Association. We also donate breedings from ranch stallions to help support NMQHA.
The National Versatility Ranch Horse Association has held an AQHA show at the San Cristobal Ranch for several years. Further, individual cowboys and their family’s show in many AQHA approved events. In 2010, we were very proud and honored when the AQHA Foundation chose to hold their first ever Legends Trail Ride at the San Cristobal Ranch.
AQHA staff member hosts and nearly 20 AQHA member guests from around the USA rode Singleton Ranch remuda horses over a 3-day working ranch experience. We were pleased and amused when many of the guests so enjoyed their remuda mounts on the ride that they offered to take them “home with them.”
Singleton Ranches actively competes within the following Associations, current updates and results can be seen on our news and facebook page.