Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Rushcreek: The Bloodlines Continue at Snell Valley Ranch
January 16 2017
by Merri Melde-Endurance.net
Tucked away in the oak and pine covered hills in a corner of the Napa Valley is the Snell Valley Ranch.
The fertile valleys with good soil and spring-fed irrigation is the ideal spot for growing organic, historic-sourced grapes for exceptional wines for the Flying Horse Winery. It's also a fine place to raise horses. The horses you see on the 1400-acre Snell Valley Ranch, running the fields, climbing the hills, picking their way through rough oak and pine hills, laying a good foundation for growth, athleticism, and intelligence, carry historic bloodlines from decades back when a good Arabian was bred to work and built to last and knew his way around a ranch and the endurance trails.
Hendrik and Lettie Smeding, owners of Flying Horse Winery and Snell Valley Ranch, are the owners of these Rushcreek mares and foals, who are carrying on the name and legacy of their forebears, after the Nebraska Rush Creek Land and Livestock company dispensed with the breeding of their famed Arabians.
It was after World War II that the Nebraska ranch, established in 1885, turned to breeding Arabians for their ranch work, because their original horses - "part work horses and part Thoroughbred" - just weren't working out that well. The Arabians proved to be good all-around ranch and cow horses with great endurance; and the habit of turning the horses out in herds for 3 or 4 years on excellent grazing land before breaking and training made for good formative years.
It was around the 1970's that endurance riders discovered that these Rush Creek-raised Arabians made excellent mounts for their long distance riding passion.
And it was in 2012 when the Rush Creek board of directors decided to liquidate their Arabian herd. "Our understanding from Lyle," Lettie said, "was that Rushcreek Land and Cattle Company decided not to have a herd of horses of any kind. They wanted their workers (cowboys) to bring and use their own personal mounts whatever breed they are," Lettie said.
It was a sad day for aficionados of the Rush Creek-bred Arabians, and it galvanized a number of people to action. Laura Hayes, from New York, who had owned and ridden numerous Rushcreek horses in endurance, was instrumental in getting every one of the ranch's exceptional Arabians sold and into new homes.
Hendrik and Lettie Smeding, who had bred CMK Arabians in the past, were interested in starting up breeding again. "We'd both always admired the Rushcreek horses on the trail, and a friend told us in 2012 that Rush Creek was selling their horses," Lettie recalled.
Unbeknownst to Lettie, Hendrik had already made a call to Lyle Sherfey, horse ranch manager for Rush Creek Arabians, a couple of times saying he wanted some of those mares. "I just wanted to see foals on the ranch again," Hendrik said.
He left several phone messages for Lyle, and it wasn't till weeks later that Lyle got back to them. Lettie was taken aback when she heard who it was and what it was about. They did some quick investigating and negotiating, and eventually the Smedings ended up with 10 of the very top Rushcreek broodmares.
They also bought some youngsters and one of the ranch's current stallions, HV Suns Heaven and Earth, who had been the Rush Creek herd sire for about 7 years.
"The Smedings were extremely good to work with during the dispersal," Laura Hayes said. "I will be forever indebted to them for that. During the dispersal, my main goal was to not allow one of those 80+ horses to be euthanized or go to a sale. We accomplished that in less than 90 days using only social media and not spending a cent on advertising. The Smedings had a big part in that as they were our biggest buyers."
After getting the herd ensconced in 2012 into their new California surroundings, and letting the mares settle, even though Heaven had a nice temperament and attractive babies, the Smedings decided they wanted to look for a different stallion for their new herd.
"We have articles from way back in Western Horseman, and Rush Creek was known for really big horses - 15.2, 15.3 hands - big, stout, strong rope horses, because they were doing ranch work," Lettie said. "We were more interested in getting back to that long-ago path to Rush Creek horses. There's Polish and Russian in the Rushcreeks, but there's also really heavy Raffles, so we figured the best thing was to do was an outcross."
The Smedings ended up talking to former endurance rider Dianne Waldron, of Rosebrook Farms in Florida, about a stallion that they felt might compliment their mares. French import Doran SFBAR (Dormane X Ortie, by Djouran) was a U.S. stakes-winning racehorse, and stakes producer. He was the outcross the Smedings were looking for, with "big size and big bone and good movement."
In the 3 1/2 years since the Smedings started their hobby to continue the Rushcreek Arabian breeding, the future looks very bright indeed.
They have carefully winnowed their Rushcreek broodmares down to 5: Rushcreek Patti, Rushcreek Pecan, Rushcreek Tiki, Rushcreek Reata, and Rushcreek Tigger. With Doran SBFAR as sire, these 5 mares have so far produced 7 offspring.
Rushcreek Patti (Rushcreek Kip X Rushcreek Alibi, by Rushcreek Quincy) has a coming 2-year-old filly, SVR Patticake.
Rushcreek Pecan (Rushcreek Kip X Rushcreek Freon, by Shalimar Rhett) has a coming 2-year-old filly, SVR Pecan Pie.
"Both of those, oh gosh, when crossed with Doran, it's just like a magic cross with these horses," Lettie said. "They're huge. I was looking at some of the old Rush Creek pictures, you know, when you get the 15.1 and 15.2 hand, big, stout, horses. That's what we're getting again. It's awesome."
Rushcreek Tiki (Comar Raphael x Rushcreek Joni by SAHR Magnafy) has a coming 3-year-old filly, SVR Firefox. "Oh my goodness. She looks almost like a warmblood, a big dressage type of horse. She's also beautiful - big bones, super sweet, really really nice."
Rushcreek Reata (Comar Raphael X Rushcreek Gwen, by Sahr Magnafy) has a coming yearling filly, SVR Reata Creek, and a coming 3-year-old colt, SVR Firestorm. "'Creek' is a very nice looking bay horse, big for her age. Firestorm - I would say he's close to 15.2 hands - is a big tank. And he's a really sweet horse too."
Rushcreek Tigger (Comar Raphael X Rushcreek Kitti, by Sahr Magnafy) has a coming wearing filly, SVR Eyeofthetigger, and a coming 3-year-old colt, SVR Spitfire. "Spitfire is about 15.1, bay, and he's just gorgeous. 'Tigger' is nice also. They both have nice legs under them, and they're smart."
"They all have good minds. Just good horses."
Through Lyle Sherfey, the Smedings got permission from the Rushcreek Board of Directors to use the Rushcreek brand and and the name for their Arabians (Rush Creek continues to use it for their Nebraska ranch). Currently they are using SVR (Snell Valley Ranch) as a prefix, though they may decide to use Rushcreek at times. They will also freeze brand their horses with both the SVR and Rushcreek brands (Rushcreek is a clover leaf).
The Smedings plan to breed the mares back with frozen semen from Doran this spring (Doran is at stud in the UAE, and the Smedings collected and kept frozen semen from him for their breeding operation). They plan to keep the youngsters they have right now, and possibly try some on the racetrack. They will let some of them grow up a while and then see what they have. Right now, they are just enjoying the new horseflesh on their ranch.
Lettie said, "We're getting excellent crosses with Doran and these mares. They have such beautiful babies, and I personally think the babies can go on the racetrack, they can do endurance, and they can do dressage.
"The babies are getting Doran's laid back shoulder, and they're solid builds, with the good legs and hooves. They really look like the old Rushcreeks." Doran has an exceptionally calm and gentle temperament for a stallion, which seems to be passing on to his Rushcreek offspring.
The youngsters are getting a good upbringing on the ranch. "The mares take them everywhere. They make routes all over the place, literally miles every day. In the evening they're down in the valley, and in the morning first of daybreak, they're way up on top of the hills. Some of that is scrambling, picking through the rocks and going up and downhill. They can rock-pick like nobody's business! They drink from the creek and the lake, and they go through everything. They like to be on the move."
It is the Smedings' main desire to get back to the big old Rushcreek Arabians. "We were hoping that's what we'd get out here," Lettie said, "and it looks like we are. That was our goal, to get those nice big solid horses again. We're very excited about them!"
Back in the day, "Rush Creek-bred" and "Rush Creek-raised" meant something. Everybody knew what a Rushcreek horse was and what he/she was made of, and what they could expect out on the endurance trails.
Thanks to the Smedings, just a handful of breeders who wanted to see the Rushcreek lines continue, that day may once again be on the horizon.