Montana Horseback Riding History at Nine Quarter Circle Ranch
The Horses of Nine Quarter Circle RanchThe Nine Quarter Circle has a deep history, and our horse herd is a significant part of that history.
Our horses are part of the Kelsey family, and the Appaloosa herd we have here today has been at our Montana dude ranch almost as long as the Kelseys. We have been breeding, raising and training Appaloosas since 1950. Our horse herd is one of the many pieces that make the Nine Quarter Circle a special place and unique experience. If you’ve stayed with us before, you know how special our horseback riding and pack trips are for all ages.
History of Appaloosa HorsesThe history of the Appaloosas in the ranch area goes back much further than the ranch itself. Initially, white settlers referred to these spotted horses as “Palouse horses.” The name transitioned overtime to “palousey,” “appalousey” and ultimately Appaloosa. The white settler associated the “palouse” horse with their known breeder, the Nez Perce American Indian tribe, and likely coined the name because of the nearby Palouse River in Northern Idaho where the Nez Perce American Indians lived at times.
The Appaloosas were bred for their strength, intelligence and speed by the Nez Perce tribe who were known for being sophisticated horsemen. The Nez Perce were one of the first tribes to selectively breed for traits like stamina and coloration. Under the direction of Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce tribe rode the horses nearby the area—where the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch now resides—while trying to avoid the U.S. Calvary. This connection is why Howard Kelsey chose to exclusively focus the ranch’s breeding program using the Appaloosa breed, and it didn’t hurt that these horses are known for their beautiful spotted blankets.
Nine Quarter Circle Ranch’s Appaloosa HerdWe’ve been breeding Appys for almost 70 years, so it’s understandable why these spotted beauties are part of our family. Early each summer, we choose a number of mares to breed based on their disposition and performance as dude horses. In late spring/early summer a number of these bred mares have the fouls you see grazing on the airstrip each summer. At summer’s end, we brand the horses and give them each a name. Each summer we pick a category within which to name the horses. For example, this summer we named horses after iconic places in the Gallatin Range, the range just across the Gallatin River. Each summer, we work with the babies and younger horses, training them for the big day that they become a dude horse. A dude horse stays in our horse string for roughly 20 years before he or she is retired. Having horses of varying ages and sizes allows us to tailor your horseback riding experience with the perfect Appaloosa.
Next time you join us at the ranch for Montana horseback riding, we hope you remember the deep history our Appaloosas have to both this ranch and this area.