Horses take Sask. breeder on up and down journey

Horse ranch | Sask. business has expanded to include clinics

WHITEWOOD, Sask. — When Greg Frick quit his job as a credit union manager to work with horses, his dad cried. Not a tear of regret has been shed since.

“I’ve been very lucky. Horses have been very good to me and I’ve always been able to sell them for a good dollar, even in the bad years,” said the 63-year-old horseman.

Starting out in the 1970s, Greg looked for a ranch close to a main roadway. He knew that if he wanted to make a living selling horses, he had to advertise in the right place to the right people.

He chose the Qu’appelle Valley for his Sabre Quarter Horse Ranch.

Greg based his business on the belief that if you have a good horse, you can always ask good money for it.

He started his stable with Canada’s first American Quarter Horse Association supreme champion, Jetaway Reed from Wisconsin.

He bought the best brood mares he could afford at the time and started selling colts and yearlings, then marketed the quarter horses that he trained as riding horses.

“When I first started out, I bought some wild ones that weren’t even halter broke, but they were really well bred,” said Greg.

By the 1980s, Greg’s herd was about 60 horses, so he began hosting annual production sales. Colts sold for an average of $2,000.

With the horse market strong, he bought mares priced between $3,000 to $5,000 to create high-end prospects. However, the horse market dropped and his colt crop sold for an average of $500 a foal.

“I was pretty discouraged because nobody wanted these well-bred horses because there were so many of them around, but I kept plugging along even though there were a few tight years…” said Greg.

In 1990, Greg went to Mandan, North Dakota, seeking a cutting horse stud and returned with Blue Boy Doc, one of the first cutting horse stallions in the area.

“He was the only son of Doc’s Prescription in Canada and he was the horse that changed things around for me more than anything else,” said Greg.

Blue Boy Doc sired six-time world champion rope horse Apache Blue Boy and hundreds of other horses that were top performers. His colts sold for $1,000 to $100,000, making Blue Boy Doc the apple of Greg’s eye.

Many of Greg’s best memories centre around these top horses. Greg recalls the first time he saddled Apache Blue Boy.

“He bucked so hard that all four feet were above the corral. I didn’t sleep that night because I knew I had to get on him in the morning. I thought I’d never ride that horse,” said Greg.

Blue Boy Doc died in 2011, breeding until he was 29 years old and siring more than 400 colts.

“If a breeder is really lucky, he will get to own one great horse in his lifetime…,” reads a tribute under Blue’s farewell photo.

Ellen, Greg’s wife, said her husband is well versed in horse bloodlines.

“He can rattle off sires and pedigrees like nobody I’ve known.”

Ellen brought her training in equine assisted learning and equine therapy into the operation, which added an indoor arena in 2006 for events and clinics.

“We saw a financial advisor and mapped this whole plan out, but looking back, if anybody would have told us that we’d be as busy as we are, I would have said they were crazy,” she said.

From 1983 to 2003, Greg built his pregnant mare urine herd to 90 horses. Although the industry collapse in 2003 was devastating it allowed Greg to focus on his competitive breeding program.

Greg still enjoys riding, breeding and training but is now looking to sell the ranch and take life to a slower pace.

“I’m lucky I get to go to work everyday and do what I love to do,” he said.