When Cross Spur Quarter Horses first started, it was to simply fill the need for reliable horses. Since then, its program has grown and become a fixture in Missouri.
You never forget your first love, and for Cross Spur Quarter Horses it was “Boogie.” Leslie and Robin Morris credit Hancocks Boogie King for their start in the breeding business, and the blue roan’s absence is still felt on the Humansville, Missouri, ranch since his passing in 2003. But through grace and perseverance, the family has rebounded and continued to raise versatile ranch horses.
It began when Leslie, a fulltime cowboy, had a difficult time finding a using horse in Missouri or Kansas that could hold up to the rigors of day work.
“We couldn’t find anything for me to ride,” recalls Leslie. “I usually had three in my string, plus a colt, and they had a hard time keeping weight on. So we bought a stud colt from Crago’s [Quarter Horses in South Dakota] in 1997.”
The weanling colt was Boogie, by PC Bronsin and out of a Docs Decatholon mare. PC Bronsin was by Sun Frost, and his dam was a daughter of John Red by Red Man.
“Boogie was Sun Frost bred, and we’ve stuck with that line. And there are a lot of Hancock horses out there, and some have a bad reputation. But we found the Red Man horses aren’t that way. John Red was a AAA racehorse by Red Man. He had a lot of speed and was really athletic. They have super dispositions.”
Within three years Boogie was booked full and Leslie was staying busy cowboying in the area riding his homebred mounts.
“We bought a few mares and we were going to raise our own and see if we could sell the colts for what we bought the mare for. Then it would pay off for us to raise a few,” says Robin. “Everybody started coming here to look at them and they were snatching them up. Now we’ve sold horses in 32 different states.”
“We raise Sun Frost-bred horses and then breed them back to Blue Valentine ranch horses. It helps the Blue Valentine be more athletic, but you still have the bone and substance.”
In 2003, Boogie suffered a bowel torsion and had to go in for surgery. Within 24 hours, the Morrises had to say goodbye to the stallion that started it all.
By then Leslie and Robin’s passion for breeding good horses was established, so they began to look for a new stallion prospect. They hoped to find a suitable replacement their clients would like, ideally one by Boogie’s sire, PC Bronsin.
“We had bought a couple of fillies by Frosty Drifter Ike,” Robin explains. “We had Boogie booked full that year, and we thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ We asked the couple [who owned Frosty Drifter Ike] if they would consider selling him, and we talked them into it.”
Leslie remembers the day he went to go pick up the stallion, and how difficult it was for his owners to let him go.
“If the wind would have blown him out of the trailer, they would have kept him,” he says.
“Ike” was the first Driftwood-bred horse at Cross Spur. He was by PC Bronsin and out of Driftwood Janae, a granddaughter of Orphan Drift by Driftwood Ike. His first get were “phenomenal,” the Morrises say, and both they and their clients were thrilled.
The stallion proved a huge benefit to the program until he broke his leg in a freak accident when he was just 6 years old. Once again, the Morris family was searching for another replacement. They turned to the Cragos and purchased a mare that was bred to PC Bronsin. From that, CS Voo Doo Frost was born.
Cross Spur now has four stallions: CS Voo Doo Frost (by PC Bronsin and out of Reds Easy Money); CS Flint Drifter (by Frosty Drifter Ike and out of CS Driftycat Hancock); Rafter Blu (by Blue Quachita Hancock and out of Square Triangle); and CS Cimarron Roan (by Rafter Blu and out of Ricochets Romance). The combination of speed-bred horses crossed with stout ranch horse bloodlines showcases their program.
“The quietness comes from the Blue Valentines,” Leslie explains of their breeding strategy. “They almost get a little lazy. So we cross it with Driftwood. The Driftwoods are, as they say, real ‘watchy.’ They see everything. They’re good to have on cows in the brush because they see them before you do. They also add a little more athleticism to the Blue Valentines.
A lot of the Driftwoods are small and kind of fine-boned. Blue Valentine puts bone and a little size on them, and the Sun Frost speeds them up and makes them a little prettier.”
Though ranches in Missouri might not be as plentiful as they are elsewhere, the Morrises work hard to make a living cowboying and breeding horses. Pleasant dispositions are paramount in the mares. Last year, they found their sweet spot and produced 29 foals out of their 32 mares. While they’ve had more mares and foals in the past, this number balances well with how much grass is on their property. Plus, the more babies, the more man-hours required.
“There aren’t near as many ranches here as there are in Texas or Oklahoma,” Robin says. “The ranches here are smaller, and there aren’t as many cowboys because there aren’t big ranches.
“It’s also hard to raise horses here because the fescue is not good for pregnant mares. We have to buy a lot of expensive hay. We used to have our hay brought in from Kansas, but lately trucking is so expensive that you can hardly do that.”
Long days and rough setbacks haven’t discouraged Leslie and Robin from sticking to ranching.
“The Cross Spur brand is our symbol for God letting us live the cowboy life. Leslie is a real cowboy, and real cowboys are easy on livestock,” says Robin, who also gives credit to the clients who’ve sup- ported them through the years.
Many Cross Spur horses go on to be working ranch horses. Others have earned a living as pick-up horses at the National Finals Rodeo, competed in trail, barrel racing and Western pleasure, and even won a vaquero cowboy dressage national championship.
“Part of our good fortune is we’ve had the right people buy our horses,” she says. “They prove them.”
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Western Horseman.