Terry Stuart Forst, 7S Stuart ranch manager, has had a love affair with the American Quarter Horse for as long as she can remember.
“I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that appreciated and really enjoyed horses, and I developed that love early on,” Forst says. “I went with my daddy [rancher Bob Stuart] almost everywhere – or tried to at least. He had me horseback at three months old.”
Forst, the sixth generation of Stuarts to raise American Quarter Horses in Oklahoma, manages the ranch with her sons, Clay and Robert. Dating back to the late 1800s, Stuart Ranch in Waurika is the oldest – and arguably the most successful – family-owned ranch in Oklahoma. Under Forst’s leadership, the ranch was inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2012, and has bred multiple American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) champions, one of which has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame. And like the industry she represents, Forst credits much of her success to location.
“Agriculture is big here in Oklahoma, and the horse industry fits right in with the cattle industry. There are a lot of operations in Oklahoma still that use horses to work on their ranches, and it is a good fit for the state, and both the cattle and horse industries here,” Forst says.
Champions Of Collaboration
AQHA Publicity and Special Events Liaison Sarah Davisson agrees.
“Oklahoma and American Quarter Horses go together. The preferred mount of ranchers around the world, the American Quarter Horse is known as the breed of horse that settled the American West. As Oklahomans are hardy stock, they needed an equally tenacious horse,” Davisson says. “While the days of taming the West are behind us, Oklahoma and American Quarter Horses still go hand-in-hand. The state’s rolling hills and verdant fields are perfect for American Quarter Horse breeders who raise horses for ranch work, showing and racing.”
Forst also cites the fact that Oklahoma hosts the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show as a contributing factor in her ranch’s success and longevity. In fact, the AQHA hosts several competitions, races and horse sales in Oklahoma throughout the year.
“Here at AQHA, Oklahoma is our second home,” Davisson says. “We have grown fond of Oklahoma and our many friends in the state. AQHA wouldn’t be where it is without Oklahoma. The state is full of American Quarter Horse breeders, owners and members – without them we would not be the association we are today.”
The industry in Oklahoma also benefits from the relationship. Davisson says the Built Ford Tough AQHA World Championship Show in 2014 had an economic impact of more than $6 million for the Oklahoma City area, while the 2014 AQHA World Championship Show brought more than $19.2 million to the Oklahoma City area. The Quarter Horse industry has about a $1.2 billion impact on the Oklahoma economy when factoring in suppliers, employees and related industries, and more than 100,000 Oklahomans are involved in the industry.
“When you compare our membership numbers to 10 other equine breed registries, AQHA makes up almost 66 percent of the memberships in equine breed registries,” says AQHA Treasurer and Acting COO Trent Taylor.
With these numbers, Davisson says the future of the industry looks bright in Oklahoma.
“The future is as unlimited as the people of Oklahoma itself,” she says. “Oklahoma is filled with people who love the American Quarter Horse – ranchers, breeders, owners and those who just love horses. This year marks AQHA’s 75th anniversary, and the association looks forward to what the next 75 years have in store.”