Don Horton, founder and chairman of Fort Worth-based D. R. Horton Homes, the nation’s largest home builder, was born and raised in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, and because his father was a cattle rancher, young Don was never able to have a horse of his own.
“My father always said that a horse eats three times as much as a cow, so we didn’t have horses,” said Horton, who as an adult realized his dream of horse ownership with one special mare and her progeny. The Smart Look, with offspring earnings of more than $1.46 million, is the cutting industry’s leading living producer of money earners; in addition, her sons have sired earners of more than $4.5 million.
On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, Horton will sell all of his horses, including 25-year-old The Smart Look, at a special sale conducted by Western Bloodstock LTD in Weatherford, Tex.
“Where I was raised and with my father also being county sheriff, it was very similar to Andy Griffith (TV show),” said Horton, who was born in 1950. “I guess I could have been classified as Opie. That’s the way it was. We had our Barney and we had our Otis, who (my dad) locked up every Saturday night and every Sunday came down and had breakfast with us.”
When Horton graduated from high school, he entered the University of Central Arkansas, then transferred to Oklahoma University to attend pharmacy school, where he determined that he “really didn’t want to count pills” for the rest of his life. So he returned to Arkansas in 1972 to manage a real estate business owned by his father and remained there until 1978, when he moved to Fort Worth and â€śconvinced a bank to lend me the money to build my first house.
“I built that first house and sold it in the framing stage,” Horton recalled. “Then I went back to the bank and they lent me money for two more, then four, then eight. And that was the beginning of D.R. Horton Inc., Home Building Company.
By 1987, D.R. Horton Inc. was beginning to expand its operations outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In June 1992, Horton took the company public and since then, D. R. Horton Homes has maintained its’ status as the largest home builder in America.
“I have been especially busy for the past five years,” said Horton. “I am on the road probably a minimum of 200 days out of the year. We are currently building in 28 states and about 80 different markets within those states.
“I never had a lot of time for the horses, but I had a lot of good people that worked with me. Now that I am extremely busy in housing, I really don’t have any time to enjoy the horse business.”
It was curiosity that drew Horton and his wife, Marty, to Will Rogers Memorial Center on a Saturday morning in the late 1990s. “We were on our way downtown and I said, let’s go over here and see what’s going on,” Horton remembered. “It was a horse sale and I came back the next day and bought three horses. That was my first introduction to cutting.
“Why I bought them I have no idea. I guess because it was because I had always wanted a horse, but was never allowed to have one. Now, all of a sudden, I had three of them and no place to keep them.”
Horton placed the horses with Merritt Wilson in Sanger, Tex., and proceeded to build a cutting horse facility on a hunting ranch he owned in Gordon, Tex. By 1999, he had purchased Strawn Valley Ranch, 75 miles west of Fort Worth, and made improvements to include a state-of-the-art breeding and training operation. At the time, Stacy Wilson was training two-year-olds at the Gordon facility and NCHA world champion Pete Branch was running the entire cutting operation.
It was Branch who suggested to Horton in 2001 that he have a look at a 13-year-old Smart Little Lena daughter for sale by non-pro competitor George Stout. At the time, The Smart Look was in foal with Dual Smart Rey, who Horton would raise and eventually place with cutting’s all-time leading money earner Phil Rapp. Dual Smart Rey won the 2006 NCHA Super Stakes under Rapp and earned $330,436, before an injury cut short his show career and he was retired in 2007. As Strawn Valley Ranch’s head sire, Dual Smart Rey has sired earners of over $800,000 and is currently a top freshman sire.
“He has always been very special to me,” said Horton. “He will be my only horse now.”
Horton credits much of Strawn Valley Ranch’s success over the years to an outstanding support team. “I’ve had a lot of good people that have worked with us,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of good people and I’ve enjoyed the business. I don’t have the time anymore, but I think these horses have a great future in front of them and I wish everyone success.”
The Strawn Valley Ranch Absolute Dispersal will be held at Silverado on the Brazos in Weatherford and is anticipated to attract national and international buyers able to pay a premium for exceptional cutting horses bloodlines. Last September’s Marvine Ranch Sale in Aledo, also managed by Western Bloodstock, saw 29 horses sell for $2,455,400, including five-year-old Stylish Martini, purchased for $700,000 by Dottie and Bobby Hill, Glen Rose, Tex., who set an all-time record price for a cutting show horse at auction.
A complete catalog for the Strawn Valley Ranch Dispersal Sale is available for download at www.westernbloodstock.com
By Sally Harrison