By Sarah Hill
Photos courtesy Stan and Nancy Weaver
The Weaver Family has nearly four decades of experience with Quarter Horses, focusing on solid broodmares.
Not too many families can say they have six generations that have all ridden under the same brand, but the Weaver family, Big Sandy, Mont., can make that prestigious claim.
Starting on the Oregon Trail
In 1847, the first Weavers left Tennessee and struck out to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. In 1888, five brothers were living in Myrtle Creek, Ore., and came to Montana to become cowboys. One of those brothers was Stan Weaver’s great-grandfather, William, who recorded the family’s brand. “My granddad, Elmer, traded, bought and sold horses, and even trailed 300 loose horses to Canada once,” Stan Weaver said. “He bought the ranch in 1925.”
After Elmer passed in 1952, Stan’s father, Arthur, took over the ranch. Arthur was particularly fond of Thoroughbreds and Tennessee Walkers, but never raised horses to sell. All that changed in 1970, when Arthur bought a Quarter Horse mare, Pretty Miss Denver, a granddaughter of Pretty Buck.
Arthur rode Pretty Miss Denver until he passed in 1981. Stan and his wife, Nancy, made Pretty Miss Denver a broodmare. “Pretty Miss Denver had four fillies, and we kept them all,” Stan said. “Today, we run 100 mares, and 60 percent of our herd can be traced to Pretty Miss Denver.”
The Weavers bought their first Quarter Horse mare in 1981, named Stormy Dun Dee. Nancy rode Stormy Dun Dee for several years before making her a broodmare. As the Weavers built their horse herd in the late 1980s, buying all the best horses they could, they always liked Quarter Horses.
“The more I got into Quarter Horses, the more I liked them,” Stan said. “We were pretty picky with the horses we bought.”
The family held their first production sale in 1996, selling 47 horses. Since then, the family has sold horses to all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, and South Africa. “We never expected to do that,” Stan said. “We just like horses and have tried to raise the best horses we could.”
In the late 1990s, the family purchased Ima Bit Of Heaven, a son of Smart Little Lena. Ima Bit Of Heaven produced progeny that excelled in performance, including a son who was listed seventh in the nation for National Reined Cow Horse. Ima Bit Of Heaven was the horse that put the Weaver Ranch on the map, according to Stan. “We spent a lot of money on him, but we paid for him in semen sales in just three years,” Stan said.
Other high performers in the Weavers’ herd include progeny from the Stormy Dun Dee line. “In 2009, a granddaughter of Stormy Dun Dee was named the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) High Point Horse of the Year,” Stan said. “She went on to be the Reserve World Champion Head Horse before being sold to Brazil.”
A horse sold from the Weaver’s 2012 sale went on to become 2018 AQHA World Champion Head Horse. Several cowboys in the PRCA circuit also ride Weaver horses. Riley Warren, the 2017 and 2021 tie down roping champion in Canada, rides a daughter of Ima Bit Of Heaven.
“Matt Sherwood rode one of our horses in the National Finals Rodeo a few years ago,” Stan said. One of the Weaver horses sold to Mexico in 2013 became the National Charro Champion in Mexico.
A Horse’s Mind Can Make or Break It
When selecting stud lines, Stan focuses on cutting and cow bred lines, but a sturdy skeleton and size are also important. The horse’s disposition and mind are also very important to the Weavers, according to Stan.
“You don’t want a colt to get mad, because then they don’t want to learn,” he said. “We want our horses to be easy to get along with, and we can tell which ones will be good minded. We try to promote those mare lines and keep fillies out of those lines.
When the Weavers first started their production sale, Stan said he was selling everything—including his best fillies. He’s changed strategies in the last decade. “Maybe it’s the stud or mare they’re out of, or if they’ve had colts top the sale a few times, I’ll keep a filly,” he said. “If a colt has done well, I’ll keep a full sister to him. Or if it’s a high selling horse, I’ll keep a full sister.”
The Weavers run about 500 black Angus cows and use Hereford bulls on them. Stan and Nancy’s son, Daniel, hosts a production sale each fall for commercial bred heifers and stock cows. Steer calves are sold right after weaning in mid to late October.
“Just like with horses, mothering is the big thing, especially in our country,” Stan said. “The cattle have to have that mothering instinct, the ability to breed back and raise a calf every year.”
The cattle winter at a place eight miles away from the ranch and are brought home three weeks before calving. The females calve at the end of March through the beginning of April, and the weather determines whether calving will be indoors or outside.
The cattle herd always has salt mineral available, and Daniel tries to graze until Christmas. After calving, they’re fed hay to boost milking and to encourage cycling before being turned out on grass. “We also have a couple of fields of crested wheat that they graze early, and they do well on that,” Stan said. “That crested wheat makes for great feed.”
Weaver Ranch is truly a family operation, with all three of Stan and Nancy’s children participating in operating the ranch. Daughter KellyAnne helps with foaling, and her husband, Casey, son, Wyatt, and daughter, Avery, all help on the ranch. David is married and lives in Bozeman, Mont. Daniel works on the ranch, and his wife is a pharmacist, and they have three children: Eleanor, Alexandra, and Oliver.
“Daniel’s passion is cows, and he manages our cattle herd,” Stan said. “Casey and Wyatt help with halter breaking. We don’t hire any outside help.”
As Weaver Ranch reaches its centennial, the future is bright. Stan said that Daniel plans to keep raising cattle, and either KellyAnne, Daniel, or Wyatt will take over with the horses.
Weaver Quarter Horse Sale:
Saturday, September 16, 2023
1:00 MST - Great Falls, Mont.
learn more at www.weaverhorses.com