Wagon Wheel Ranch And Sul Ross Partner Up
For nearly 40 years, the Gist family of Midland has preserved Foundation Bloodlines critical to the development of the modern Quarter Horse.
Founded by the late breeding trailblazer, Fred G. Gist and his wife, Elaine Conger Gist, the Wagon Wheel Ranch Breeding Program was primarily designed to concentrate blood of specific legendary sires, including King P-234, Royal King, Joe Hancock, Blue Valentine, Driftwood and Mr. San Peppy.
Now, this collection of superior genetics will form the core of a signature educational program at Sul Ross State University.
President Bill Kibler concisely summarized potentially the largest gift in Sul Ross history:
“This is a game changer,” he said of the donation of the Wagon Wheel Ranch Foundation Quarter Horse breeding program.
The donation agreement, approved Aug. 17 by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System, is a multi-faceted plan that would establish a $15 million endowment once all funds are raised. The endowment would support and sustain this unique Quarter Horse breeding program at Sul Ross and establish the Elaine Conger Gist Endowed Professor of Equine Science in the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The donation from Elaine Conger Gist includes 160 registered Quarter Horses, another 95 young stock and related equipment. When fully funded, the endowment would wholly support the program, including salary support for two new staff and endowment of a faculty position in perpetuity.
“With a rich history of preserving our ranching heritage, Sul Ross is in a unique position to ensure that my father’s hard work will be appreciated and maximized. This is paramount in achieving his core mission: to preserve the Foundation Blood of the original American Quarter Horse,” said John C. Gist, who created the Fred G. Gist Memorial Foundation to raise fund for the endowment. “With ranching in our blood, Mom and I love the strong ranching heritage that is alive at Sul Ross and in the Big Bend region.”
“With this gift from the Gist family and Wagon Wheel Ranch, Sul Ross has the opportunity to create a signature program that can generate nationwide attention,” Kibler said. “This program is expected to increase student enrollment, expand curricular offerings for undergraduate and graduate students and create new collaborative teaching and research efforts.”
“An endowed Foundation Quarter Horse breeding program is consistent with the ranching heritage of the Big Bend region and will create a center of excellence that furthers the mission and vision of Sul Ross State University,” he said.
Rob Kinucan, dean of the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Associate Provost for Research, said, “This gift will help set Sul Ross apart as a premier equine science program with curricular and research efforts centered around the traditional and modern ranch horse.”
Sul Ross will initially accept a small portion of the breeding animals, with additional horses to arrive as the endowment grows. With the first $1 million raised, Sul Ross will commit $500,000 to facility upgrades, endow a faculty position and provide support for young horses donated for a production sale.
“It is our hope this program will make Sul Ross the first choice for any student looking to combine a love for horses with a desire to obtain a college education,” said Butch Worley, vice president for external relations. “Not only will the program be a tremendous asset for the College of Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, it is our belief it will raise the profile of Sul Ross throughout the Southwestern United States.”
To commemorate this transition, a ceremony was held at the Wagon Wheel Ranch’s final Ranching Heritage Weekend during the Production Sale on Sept. 9, 2017. Located six miles northeast of Lometa on FM Highway 581, the ranch is open to the public.