By Colleen Brunner
Black Hills Pioneer
BELLE FOURCHE — “I just love everything about horses,” said Kristy Crago Schmidt. “I’m passionate about working cattle on a good horse.” That includes the horses from the Beckwith Dun bloodline that the Crago family of Belle Fourche has cultivated over the many years.
The family has been recognized as the Ranching Heritage Breeder by the American Quarter Horse Association.
Margaret Crago and sons Bruce and Ralph and their families are part of a legacy that runs back to 1887 when ancestor Peter Crago homesteaded south of Belle Fourche. He started with fruit orchards and sold apples, milk and vegetables. But it wasn’t long until Charles Crago started looking at cattle, draft and ranch horses.
Margaret’s husband, Vince, bought his first registered horses, a mare and colt and a yearling for $100. He purchased a registered stud, Beckwith Dun. And that was the beginning.
“We want to keep that bloodline alive,” said Kristy. “Beckwith Dun contributed to the Crago’s reputation for good, solid ranch horses that can also be taken to the arena and show pen and be highly competitive.”
The Beckwith line came from Margaret Beckwith Crago, and the Midland area, where they developed the pedigree that would become the cornerstone of the Crago breeding program.
It’s still all in the family. Margaret, at 86 still owns a few broodmares, as do sons Bruce, Ralph, and his wife, Becky, and grandchildren Colby, Barry, and Clete and Kristy (Crago) Schmidt. She has also owned the LaMode clothing shop in Spearfish for the past 41 years, going to work six days a week.
But it was Clete and Kristy who started attending the Ranching Heritage Breeder Challenges shows, part of the American Quarter Horse Association.
“It’s a great payback; a good way to get your horses out there,” said Kristy of the events. “There were 360 Ranching Heritage Breeders in the U.S., and four were nominated. To be chosen as the recipient of this award is an honor.”
Schmidt said someone from the family needs to attend the 2018 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Convention in early March to receive the award. The event is in Jacksonville, Fla. As of right now, there’s been no determination who will attend.
It’s a busy time for the Crago family. They raise about 1,200 head of cattle, combined among the families, and Ralph and Becky Crago also run a few hundred head of sheep. Along with all those things going on and utilizing the quarter horses as part of the working ranch, it keeps this family busy.
The history of the family brand is unique. The Rocking Chair Horse brand origin is a bit of a mystery, although the creation of it is given to Vince and his brother Chet back in 1957 when it was first registered. At one time it was used for both horses and cattle in the Crago business, but today is used only for the horses.
“No one in the family really remembers who came up with the idea originally,” said Schmidt.
Ralph and his wife, Becky, along with Schmidt and her husband, run one stud and a band of 12 mares. Bruce and his son, Colby, along with his wife, run two studs with a couple small bands of mares. Margaret still lives on the original homestead that has been in the family for 131 years.
This national award means a lot to the Crago family as they are recognized for quality horse and a ranching tradition that goes deep.