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Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies Since 1993




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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


Hat's Off!

Breeders of Birdtail Horses to be 

Inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


November 2010 Issue  

Nancy Dear, in the saddle again, during a recent photo shoot. Photo courtesy Nancy Dear.


Seventeen competitors and their Birdtail horses at the 1985 Triangle Quarter Horse Show, Great Falls , Montana , Fairgrounds. From Left: Jamie Pepper (Two Fox Alexis), Abbie Skelton (Two Fox Anne), Amy Newton (Two Fox Serena), Traver Rains (Two Fox Carmen), Nancy Lewis (Two Fox Elite), Christina Hart (Two Fox Fame), Marilyn Randall (Two Fox Karina), Alice Ackerman (Forty Carat Fox) Lennard Rains (Two Fox Figurine), Erin Randall (Two Fox Angilee), Tara Gamas (Two Fox Larissa), Hali Hanna (Two Fox Patty), Kelly Caussyn (Two Fox Amitie), Trevor Gamas (Loni Fox), Evelyn Ward (Senor Fox), Barbara Pepper (Fantasy Fox), Bill Rains (Angelita Fox). Photo by Neal Mishler, courtesy Nancy Lewis.


     Nancy Dear and her deceased husband, Douglas, of Birdtail Ranch in Simms , Montana , will be inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in March, 2011. Doug died in 1999, but Nancy , at age 91, continues to be involved with the ranch horses.

     “It’s therapy,” she says. “I’m not supposed to ride because at my age it’s dangerous if something happened, and I need help saddling and getting on, but recently I rode for about an hour playing at a branding, and when I got off I could stand straighter than I had a long time. I wish I could do it more often.”

     Nancy still cares for an aged stallion in a pasture at her house, and recently “mothered” an orphaned colt out of her favorite mare. Daughter Dee Dee Rains continues the Birdtail horse breeding operation with Nancy , while Dee Dee’s sister, Barb Pepper, and her family run the ranch’s Angus cattle operation and breed Quarter Horses that excel in cattle events.


     Nancy Dear grew up a rancher’s daughter, on the Beaver Ranch in the Big Belt Mountains of Montana . She and her father, Curtis Diehl, trailed cattle more than 50 miles twice a year to and from pasture where her father had bought land in the Birdtail Butte area near Simms.

     Nancy’s father got interested in breeding horses after reading about the “Steel Dust” line of horses (that were later named Quarter Horses), and he and Nancy purchased a dun colt and two palomino mares from a Texan in 1943 in eastern Montana. They named the colt Charlie Russell, and he became the first registered Quarter Horse in Central Montana . (The AQHA began registering horses in 1940.)

     In 1947, Nancy inherited the Birdtail Ranch property not long after she and Doug married, and continued the breeding program begun by Nancy and her father. They worked to improve their horses, wanting an all-around, hard-working ranch horse that was gentle, easy to break and with a good mind. They put together a fine broodmare herd mainly with the stallions Bear Cat (1937 – a grandson of Possum) and Classy Bar (1956 – sired by Sugar Bars by Three Bars and out of a Leo daughter).

     In 1954 Nancy was instrumental in founding the Montana Quarter Horse Association, and soon after, the Junior Montana Quarter Horse Association. She then pushed for the establishment of the Amateur Division at the AQHA.

     In the 1970s Nancy and Doug saw the AQHA Champion stallion Two Eyed Fox (a 1969 son of Two Eyed Jack) at the Denver Stock Show and asked if he was for sale.

     The price was $50,000 — “Too much,” says Nancy .

     But, the next winter, when Nancy spoke to the owner again, the price was dropped to $15,000 — due in part, Nancy says, to the owner liking the Birdtail breeding program and their Classy Bar broodmares. Nancy picked up the stallion in February, driving through “snow as high as the fence posts.”

     Two Eyed Fox’s owner told her that she could make some fast money by turning the stallion around to two people who had offered him $30,000 for the horse.

     Instead, she took daughter Barb’s advice and drove off for home with the stallion “before the wind began to blow,” and could prevent them from traveling.

     “We made his purchase price back [in breeding fees] before fall,” says Nancy .

     Two Eyed Fox sired Nancy ’s favorite horse, Two Fox Ballerina, who recently died at age 21 after birthing a foal.

     “I’ve broke a lot of horses, and she was the last one. She just liked people, and was so patient with me. She was the type of horse a sheepherder could have had – the kind that would hang around camp because she liked you.”


     In 1995 Nancy received the Heritage Award from the Montana Cowgirls Association and was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City .

     Nancy has been recognized by AQHA as a 60-year Continuous Breeder of Quarter Horses. The Birdtail breeding program is also placed twelfth on the list of breeders of AQHA champions.

     Will she go to Oklahoma City next March to accept her latest award?

     “We’ll see,” she says, “I just take it one step at a time.”

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


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