2017 AQHA Legacy Breeder Award:
Donald A. Woitte, Clive, Alberta
by: Richard Chamberlain for AQHA
“The horse business has been good to us,” Don Woitte declares. “We have really enjoyed it.”
Donald A. “Don” Woitte (pronounced Whitey) was born 84 years ago in a farming community in Central Alberta, where his parents operated a mixed farming operation of grain, cattle and good riding horses. He grew up there until he was 10, when his father’s declining health forced the family into town.
“I’ve always loved horses, but I spent the next 15 years getting my education, and living and working in the city, and almost 40 years working for a large auto company,” Don says. “But my extended family always had good riding horses, so I spent my holidays and weekends working with horses, caring for them and riding as often as possible. I always told my parents that someday I would own and breed good horses.”
Don and wife Irene returned to rural living in 1959. That enabled them to start their horse operation in 1963 and their breeding program three years later.
“The horse operation started as a hobby, but developed into a first-class business for my wife and myself,” he says. “We don’t have a large operation. It’s small compared to what most breeding operations are. At our peak, we ran about 45 horses a year – including about 20 broodmares – and now we’re down to about 15 horses, including eight broodmares. But we’ve done this a long time. We’ve bred about 800 mares during our 50 years in the business, some of them our own mares and some were outside mares.”
The Woittes call their operation Fintry Quarter Horses, named for a historic ranch that Don’s father cowboyed on near Kelowna, British Columbia. The first horse they registered under the name was Fintry Tom Cat, a 1967 sorrel stallion by Old Tom Cat. Horses that contributed to the Fintry program include Zella Hep, a 1954 mare by Leo’s full brother Tucson A that was out of Panita Lass by Little Joe The Wrangler, and she became the dam of AQHA Champion Jay Page and Leozella, a good show mare. Others were J A Bar Tango, a King Leo Bar mare who was the reserve junior performance mare in Alberta as a 4-year-old in 1972; and Fintry Miss Wimpy, Fintry Catechu Dan, Fintry Blue Ambrose and Fancy Partner, a Superior halter mare by Fintry Tom Cat who produced top-notch ranch horses.
Their current battery is headed by what Don says is one of the best stallions they have ever had. Fintry Drift Hancock, whose sire traces to Grey Badger II and Joe Hancock, and whose dam is a mare by Roan Prairie, a grandson of Red Man.
“Fintry Drift Hancock is a great horse,” Don says, of the grey stallion who has been the main Fintry Ranch stallion for 21 years and is still siring foals at 23 years of age. “He’s a top arena horse sire and a great ranch horse sire.”
He’s the kind of horse that the Woitte’s strive to raise.
“I always said to myself, when I watch a Quarter Horse show or any other arena event where horses are performing, that this is what makes it all worthwhile,” he says, “especially when some of them are horses that I might have raised.”
Don has an eye for the kind of horse he wants to produce.
“I want a horse about 15 to 15.1 hands,” he says. “The legs are the most important part of the horse. All four legs have to be straight, sound and of good quality, with good hocks, good front knees and top-quality feet. I want a nice vee chest to tie the front end together. I want good shoulders and a short, strong back with nice, well-set withers; and a good neck, head and eye.”
Those are the kind of horses sought by other people, too. They often come back for more.
“We have almost always sold our young horses at private treaty, and very few through sales,” Don says. “To be able to sell our horses to people who become good friends and many of those repeat customers, is something we are really pleased with and proud of.”
There have been a bunch of those.
“We have met and stayed friends with some of the most wonderful people from all over North America,” he says. “One time that comes to mind was in the late 1970s at the Quarter Horse show in Red Deer, when we managed to talk with (former AQHA President) Hugh Bennett, who came up from Colorado and judged our three-day ‘A’ show. We really enjoyed talking with him about his rodeo career and the growth and popularity of the American Quarter Horse.
“The horse business has been good to us,” Don repeats. “We have enjoyed it so much and met some of the greatest people possible through all these years. Hope we have a few more years to come of the same.”