When CJ Lembke broke three vertebrae in her back in 2015, her dreams and goals of being a professional barrel horse trainer were shattered too. She poured her heart into rehabilitation and her comeback, but riding post-injury proved difficult. Instead of giving up, Lembke refocused her passion on breeding horses rather than training. Thus, 70 Ranch Performance Horses was begun: a state-of-the-art breeding facility in Gainesville, Texas with a premium roster of versatile mares and stallions.
The “70” stems from the nickname of a ranch that Lembke’s father owns in northern Colorado, which is 70 miles from Cheyenne and 70 miles from Denver. She borrowed the name to initially create her horse training business, kept the name, and re-branded after switching to a breeding business. By maintaining her eye for stellar performance horses, Lembke seems to have found her niche. “I had no idea it would turn into this,” says Lembke.
Lembke soon found her skill for “matchmaking”– the art of choosing stallion and mare genetics for the best crosses. Already having her own preferences for taking cutting and cow horse rejects to the barrel pen, she loves to find the sweet spot in crossing running bloodlines with cow horses. In 2017, 70 Ranch Performance Horses bought 14 mares to begin Lembke’s elite program. Two of her foundational mares include Dual Peppy Kitty, by Dual Pep, and a maternal half-sister to High Brow Cat; and Stylish in Stockings by Peptoboonsmal.
“They say that 80% of the colt is the mare. Who knows if that’s true, but they do hold a lot of weight,” said Lembke. “I’m a big believer in mare power. You have to stack the cards in your favor. You can choose whatever stud as long as you have a good mare”
It didn’t take long, however, for Lembke to venture into the stallion world. Though she initially did not plan to be a stallion owner, 70 Ranch now boasts six high-end stallions. The first stallion to come onto the ranch was KR Fantallicka by Metallic Cat, an all around rope, cow, and barrel horse with just under 200 AQHA points. Perhaps the capstone on their current stallion roster was the purchase of the seemingly “untouchable” stallion, Feel the Sting by Dash Ta Fame and out of Sherri Cervi’s MP Meter My Hay, aka “Stingray.”
“I’d loved [Stinger] for a very long time, even a year before we bought him. I have to pinch myself sometimes when I walk by his stall. He’s been one heck of a blessing for 70 Ranch,” says Lembke.
“I didn’t realize I’d like the stallion deal as much as I do,” she says. However, capitalizing on futurities and incentives helps increase the reputation of the ranch. Though online marketing is an ever-evolving part of owning a breeding business, Lembke believes that the best marketing is making sure that her horses are competing and winning. “You can say all you want on Facebook about how great your program is but you have to prove it,” she says. Social media and marketing in person go hand in hand.
A testament to her ability to pick horses, Lembke purchased Sand In My Socks aka “Sandi” from Kassie Mowry in January of 2022. Without a trainer for a period of time, Lembke was faced with the difficult decision to retire Sandi after her five-year-old year. However, when Lembke heard of Stevi Hilman losing her good horse, Lemon Drop, she offered up Sandi. Though the pair only had a few rodeos together and very little time to season, Hilman ran the mare in five rounds of the 2022 National Finals Rodeo, placing in Round 4. “Stevi plans to haul her throughout the year and we’re thrilled. To think I was going to retire her blows my mind,” says Lembke.
The 70 Ranch Performance Horse team consists of around 10 employees, depending on the season, all of which contribute to producing an impressive 50 foals each year. Lembke, with the unstinting support from her parents, continues striving to produce horses that the most elite horsemen and women want to ride. Putting the right horses in the right hands is a large part of the recipe for success according to Lembke, as well as being located on her little piece of paradise in Texas.
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