Their stallion roster is second-to-none, and their professionalism and care make them one of the most sought-after destinations for mare and stallion owners. What began as one man’s dream in Oregon grew into Cinder Lakes Ranch, a world-class, multi-faceted equine facility operated by Rick and Jade Ford in Valley View, Texas. The couple, along with their staff, provide stallion and mare reproductive services, sale fitting, foaling, and international semen shipping.
Rick Ford was raised in Redmond, Oregon and after attending Arizona State University, moved to Texas. The opportunity arose to own the land where Cinder Lakes Ranch is now located, and he purchased it with only the exterior fence. He built the facility from the ground up, says his wife, Jade. Being a professional non-pro in the National Cutting Horse Association, Ford intended the ranch to be a private facility. However, his ability to pivot with opportunity is a trademark of his business, and Ford saw the chance to begin standing stallions and managing mares for the public. The first stallion in the barn was Jacs Electric Spark, with progeny earnings of over $3.5 million. In a short time with many hours of hard work, the list of impressive reining stallions grew. “Some of the greatest studs that have ever stood to the public have been at our place until they were either purchased or passed,” says Jade.
Jade was raised in west Texas in the world of barrel racing. Because of their joint passion for horses–albeit in different disciplines–Cinder Lakes Ranch also began standing barrel racing stallions for breeding. Jade says, “[Rick] knew nothing about that world, breed, or genetics that have posed as the backbone of the industry. It’s something that didn’t stop him. It was new and exciting.”
While Rick has a passion for the stallions, Jade is more mare-centric, especially during breeding season. However, there is not one job that a team member does that the other does not. That goes for the whole staff of 13 people, who pitch in to provide a wide range of services, from halter breaking colts to processing semen to cleaning stalls. “There isn’t a day that we are not on site and involved in what’s going on at the facility,” she says. “Our greatest accomplishment is if our staff is able to function professionally and functionally without us present. I feel like they do. I feel like I could trust them with just about anything.”
Jade remembers learning the most while listening to conversations in the breeding barn while holding tails for Dr. Hartman and Dr. Foland. In the same way, she hopes their interns and young employees learn from the ground up. “I’m a firm believer in hard work and paying your dues before you get to do the fun stuff, as I call it […] If you’re a part of the team, we want you to learn,” Ford says.
Cinder Lakes Ranch is a leader in exporting semen throughout America and beyond. Foregin destinations include Europe, Australia, and South America, and they ship on behalf of other facilities, as well as their own. “That part of our business has grown exponentially in the last few years,” says Ford.
On top of all of their breeding and foaling services, Cinder Lakes Ranch also provides sale fitting for clients preparing their horses for elite sales. “There’s not a lot of facilities where you can send your horses to to get them ready for a sale,” says Ford. Their prepared horses have been featured at prestigious auctions such as the National Reining Horse Association Futurity Sale, the National Cutting Horse Association sale, the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Sale, the Barrel Futurities of America, and the Pink Buckle.
The Fords are not a couple that remains complacent when a good idea comes along. Because of their steeped interest in the barrel racing industry and relationships with their clients, The Breeder’s Challenge was born. Along with their partners, Ray and Lainie Whitmire, The Fords brainstormed to create an incentive program that offered some of the industry’s most exclusive opportunities to stallion owners and nominators, paying out over $4.2 million in the first two years of launch. She says, “There were a lot of sleepless nights foaling out mares when I was working on the ruling, the breakdown of the program, crunching numbers, sitting down in meetings with Rick and our business partners, and a lot of hours went into the concept of that program before the official launch date.”
“In all of [Rick’s] spare time,” Jade jokes, “he also has a production company, so he films and produces big events–horse and equine related events.” Previous productions Rick has headed up include: The Run for the Million, the NRCHA snaffle bit futurity, BullFighters Only, and the Finale of the Breeders Challenge.
One might wonder how a husband and wife team works so well together, maintaining an international business and working seven days a week side by side. Jade says, “We really are great friends. We are huge supporters of one another.” Their cohesive way of working together is down to the mutual respect of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Neither competes for a title, or lets ego get in the way of tasks or ideas. “It gives us a lot of freedom to be able to be gone when we need to be to focus on individual parts of our lives. The other one is wholly capable and confident of running the facility when the other is away. It’s a lot of work on both sides, but it seemingly works really well for us,” she says.
As for the future, Cinder Lakes Ranch will continue to innovate with the technologies and connections available to them, while advocating for respecting the dignity of each horse, especially when it comes to reproduction. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be in the breeding business, for sure,” says Ford. The growth in breeding horses with qualities of mind and athleticism has been astounding, and she jokes that “the only thing we’re not doing is reminding ourselves that we’re going to have to be better riders, jockeys, and trainers to be able to handle these horses.” Most importantly, the Fords plan to continue growing their relationships with other barns and horse owners, saying that instead of trying to operate as one entity, their strength lies in helping and being helped by other professionals throughout the industry.
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