Quarter horses earn their keep for honored breeders
By Frank J. Buchman
Horses are meant to be used.
"We breed horses that will perform under saddle and then work them. Our horses earn their keep," evaluated Marlene Flinn of St. George.
"The operation has always been based on performance, utilizing foundation and working-horse pedigrees, which made the Quarter Horse what it is, but they must look good, too," Marlene emphasized.
Following that dedicated philosophy, Flinn Quarter Horses is one of only a few horse-breeding operations in the world to have continued and progressed for so long.
It's such a distinction that Flinn Quarter Horses has been honored by the American Quarter Horse Association for 50 years of registering Quarter Horses.
The occasion was bittersweet and highly-emotional for Marlene. "I was happy to be recognized, but our breeding program was the lifelong combination-effort of Merle and I," she contended. " I wouldn't have gone if our family hadn't insisted."
Merle Flinn passed away 11 years ago this summer. As sad as that was, it is notable that Merle was horseback when stricken by rhythmic-explosion of the heart.
"It was a terrible tragedy, but Merle was riding one of our home-raised horses in a lush pasture gathering cattle doing what he liked best," Marlene said.
With encouragement from their granddaughter, Ashley Vann, and their son, Steve, Marlene attended recognition ceremonies at the AQHA headquarters in Amarillo, Texas.
"Steve and his wife, Amy, and their 11-week-old son, Landon Lee, who is the only grandson Merle and I have, along our only granddaughter, Ashley, and her fiancee, really had a wonderful time," Marlene admitted.
"I truly wish Merle could have been with us," added Marlene, noting that their daughter and son-in-law, Wanita and Kim Vann, were unable to attend due other commitments.
The family was seated at the table with AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway. "He was so nice to visit with and recognized Landon was probably the youngest person to ever attend that AQHA gathering. Later, Landon was given a membership in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, which we really appreciate," Marlene said.
Their grandson was born on the same day ten years after Merle Flinn's death. "That has to mean something special," Marlene acknowledged
"We dispersed most of the horses a year after Merle passed away. But, we kept a couple mares and retained services on stallions, so we're still raising a few horses," Marlene noted.
Before the Flinns were married, the couple was involved with horses. "I always rode a horse to gather the milk cows. I bought my first registered Quarter Horse, a Tommy Finney mare called Miss Adams 9, with a filly at her side, in 1952," Marlene stated.
"I bred Miss Adams 9, to the Bert stallion Roberty Bob, and that colt called Roberty Bee was the first stallion Merle and I used in our breeding program.
"Actually on our first date, Merle took me and Roberty Bee, as a yearling, to a horse show," Marlene fondly recalled.
"Merle was always a cowboy and was riding a buckskin gelding named Smokey while we were dating," she added.
Following Roberty Bee in the Flinn stallion barn were Sugar Foot Wimpy, Champs Bucky, Pines Computer, Jimmers Tough Ace and one of Ace's sons, Razzie Tazzie Ace
"Our operation has been based on these stallions featuring Bert, Wimpy II, Oklahoma Star, Poco Bueno and Ace pedigrees," Marlene verified.
"The stallions were ridden on the ranch during the week and at rodeos and horse shows weekends," she added.
All of the Flinns were involved in horse competitions and leaders in horse groups. "We helped form the Eastern Kansas Horseman's Association, Merle served as the first president and I also served as secretary," Marlene said.
Merle was in demand to judge horse shows and rodeos.
A successful competition-roper, Merle guided his son to become a talented-roper at all levels. Steve collected Little Britches, high school, college and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association accolades in calf roping, team roping, steer roping and bull dogging.
"I am proud of Steve's accomplishments, but what made Merle and I even happier was that Steve rode our home-raised and trained horses," Marlene said.
Watching their granddaughter, Ashley, show Flinn Quarter Horses to numerous championships is especially pleasing as well.
Although Marlene has no intention of breeding a dozen mares annually as the operation did at a peak, she still has a few mares.
"I'd like to reduce further, but I have a blue roan stallion, Flinns Blue Horizon, that I might use for my own breeding," Marlene said.
While she doesn't mount-up as often as she used to, Marlene has two home-raised geldings she uses to check 100 stock cows owned in partnership with Steve. "I take care of my grandson, so that limits my riding," Marlene noted.
Admitting the horse market is depressed, Marlene is optimistic for a turnaround in the industry. "We've always been quality conscious, and these low prices will hopefully weed out lower-end horses. A horse slaughter plant would help, but the economy needs to improve, too," she evaluated.
"Raising horses is a great way for a family to spend quality time together and make so many friends. Horses have brought us many years of joys and memories we will always cherish.
"It would be difficult to imagine our lives without horses as Merle and I loved every minute with them and on them," Marlene summarized.