A horse is a horse ... or is it?

Bill and Dona Shue make it their business to breed special quarter horses

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Bill and Dona Shue have had a passion for horses most of their lives. After starting their own quarter horse business, they directed their focus toward making a better breed of horse.

"There's been a lot of thoroughbreds bred inato quarter horses lately," Bill Shue said. "We're trying to breed the 'quarter horse' back into the quarter horse."

Bill was raised on a cattle ranch in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Dona's background includes a military family, where her father's assignment to Fort Carson fueled her love of horses.

"Fort Carson was still a cavalry post at that time," Dona said. "In junior high, I would clean the stalls and take care of the horses. They would let me ride whatever horses were left."

The couple bought their first horse in 1978 while living in Yampa.

The Shues moved to Steamboat Springs in 1980 to be closer to Bill's job as high school shop and drafting teacher, and Dona's position with the U.S. Forest Service. They gave up their horses when their children became more involved in high school sports because they had less time to ride.

"When the kids went off to college, we began looking for acreage," Bill said. "We bought this ranch in June of 1999."

After acquiring the property north of Craig and naming it the "Two Shoe's Ranch," Bill and Dona began researching horse breeding, a longtime goal of the couple.

The research led them to "foundation-bred" quarter horses, where stricter controls on the breeding process resulted in horses that were excellent, all-around horses.

In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association was formed in an effort to document all-around horses that could race and do ranch and trail work.

"By the 1960s, quarter horse bloodlines had been diluted by breeding with thoroughbreds," Bill said. "The foundation was interested in one horse that could do everything you need to have done."

A foundation-bred American Quarter Horse Association horse will have lineage traced back to the five original studbooks, with no more than 20 percent of thoroughbred blood in their ancestry.

At least six generations of ancestry without thoroughbred breeding must be documented to become a foundation-registered quarter horse. Registers are researched back 11 generations into the 1800s, the Shues said.

"Foundation horses are known as the 'bulldog' horse," Bill said. "They are very muscular, and not over 15 hands high."

The horses are intelligent and gentle and have working cow-horse backgrounds.

The Shoes acquired their stud, Kaydee Last Chex, in Montana when he was 3 months old. The choice was made on pure speculation by researching bloodlines back to the 1800s, they said.

The stud is a descendant of King Fritz and Poco Bueno, with Two Eyed Jack bloodlines included.

The Shues said those horses are at the top of foundation-bred horses, and are known as "the best cow horses that ever looked through a bridle."

"Foundation horse shows judge the horse and not the rider," Dona said. "It's about working horses, not the glitter or the money that the owner has."

Foundation horses must maintain their natural manes and tails, she said.

Thoroughbreds are taller and longer horses and will win a longer race, Dona said. A quarter horse will be the fastest horse in a quarter-mile race, though.

The Shues now have 12 horses that they breed to raise the best possible cow horses available.

Their new filly, 3-week-old "TSR Sheza Foxy Chex," or "Foxy," will call the Two Shoe's Ranch home for at least the next three years, while the Shues establish the ground work on the youngster.

Versatility is the name of the game with foundation horses, they said.

"These foundation horses allow riders to do all the events with one horse -- Western pleasure, cutting, trail, reining and halter," Dona said. "The riders don't use different horses for different events."

Future goals for the Shues include "raising more great babies," and possibly some ranch horse versatility competitions.

They enjoy camping and trail riding with their horses, and they also run a second business that makes life easier on other horse enthusiasts.

'We stable horses overnight for people traveling," Dona said. "They can stay in their trailers, at a motel in town or in our bed and breakfast downstairs."

The ranch is listed in a national directory for overnight stabling and is advertised on the Internet.

"We've met some really neat people," Bill said about the business. "People on their way to the Grand Canyon with their mules, and a couple getting married on horseback."

Don't look for horseshoes on the Two Shoe's Ranch. The Shues would rather trim the horses' feet frequently and let them go natural.

"The more you shoe them, the more they need shoes," Bill said. "For day rides, we just trim the feet, and they're fine."

Bill also works for Colowyo Coal Co., driving an off-road semi-truck, "so I can buy hay," he said.

The couple has found their dream lifestyle on their ranch north of Craig.

When asked about their future plans, they sum them up in one simple statement.

"We raise horses for people who appreciate good horses."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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