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Rogers Clark Ringling

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This site was officially opened on May 27, 2001.

In this new century there has already been at least one reference (TMH February 2000) to Western Morgan horse breeder Clark Ringling. Now, as in its earliest issues, TMH refers to him as "Clark Ringling, Lovelock, Nevada." In point of fact, it is key to an understanding of this unique man, and of what he accomplished that he lived and worked alone more than 50 miles from Lovelock (or from any town).

A solitary, determined individual, Clark Ringling is worth much more than an occasional mention in Morgan history. In some ways his story approaches the stuff of legend. After an adventurous early life, he chose to live alone in one of the most remote places in the then 48 states. There, with little more than his own initiative and bare hands, Rogers Clark Ringling realized his ambition to produce his kind Morgan horses. He registered about 50 Morgans and raised scores of other good using horses of predominantly Morgan breeding.

Turn to the Nevada page in your highway atlas and let your eyes drift east over the mountains from Lovelock to "Mt. Tobin, El. 9774 Ft." Mr. Ringling's 44 acre second "ranch" was located in Pleasant Valley within sight of Mt. Tobin. Even today, this second place where he lived from the 1920's to the 1960's is scores of miles in any direction from a paved road, a physician or a gas station. Remember that 87% of Nevada was (and is) public land, much of it open range. However, this second location was not nearly as remote as the Kyle Spring place where he started out.

Scratching a living out of that harsh, unforgiving land with, perhaps 30 to 50 beef cows, a garden, hayfields, and an orchard, Clark Ringling left little doubt among the handful of people who knew him well that his Morgan horses were what made him tick.

It is interesting to imagine the reaction of a knowledgeable, Morgan horseman, who, after crossing the great expanse of unfenced, nearly treeless, mostly sagebrush high desert, stumbled upon either of Mr. Ringling’s tiny holdings in that ocean of public land. There, at one time or another, such a pilgrim would have discovered, well cared for, in Mr. Ringling's corrals the likes of Dewey, 6481 (General Gates 666 x Mrs. Culvers); Revere 7422 (Mansfield 7255 x Folly 03093). [Both Dewey and Revere were bay Remount stallions foaled at the U.S. Morgan Horse Farm, Weybridge, Vermont.] Vanguard 8234 (Romax Light 7907 x Kitty Edna 05114), bred by Robert Tynan, Jr. of Nebraska; Royce 7748 (Winterset 7403 x Potena 04448), bred by Thomas C. Doak of Iowa; and Black Winter 9540 (Flyhawk 7526 x Midnight Beauty 04832) foaled in Wisconsin.

Dewey, was a full brother to Bennington 5693. He was foaled in 1910. Mr. Ringling listed him at "15:1; 1025 lbs." At some point before he was brought to Nevada, Dewey was used as a Remount stallion in Montana. One of the signs that Mr. Ringling was paying close attention is that his handwritten notes regarding Dewey mention that his dam, Mrs. Culvers, was by Harrison Chief (A.S.H.R. 1606) and that his second dam was by Cabell's Lexington.

It is said that Revere grew slowly. However, the photograph of him at page 181 of Volume VI (cropped and displayed at the end of this article) makes it obvious that, as a mature animal, he was big and athletic. Incidentally, the background of that photo identifies it as taken at Clark Ringling's second place (in Pleasant Valley). Like Dewey, Revere had earlier been in Montana. Revere was a significant part of the breeding program at the second U.S. Morgan Farm, located at Miles City, Montana.

Vanguard was a large, black Morgan. His dam, Kitty Edna, was by Winterset. Perhaps it's worth mentioning that his sire, the Elmer Brown-bred Romax Light No. 7907 (Romanesque 7297 x Lemax 04372 by Sparhawk 6874) was owned by various Morgan breeders, including Helen B. Greenwalt. For a time Romax Light's owner was Dr. Alexander Ruthven, President of the University of Michigan. (Dr. Ruthven, of course, was very active in the Morgan Horse Club.) One example of the horses sired by Romax Light during Dr. Ruthven's ownership was Eric Geddes No. 8612.

Mr. Ringling obtained Royce from Andrew W. Mahaffey of Russell, Kansas in 1943. It may have been at least a partial trade because Mahaffey received Judy Garland 05897 and Fanfair R. 05556 at the same time. Mr. Ringling also transferred Star Ruby R. 05367 to Mr. Mahaffey in 1943 and Van's Betty 06073 in 1945. Incidentally, it is believed that all four of these Ringling mares bred on. Any reader having more information about these mares (or any other aspect of this article) is encouraged to contribute it to this website. (A note as to how this can be done is found at the end of the article.)

Royce was another black stallion. In his photographs he looks muscular and large. In the May, 1947 TMH Clark Ringling described him this way: "Weight; 1075. Height, just over 15 hands." Royce was used at stud by Elmer Brown and O.E. Sutter, among others, before Clark Ringling acquired him. (Royce sired Bar S Winterset 8602 for Sutter.) Morgans were admittedly scarce during the period covered by Registry Volumes V and VI, but it still seems notable that Royce is pictured in both. In Volume V a photo of a coltish looking Royce appears opposite the classic photo of his sire, Winterset 7403. A photograph taken of the mature Royce at Clark Ringling's place appears on page 180 of Volume VI above a photo of Senator Graham 8361.

Black Winter's color matched his name. The breeder, George A. Garrigan, had intended to name him "Nighthawk," but Clark Ringling renamed the colt Black Winter. It is interesting, but not surprising, that this change resulted in emphasizing his Winterset heritage rather than the fact the immortal Flyhawk was his sire. After all, from Vanguard through Black Winter, Clark Ringling made certain that he was breeding with stallions with a strong dose of Winterset blood close up in the pedigree.

Clark Ringling's February, 1950 letter to TMH says this about Black Winter, then coming five years old: "I believe this young stallion Black Winter carries as high a percent of Blackhawk blood as any other horse living today." It is obvious from photographs of him being ridden by Clark Ringling that the mature Black Winter was another big Ringling stallion whose size met an earlier prediction. When Black Winter was eighteen months old, Clark Ringling had informed TMH that he expected "this colt to be 15:3 and 1,200 lbs. at maturity.") Black Winter appears as a small, dark, blur in Clark Ringling's corrals in the 1949 photograph on the opening page off this website.

A close reading of copies of available records make it obvious that in the beginning Clark Ringling simply acquired the best mares he could and bred them to the best stallions available. There is no indication that he ever purchased a registered Morgan mare. Rather, using registered stallions and taking advantage of A.M.H.R. Rule II, Mr. Ringling bred his own registered Morgan mares. His first two were a chestnut named Anneka Van Horn X-05541 and a bay, Fanchon X-05553, both by Dewey.

Anneka Van Horn's dam, "The Lovely One," was also by Dewey. In his handwritten notes Mr. Ringling described Anneka Van Horn's dam as a "chestnut with a wide blaze and some white on her legs." A note written about 1932 adequately explains the name of The Lovely One. It calls her "the best mare I have owned to date." Anneka Van Horn's 2nd dam was Flora (foaled 1917) by Nevada Chief, A.S.H.R. 5835. (A great-grandson of Harrison Chief, A.S.H.R. 1606, the chestnut Nevada Chief was foaled in Kentucky.) Anneka Van Horn's 3rd dam was Red Bessie, of which the A.M.H.R. says: "foaled about 1905, bred by Clark Ranch, Imlay, Nevada; of old Spanish California Stock."

Fanchon's dam was Falcon, also by Dewey. (Falcon was described by Mr. Ringling as a "very pretty" black mare whose dam was by J.Q.T., "said to be a Morgan horse." Clark Ringling's notes further indicate that the bay J.Q.T. was bred by J. Q. Taylor of Lovelock, and that he was "15:2; 1225 lbs.") Fanchon's 2nd dam was by a bay, Remount Thoroughbred from Kentucky named Rifle Shooter 78237, who at least placed in 20 of his 46 races, mostly in Kentucky and at the Fairgrounds racetrack in New Orleans. Fanchon's 3rd dam was by Nevada Chief and her 4th dam was Red Bessie.

Clark Ringling patiently bred his kind of doing horses generation after generation. An example of his careful planning (and fearless attitude about linebreeding) is that he used the Winterset maternal grandson Vanguard for several years. Then, for several seasons he used Winterset's son Royce whose dam was Potena 04448 (Morgan Star 6891 x Hebrona Morgan 01003). Last, Mr. Ringling sought out and purchased the Flyhawk son Black Winter whose dam was Midnight Beauty 04832, a full (Winterset-bred) sister to Royce.

In the March-April, 1936 issue of the Remount-sponsored magazine called The Horse Clark Ringling was quoted extensively in an admiring article by Charles Roth. (The article was reprinted in the November and December 1942-January 1943 issue of TMH) With its long, verbatim quotations of Mr. Ringling, this article provides a real sense of the man, his horses, and his goals.

"One winter, when the snow was so deep no vehicular traffic was possible, I had to get to Lovelock, Nevada from my ranch. It is fifty-five miles away. I set out on Flora Magee {15:2; 1,150 lbs.} The going was heavy for the snow was deep and wet. And the mare had been kept in the corral idle for many weeks before we set out. I was dressed in heavy winter clothing. We had everything against us.

We made Lovelock and back in just twenty-nine hours elapsed time. We had rested in Lovelock for four hours, so the time on the road was just twenty-five hours. And after two days' rest she had regained her condition, and was as good as ever."

Note that Flora Magee and Clark Ringling were "we" and "us." Incidentally, it appears that this big, hardy mare was the previously mentioned "Flora" the 2nd dam of one of Clark Ringling's first two registered mares, Anneka Van Horn.

One indication that Mr. Ringling had serious breeding goals is shown by the fact he kept conformation related notes regarding his horses’ pastern and cannon measurements. The Roth article portrays a man who knows what he’s trying to accomplish.

“All my experiments have been to the end of developing a horse that could keep going hour upon hour, and finish at the end of the day, head up, spirit undimmed. A horse that cannot do this, a horse that will leave you out in the middle of the desert afoot, is less than a horse in my estimation.

My experience in breeding eighteen to twenty endurance colts a year has lead me to certain positive facts regarding the qualities in endurance horses.

In the first place, I do not put any one quality very far ahead of the others. The ideal endurance horse is made up of a combination of qualities. Every one of them is important.

The first thing I look for is a set of good legs. No horse is better than his legs. This is trite but true. An endurance horse should be strong-boned and close-jointed without long cannons or pasterns of extreme slope. And the heavier his tendons the better.

Since the endurance horse is an object of utility, not a plaything, the next consideration is his keeping qualities. I look on the horse as a motor. Some motors waste fuel; some horses waste feed. Such horses are not good endurance animals. An endurance horse is one that can extract the maximum out of the feed he gets, and can keep going on rations that would seem scanty to the ordinary horse. He has such good assimilating qualities that he will take on weight when idle. In fact, I have never seen a good endurance horse that won’t get fat when not ridden.

His back will be wide in the loin in proportion to his size, and he will be so shaped that a saddle will stay put on him where it belongs.

Now, the next requirement is one which I have never seen mentioned in print before, but I count it every bit as important as any of the others I have just outlined. It is the muscles on the bottom of the horse’s chest, the muscles that are attached to the breastbone at one end and to the upper arm at the other. The ideal endurance horse will always look like this from the front." Then, Mr. Ringling drew a rough sketch showing the A-like shape of the front of the chest, denoting long, fully developed, powerful chest muscles. Mr. Ringling continued:

"A horse that is well muscled out to the bottom of his chest has the strength that he needs in the chest. Those chest muscles, are so important in endurance horses because they actually support two-thirds of the weight of the horse and rider, especially in going down hill. When they tire, the horse becomes unsteady. Then he begins to stumble. The muscles lose tone, and his shoulder blades come up nearly to the top of his withers, and get pounded by the saddle. The horse then is helpless. He’s through.

But you take a horse with large, solid, strong, chest muscles, and he will not tire in front and stumble around. Some horsemen complain that those heavy muscles tie the shoulders and detract from speed and action. I suppose that’s true. But the horse we are talking about isn’t a show horse which you ride for ten minutes while the judges in top hats make notes of their style. No, sir. They‘re not playthings. They’re endurance horses, and it’s not how they look, but what they can do on the long road that decides how good they are.

To my mind, the first mental quality in an endurance horse is intelligence. Intelligence is another way of saying that the horse has the ability to look out for himself. He will take it easy when he can. He will eat what you give him. He will sleep where you put him. He will start each day with an untroubled mind and a rested body.

Another important thing is size. I have read about the superiority of small horses in endurance contests. Size in the end is a relative matter. But my experience with endurance horses is that the best horses are those which would be called fairly large—weighing up to 1,150 and 1,200 pounds. I am a large man myself, weigh 190 pounds, and ride a heavy western saddle, so every time I mount a horse, he is carrying a load of 240 to 250 pounds. This, I believe, is around endurance contest [military endurance trials of the era] weight, and a horse, to carry it successfully, in my judgment, should be at least 1,100 pound animal. My best horses run around 15:2 to 15:3 in height and weigh from 1,150 to 1,200 pounds.’”

Mr. Ringling’s letter to the editor of the May, 1947 issue of TMH contained the following opinions which appear to differ slightly from his 1936 views: “The most outstanding quality a Morgan possesses is not measurable with tape or staff… A horse that hasn’t the disposition that made the Morgan famous is not a good Morgan, regardless of his pedigree or confirmation. The present day use for horses is under saddle. Let us breed a horse of the best possible saddle conformation with that good Morgan heart and brain. A smooth, strong and sturdy horse that is a pleasure to use, care for, and have around—a horse with that lovable disposition that is the Morgan’s most valuable asset. As long as his proportions are in keeping with his height, it will make little difference what his size is.

I am enclosing some pictures of my old stallion Royce 7748. He has many of the virtues and not too many of the faults of a good Morgan. His colts are of such good disposition that if they could talk, they would probably say ‘just tell us what you want us to do, and we will do it.’”

Here are the Morgans registered by Clark Ringling:

By Dewey 6481: Anneka Van-Horn X-05541 (1930), Dam: The Lovely One (unregistered by Dewey); Fanchon X-05553 (1931), Dam Falcon (unregistered by Dewey); (Both The Lovely One and Falcon were granddaughters of Red Bessie.)

By Revere 7422 x Fanchon X-05553: Red Falcon R. 05365 (1935); Star Ruby R. 05367 (1936); Brown Leaf R. 05366 (1937); Fanfair R. 05556 (1940); Kyle 8439 (1941); By Revere x Anneka Van Horn X-05541: Anneka Revere 05369 (1936); Peggy Revere 05368 (1937); Anneka’s Red Girl 05542 (1939) and Lovelock 8311 (1940); By Revere x Brown Leaf R. 05366: Loma Nevada 05712 (1941); By Revere x Star Ruby R. 05367: Chipmunk R. 05557 (1940); By Revere x Vera (unregistered mare by Dewey): Golden Revere x-05592 (1936); By Revere x Patsy (unregistered mare by Dewey): Honda x-8292 (1936); By Revere x Peggy Revere 05368: Reva R. 05713 (1941); Revere x Golden Revere X-05554; Sunshine R. 8315 (1940).

By Vanguard 8234 x Brown Leaf R. 05366: Vi Van 05899 (1942); Van’s Lady 06071 (1943); and Thor 8980 (1944); By Vanguard x Red Falcon R. 05365: Van’s Polly 06072 (1943); and Judy Garland 05897 (1942); By Vanguard x Fanchon x-05553: Dawn V. 05900 (1942); By Vanguard x Anneka Revere 05369: Fay Templeton 05896 (1942); Van’s Hawk 8771 (1943); and Bellhelen 06305 (1944); By Vanguard x Star Ruby R. 05367: Van’s Star 05898 (1942) and Van’s Eagle 9009 (1944); By Vanguard x Peggy Revere 05368: Van’s Betty 06073; By Vanguard x Anneka Van Horn X-05541: Dell V. 06306 (1944).

By Royce 7748 x Peggy Revere 05368: Captain Royce 9137 (1942); Patsy Royce 06816 (1946); and Rovere 9900 gelding (1947); By Royce x Anneka Revere 05369: General Royce 9138 gelding (1945); Anna Royce 06815 (1946); and Ross 9731 (1947); By Royce x Van’s Lady 06071: Royce’s Falcon 06817 (1946); Black Quartz 9730 (1947) and Tobin 07546 (1948); By Royce x Brown Leaf R, 05366: Kitty Royce 06556 (1945); By Royce x Dell V. 06306: Royce Ringling 9726 (1947); By Royce x Fay Templeton 05896: Beau Jack 9136 (1945).

By Black Winter x Bellhelen 06305: Winter Star 9983 (1948); By Black Winter x Vi Van 05899: Nan Winter 08019 (1950); By Black Winter x Van’s Lady 06071: Night Flyer 10189 (1949); Winterguard 10404 (1950); and Lady Winter 98223 (1951); By Black Winter x Kitty Royce 06556: Sue Winter 08020 (1950); Winter’s Seal 08224 (1951); Crow 10854 (1952); and Royce Winter 11085 (1953).

W.T. Carter of Fresno, California obtained Golden Revere X-05554 and Winnemucca 8312 from Clark Ringling in 1941. These two horses must have made a good impression. Five years later Mr. Ringling made what was possibly his largest one day sale of registered Morgans when he transferred the following animals to Mr. Carter: Royce’s Falcon, Peggy Revere, Patsy Royce, and Dell V. (It is noted that in 1949 Peggy Revere produced the good mare Gypsy Allen 07999, by Gold Dollar.) In 1947 Mr. Carter bought the gelding Rovere.

The pedigree of Rogue Bay Gambit, 28262, in the 1998 Morgan Stud Book, shows two lines to Ringling horses, both through his dam, Triton Pass, one to Winnemucca, the other to Sunshine R.

In the same publication the pedigree of T Tyme Cinabar 121794, lists a line back to Clark Ringling’s Winnemucca through his grandson California King. The obvious gentle big Morgan stallion Twin Brooks Dusty, 81011 (pictured being ridden bareback by a young girl), is a descendant of Royce, through Don Hudson and Bar S Winterset. (It should be noted that Royce sired Bar S Winterset in Kansas before Mr. Ringling acquired Royce.)

In pedigrees displayed in the full page stallion advertisement of Richwood Morgans and Hotcreek Morgans in the January, 1998 TMH there is excellent evidence that Ringling breeding is still present close up in some modern pedigrees. The Clark Ringling-bred mare Royce’s Falcon 06817 appears as the paternal grandam (through her son Farceur Morgan 13151) of both Farceurs Ladys Man 98002 (1982) and Hotcreek Cavalier 128093. She is also listed as a maternal great-grandam of Richwood Bravado 71101 (1977). Royce’s Falcon was foaled in 1946 and transferred by Mr. Ringling to W.T. Carter that same year. Morgan longevity is obvious from the fact that, in 2001, 55 years later two of her grandsons are standing stud.

One of the grandsons of Royce's Falcon (foaled 1946) that is currently standing at stud in 2001 is Farceur's Falcon Morgan 127914 (Farceur Morgan x Braves Faith). A typey 15-hand bay Western Working stallion, he is only 9 years old!

Descriptions indicate that Farceur Morgan had exceptional legs and was a much better looking horse than his photographs reflect. He sired over 70 registered Morgans and was still at it at the age of 32. It seems that this was a genuine Morgan horse. From all reports, he and his offspring meet Mr. Ringling's previously quoted description of the attitude and disposition of Royce's get, including Farceur's Morgan's dam, Royce's Falcon: "Just tell us what you want us to do…"

According to the May/June, 2001 issue of Simply Morgan, Farceur's Fool's Gold, a grandson of Farceur's Morgan, (and, thus a great-grandson of Clark Ringling's Royce's Falcon) is the 2001 Stone Morgan Model. Surely Mr. Ringling would have liked that news.

Probably the most influential Clark Ringling-bred mare, Royce’s Falcon was the product of generations of his breeding efforts. She certainly did well for W.T. Carter, producing 14 Morgans. On the maternal side this black mare traced back through Mr. Ringling’s Morgans to her great-grandam Fanchon X-05553 (1931), one of the first two mares he registered. Fanchon’s dam was the unregistered mare “Falcon” whose dam was Mr. Ringling's foundation matron Red Bessie. Through her dam, Van’s Lady 06071, Royce’s Falcon carried the blood of the first three registered Morgan stallions, which Mr. Ringling used: Dewey, Revere and Vanguard. Her sire, of course, was the fourth Ringling stallion, Royce.

For W.T. Carter Royce’s Falcon became the dam of several full siblings by Gold Dollar 8006: Falconhaux 10534 (1950); Fanchon Gold D 08663 (1952); Fashion Gold D 09118 (1954) [This mare was owned in Toronto, Canada.]; Four H. 11795 (1955) and Black Bart 12320 (1958) The short-lived, but apparently remarkable Black Bart was named for a legendary California bandit. With Fanchon Gold D. 08663, Mr. Carter assured that the unusual name of Clark Ringling’s Fanchon X-05553 (1931), would be carried forward (as it was, for example) with Fanchon River 011380).

With King's River Morgan 11133 as the sire, Royce’s Falcon foaled the following horses: Fantasy K.R. 09972 (1957) [This mare went to Canada.]; Fonda K.R. 010791 (1959); the aforementioned Farceur Morgan 13151 (1960); Fonda River 011966 (1961); Falcon Morgan 14243 (1962) [Treasured by the Mitchell Karps, this nearly 16 hand Morgan trail horse lived much of his life in Virginia.]; and Brown Leaf 014938 (1963) [This mare's name appears to have been a tip of Mr. Carter's hat toward Clark Ringling's mare Brown Leaf R.]; Felicity Carter 014178 (1964); and Faith K R Carter 014983 (1965). In 1966, at the age of 20, she produced Meteor L.G. Carter 17454 (by Lippitt Gregory 13844). This horse went to Ontario, Canada.

In 1941 Mr. Ringling sold Anneka’s Red Girl 05542 to L.W. Rutledge of Sanger, California. She bred on in California. Rutledge also purchased the mares Loma Nevada 05712 and Reva R. 05713 as well as Royce Ringling 9726. Sunshine R, 8315 was another notable horse transferred by Mr. Ringling to Mr. Rutledge in 1941. (Sunshine R. went to Washington two years later.)

Stormy H. 11753, a son of Sunshine R., was used for breeding in Washington by C.D. Parkinson, D.V.M. Dr. Parkinson sold him to Forrest Jones, Termo, California. Mr. Jones used Stormy H. extensively.

Sunshine R. appears to have been particularly good as a mare sire. His descendants were soon scattered all up and down the West Coast and are still found in the background of many Morgan pedigrees.

Winnemucca 8312, through his son, Duke 10183 (1945), was the grandsire of the important sire California King 11183 (1952). In the Susanville, California area Ringling Revere bred on for E. B. Coffin and Millard W. Ulch. There is more about these horses later in this article.

General Royce and Captain Royce were similarly bred bays born a few weeks apart in the spring of 1945. That fall they were sold together to Hugh H. Logan of Glendale, California. (Mr. Logan bred Morgans with the “Hel’s” prefix.)

Clark Ringling transferred Kyle 8439 to E.B. Coffin in 1941.

Thor 8980 was transferred to Joel P. Ricks of Smithfield, Utah in 1945 and is believed to have been used by Delos Huff of Spanish Fork, Utah.

Honda 8292 was a stallion Clark Ringling sold to Charles Damele, of the J.D. Ranch, Palisade, Nevada about 1936.

In 1949 Clark Ringling sold Winter Star 9983 to Mr. Walter Frazier, then of Edgemere, Idaho. Mr. Frazier later took this stallion with him when he moved to Winnemucca, Nevada.

Winterguard 10404 was sold to the Henry McCleary Lumber Co., Winnemucca, Nevada in 1950.

Clark Ringling was born in Philipsburg, Montana on July 26, 1886, the son of Frank Ringling and and the former Adelphia Dowler. He was indelibly impressed with the Morgans of C.X. Larrabee. (see Richard L Trower's article on Larrabee in the July, 1991 TMH.) Around the turn of the 20th Century, when he was still, as he termed it, “a young vaquero,” Clark Ringling rode a horse through Yellowstone National Park.

Young Clark Ringling traveled to Oklahoma and Missouri probably to visit a brother who may have worked in railroading. There, after an apparently heartbreaking romance with a Missouri girl, Clark Ringling headed west again, but he literally just kept on going. He took a tramp steamer to Australia. There he worked on livestock “stations” for at least a couple of years.

It does not seem to still be known why Clark Ringling selected Nevada, but by about 1908, he was back in America working as a buckroo for ranches in Central Nevada—particularly those in the general area of Ely and Austin.

A few years later, with savings from his meager wages and his profits from mustanging, he bought the “Kyle Spring Place,” comprised of only 12 deeded acres and a tiny adobe dwelling. Clark Ringling lived there alone until the 1920’s when he acquired a 44-acre parcel located roughly 15 miles away in Pleasant Valley. Subsequently, he lived on the new holding, but he retained the Kyle Spring Place. There he grew good alfalfa hay and maintained the small orchard he’d planted years before.

In a vast region of widely scattered ranches, most comprising thousands of acres or more and maintaining hundreds or thousands of head of cattle or sheep, Clark Ringling never owned more than 56 acres of land.

Mr. Ringling's horse breeding efforts continued from prior to World War I until after the Korean War. In the depths of the Great Depression there was one year when fewer than 100 new Morgans were registered to the breed. Clark Ringling just continued to plow along with his eye on his Morgan goals.

A discussion of the isolated and beautiful area where Clark Ringling spent most of his life would seem incomplete without a brief reference to the geological phenomenon which is the main fault that resulted from a mammoth earthquake during the night of October 2, 1915. This fault runs for miles along the side of the Tobin Range and is visible from Clark Ringling’s Pleasant Valley home. The quake must have been one heck of a thumper.

It seems that Clark Ringling’s animals provided him with almost all of the company he required. Apparently, there were often two or more weeks (especially during the winters) between his contacts with other people.

Even today, a visitor headed for the Kyle Spring Place from Winnemucca, Nevada drives along about 60 miles of dirt road to arrive at a spot near what is now called “McKinney Pass.” Unless the traveler is equipped with a good Morgan horse, an “ATV,” or an “SUV,” from there it is a steep walk of several miles up what was the entranceway to Clark Ringling’s first ranch. Appropriately enough, mustang and coyote sign are readily observed along the way.

Assuming that this steep trail was anything like as rough in Clark Ringling’s day as it is now, one marvels, while walking, at how well Mr. Ringling must have had to secure his Kyle Spring hay on his wagon in order for the loads to arrive intact at the Pleasant Valley place. However, there is more than adequate cover at Kyle Spring, consisting of juniper trees and other natural features, so perhaps he wintered livestock there to avoid the problem of hauling hay off the mountain.

The Kyle Spring site is located in a sort of nest in the north end of the Stillwater Range. It is difficult to describe the sense of solitude at this place where Clark Ringling lived alone and raised livestock. Gazing out between the mountains, which surround his high perch, the visitor can see for scores of miles in a couple of directions. Even in this new century, in all that distance, not one man-made light is visible.

Besides the life-sustaining spring itself, all that now seems to remain at Kyle Spring is the base of Clark Ringling’s small dwelling, a corral, and a few planted trees, including the remnants of his orchard. "Black Quartz" was the name he gave a full sister (1947) of Royce's Falcon. The writer of this piece claims no geological knowledge, but there appears to be a lot of black quartz in the area of Kyle Spring. One of the mountains that form the nest containing Kyle Spring looks almost black. It is much darker than its neighbors are. A little research would likely reveal whether or not black quartz influences this appearance.

As he mentioned in the interview for the Roth article, Mr. Ringling was a large man. He was described as extremely hard working, clean, and opinionated. He was a constant pipe smoker and only an occasional user of spirits. Infrequent visitors during his later years in Pleasant Valley reported that his tiny home, which, of course, lacked electricity, inside plumbing, and telephone, was always neat and tidy. With great faith in the value of “a 5 minute boil,” he prepared his own meals. He invariably washed the dishes immediately after he ate. In evening he would listen to “Lowell Thomas and The News” and then quickly turn off his radio to save its battery.

Clark Ringling had a lifetime pass to the circus. Acquaintances best guess was that he never used it. (He was related to those Ringlings.)

People in the area speculated about what Clark Ringling did with his horses when he left the Kyle Spring Place to report for U.S. Army service during the First World War. Some said that he hid his horses deep in the desert mountains. A few hinted that he killed them. This latter rumor seems disproved by the fact that records show that horses, which he owned in 1917, were still producing for him many years after the War. The rumors probably grew from the fact that, like serious breeders, Clark Ringling applied a stringent culling policy. In his Morgan operation a crooked legged foal was not long for this world.

Clearly, Clark Ringling’s independent manner was noticed even though self-reliant men were the norm in that region and time.

He subscribed to several horse publications including The Horse, TMH, (from its inception), and Western Horseman. It is a good guess that he also read the Western Livestock Journal, which frequently included horse articles. He carefully and enthusiastically read these magazines. People remembered how, when picking up mail from his post office box in town (or at the porch of a resident who frequently visited town and brought back the mail of other Valley residents), Clark Ringling would often partially read an arriving issue before heading home.

Fortunately for Morgan history, Clark Ringling didn’t just read TMH. He sometimes provided the editor (and readers) with his unique perspective on matters Morgan. Present-day Western Working Morgan breeders may appreciate his comments in the January-February, 1942 TMH. In his typical straight-ahead manner he prefaced by informing readers that “if they [his opinions] don’t interest you, chuck them in the wastebasket.” He then proceeded to inform them:

“We have no breed that is entirely suitable for a big job that exists all the way from the 100th meridian to the Pacific Coast. It is a job that will last as long as livestock is run on this Western range, and that will be as long as it is inhabited by man.

There is nothing on wheels, or in the air, that can take the place of a horse at this work. There is occasionally a horse of any breed or a mixture of breeds that fills the bill—but the percentage that does, among most of them, is so small that it is hardly worthwhile breeding from them.”

He continued: “After more than 40 years riding after cattle, my studied conclusions are—that the real horses I have known, ones that have done the job right, and have lasted many years—while of many breeds and crosses—all were very much of a type, and for size from 15:1 to a scant 16 hands, and 1050 to 1200 pounds.”

Mr. Ringling cautioned the editors of the then new TMH that instead of so frequently devoting space “to the legendary feats of the original [the editors should] tell what the present day [Morgans] are doing!”

He instantly heeded his own advice with this: “For instance, a chestnut mare, double granddaughter of Dewey (son of General Gates) who is fast enough and tough enough that her owner roped more than 200 head of wild horses on the open range from this mare in the summer and fall of 1940—Bernie Bowman, Lovelock, Nevada; and `Whip' (a son of the same Dewey) that was run without defeat for three years in quarter mile races."

Mr. Ringling polished off his points to TMH readers with: “I am with you to the finish for good Morgans; they must be of the useful kind, with all the good looks we can get, but never lose sight of the fact that if they are to become the leading horse of the Western country, they have, first, last, and always, got to be able to deliver the goods.”

In the February-April, 1943 TMH Mr. Ringling clarified that in his area mares were “worked” (in harness) but seldom ridden. However his story about Flora Magee and reports of former Pleasant Valley residents indicate that, more than most stockmen of his time and region, Clark Ringling sometimes saddled mares.

Among other things, Mr. Ringling conveyed more of his thoughts on the subject of mares in that same 1943 article which TMH titled “From Nevada.” He wrote:

“I have a few words to say in regard to disposition in horses. It has been shown me on many occasions that by a lot of horses that if you don’t get a horse with the right disposition, no matter how good his conformation, you will still have not got a very satisfactory using horse. I could name many specific instances where this has been true.

It is pretty hard to tell the true disposition of a stallion that has not been properly handled, but, as for a brood mare—shun that flighty or cranky mare as if she were the plague. For you are almost sure to get that kind of colt from her. While there are a few good horsemen who can handle them and get fairly satisfactory service from them, remember it is only a small percent of present day users of horses that will qualify as good horsemen. If one buys a horse for pleasure use, it should be a horse that is a pleasure to use and not a temperamental brute that requires an expert to handle.”

At least one of Mr. Ringling’s strong, reliable good-natured Morgans became a metropolitan police horse. While traveling through a Mid-Western city, he was once gratified to spot a police horse, which he had, bred and raised. Naturally, a horseman like Clark Ringling wouldn’t have failed to recognize one of his own, but the “R Quarter Circle” brand on the animal’s left shoulder would have cinched the identification for anyone else.

A LaVon Houlton article in the July, 1975 TMH entitled “Government Bloodlines…Their Influence On California Morgans” mentions several Clark Ringling-bred Morgans including Sunshine R. and Winnemucca. The article contains the following:

“Probably the best present day line from Revere came through his son Winnemucca [bred by Clark Ringling], sire of Duke 10183. Duke’s claim to fame, and insurance for the Revere clan of Morgans, was his son California King 11383, sire of a whole string of show quality Morgans, including Mr. America 12938, owned by Roy and Janie Coats of Delhi.”

In still another line the continuity of the Revere strain is insured. Beginning with Ringling’s Revere [8313-bred by Clark Ringling], down through his son General Revere 10527 to Candy King 11307, the sire of King P. 12280, a very good horse owned by Don and Joyce Straw, Alamar Morgans, Auburn, Ca.”

The Houlton article also reported that “Winnemucca was [all breeds) Reserve Champion Stock Horse at Salt Lake City, Utah some years ago.” It must have been a special moment for Clark Ringling when he received the news of that triumph.

He started with little more than he could pack on a horse. Decade after decade he worked alone on his 56 deeded acres and on the public range. He had a small residence and a few low sheds and corrals which he built himself. (Incidentally, his little house has long stood vacant and is in poor condition, but it and the sheds and corrals have survived at the Pleasant Valley place.)

With only the help of a team of Morgans, Clark Ringling used a horse-powered well-drilling rig to dig wells at his Pleasant Valley place. He then installed windmills to raise the water for his animals and himself and to irrigate his garden and what became fine crops of alfalfa hay. With the same Morgan assistance, he planted, tended, harvested, stored, and fed that hay. There is little reason to doubt that he shod his horses himself. Also, he was very likely his own horse doctor. (It is doubtful if a veterinarian ever set foot on either of his places. If it happened, it wasn't often, and it wouldn't have been until the later years at the Pleasant Valley place.)

Incidentally, Pershing County, Nevada, where Clark Ringling lived, has long been known for its excellent alfalfa hay. In that desert area the locations where there is water available for hay raising tend to be isolated from disease and certain harmful insects. As a result much of the alfalfa seed used around the country is produced in Pershing County.

In a note in the March, 1949 TMH Clark Ringling conveyed a sense of the conditions, which he sometimes faced:

"It has been twelve years since we had as bad a winter [as 1948], and a lot of stockmen seemed to have forgotten how bad [winters] could be, and they built up their herds beyond their capacity to feed them when it really got tough.

I learned it many years ago—learned it the hard way, by going broke. Since then I have never gone into winter without hay enough to feed—come what may. Cattle and horses can stand any kind of weather IF they have a belly full of good alfalfa hay. It is the poor and hungry ones that freeze. The mercury went to 46 degrees below zero [last winter] here in the valley.”

The law of averages and common sense suggest that in all the years of working alone with livestock and machinery there must have been many times when Clark Ringling came within a hair’s width of serious accidents. Admittedly, that kind of risk is always present for those engaged in his kind of work. The difference is that he labored alone without a backup. As he dug wells, cut hay, shod horses, doctored horses, trained horses, etc., if he got hurt or otherwise trapped in a situation from which he could not extricate himself, it is likely that he (or his remains) would not have been discovered for days or even longer.

Clark Ringling produced animals, which were so good that, in a time of greatly diminished demand, some of his horses were selected to be U.S. Cavalry horses.

From the perspective of the present day it would seem that there was little to encourage Clark Ringling’s sustained, backbreaking effort. Most of the time he was breeding horses for which there was little or no market. The tough, do-it-all, range-hardened, working Morgans, which he was producing, had been in considerable demand until around the time he got into full gear. It was disappointingly different thereafter. Yet, as with the stallion Winnemucca’s all-breeds stock horse victory in Salt Lake City, there must have been times when Clark Ringling could sit back, draw on that pipe of his, and take satisfaction in what he’d accomplished with Morgan horses.

Clark Ringling bred many good, cowhorse-siring stallions and placed them on working cattle ranches.

In a February, 1951 letter to TMH Clark Ringling wrote: “I try to breed them big and strong and with unquestioned good temper, able and willing to do the work required in this country. For several years now I have not had a stud colt left after he was old enough to wean. They have all gone to cattlemen for use on their ranches.”

Over the years Clark Ringling also supplied ranches with scores of honest and reliable cowhorses of his breeding. Some of these horses were registered, but the majority were not. Long after, old timers in that big country still remembered these good horses with respect. They didn’t start lasting Morgan families, but they did their job. Who knows? Clark Ringling probably even raised a few Morgans, which became “pleasure horses.”

Clark Ringling had little money or property, but he was rich in important ways. He had his freedom in a vast, beautiful, nearly empty region. His only bosses were himself and Mother Nature. His horses were his kind of Morgans, and he had all he could ride.

Clark Ringling’s 1942 letter reveals his pride in Bernie Bowman’s wild-horse-catching mare and in Whip, the Ringling Morgan who could beat all of the local horses in what was about to be called "Quarter Horse Racing."

Before he was through, Clark Ringling had produced Morgans like Royce’s Falcon, Winnemucca, Sunshine R., and Ringling’s Revere. As interest in Morgans finally significantly increased, some well-known, knowledgeable Morgan breeders sought, retained, and prized animals of Ringling breeding. The offspring of Ringling horses scattered to many states (and to Canada). Many of these horses bred on and left significant hoofprints in Morgan history which can be traced back to one man in Nevada’s high desert.

The black horse Royce Winter 11085 was foaled May, 12, 1953. He seems to have been the final Morgan registered by Clark Ringling. After that year it appears that Mr. Ringling transferred no more Morgans with the Registry.

Ms. Francis Kellstrom, of course, was the longtime owner of the fabulous Dapper Dan. In effect, she recently contributed a piece missing from the puzzle of what happened after 1953 to the Morgans that Mr. Ringling still retained. She reports that between about 1954 and 1960, at horse auctions in Modesto, Ripon and Turlock, California, she saw big horses, which were obviously Morgans, going through sales rings on several occasions. She says that each time this happened it was announced that the animals were “Morgan horses from Lovelock, Nevada.” She remembers them as good Morgans, mostly dark colored, and that they were similar in other ways to Ringling-bred horses she’d previously seen, especially those of W.T. Carter. She endeavored to determine out how to obtain their registration papers and thereby save some of these horses for the breed. She was unsuccessful.

Sadly, it seems that Clark Ringling’s Morgan horse quest had come to an end just before the 1960’s surge in interest in recreational horses. Some might surmise that he was dissatisfied with the direction that the Morgan breed seemed to be taking in the 1950's. Some of his later letters to TMH appear to lend support to such speculation.

In 1961, in his mid-seventies, Clark Ringling sold both of his little "ranches" as well as his remaining livestock. He was suffering from the cancer which had already cost him an eye and which would take his life.

Besides the fact that his registered Morgan breeding activities were long since over, apparently he was unhappy with certain modern developments including, perhaps, changes in the range policies of the Bureau Of Land Management and a recent rash of old fashioned cattle rustling incidents in the area.

Nowadays, the only thing that carries Clark Ringling’s name on the land where he worked so long and hard is a spot which the B.L.M. named “Ringling Well.” It is located in Pleasant Valley several miles from his second location. Unfortunately, the well is misidentified in Delorme’s Nevada Atlas & Gazetteer as “Ringing Well.” One wonders if the uninitiated have ever listened for its ring. It has none. Delorme has been requested to make a correction by putting the letter “L” back in the identification of Ringling Well in its Nevada Atlas & Gazetteer. Readers are encouraged to contact DeLorme to reinforce that request.

Clark Ringling died in 1969. Happily he did not finish his life alone or without a horse. This man, who had worked his whole life with horses as his trusted teammates, completed those last years with a mare he nicknamed “Partnership.” (It is unknown which one of his mares she actually was.) Even more importantly, he was surrounded by loving family members in Colorado.

Clark Ringling once told a teenager that “when I was young, I decided that I was going to do what I wanted to do and do it the very best I could.” On another occasion, watching a girl paint a picture, he remarked that in his Morgan horse breeding efforts he “sometimes felt like an artist.”

Striving alone, decade after decade, he did his best with Morgan horses in the still, solemn grandeur of the American West. The breed still benefits from his efforts. He was Clark Ringling, Lovelock, Nevada, a Morgan horseman to remember.

AFTERWORD: Thanks for visiting this website. It is intended as a work in progress, which simply remembers and appreciates Clark Ringling and his Morgans. Please contact this website at and provide your comments and suggested changes. (Constructive criticism is gladly accepted and will generally be acted upon). If you have information that can correct or expand the contents of this article please make contact. Such information it will be much appreciated and will likely added to the website.

There is much more space available on this website, so interesting facts about Mr. Ringling, his Morgans, or their descendants can easily be added. If you have such information, please contact this website.

Incidentally, the article's copyright is present only because it is perceived to be important that the article be read in its entirety (and not somehow reduced or condensed). The copyright has nothing to do with money. In fact, persons wishing to research and write further about Clark Ringling and his Morgans will be promptly assisted upon request. In short, discussion is welcomed regarding the topics of this website. (As must be obvious, Mr. Ringling, his Morgans, and their progeny are favorite topics.)

Copyright 2001 by R. Manley, P.O. Box 416, Rutland, VT 05701-0416. All rights reserved.

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