Wednesday, 05 August 2015 02:46

Living Happily Ever After

Written by Julie Brewster
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There are over 400 farms and ranches involved in horse racing in Alberta and just north of Madden, Alberta, one ranch sits in the rolling green foothills along a small pretty creek. Stone Ranches has been in the Stone family since the 1800’s, and Gerald is a third generation rancher. He met his wife Tina in 1965 in the alleyway of the Ag Building while showing Angus cattle at the Calgary Stampede. Tina, a city slicker who was born in New York and raised in Long Beach, California was on a road trip with a girlfriend and they were wandering through the cattle barn when she noticed a tall, handsome cowboy. They exchanged glances, stopped to visit, made a date for later on the midway, and next thing they knew Tina and her friend were having lunch an hour away at the farm house in Madden to see a real ranch. Letters were exchanged from Gerald (sitting in a tractor) to Tina (working in Long Beach). Flights were made to meet each other’s families. Love prevailed over distance. Tina had never been on a horse or driven in a blizzard or lifted a hay bale, but after a short courtship they were married and she was on her way north to learn to be a rancher’s wife!

Along with Angus cattle, Gerald and Tina always had horses, and daughter Amie ran barrels and was a competitor in the Canadian Finals Rodeo in 1985 and son Boe calf roped and competed in High School Rodeos. The couple also owned, raced and raised a number of Thoroughbreds, and both have a passion for the sport, and a love of broodmares and babies. After both children graduated, Gerald and Tina decided to take another kind of a leap of faith and they had a dispersal of their cattle operation and jumped into Thoroughbreds full time.

Stone Ranches is primarily focused on raising foals and selling them as yearlings. Their mission is to breed good quality horses for the Alberta market. Tina and Gerald make a trip to Kentucky every fall, and try to buy one or two mares who are in foal. The mares come home with them to Alberta to join the broodmare band. They have 10-12 foals a year, and they spend many dedicated hours in the spring working around the clock to welcome their babies into the world. Their day revolves around the mares – morning chores, turnout, afternoon checks, evening chores and hourly checks all night are all part of each and every day from January to May. They have a camera in their foaling barn, with a dedicated television in the house and they take turns being on night shift. It’s a good thing that both of them enjoy hockey, because it sounds like a lot of evenings are spent watching hockey on one television and mares in stalls on the other! For a woman who’d never touched a horse, Tina has taken to mare midwifery like she was born to it. She knows her mares – their routines, their personalities, their behaviours. She never misses a birth, and with her hands on knowledge she is able to ease foals into their life at Stone Ranches. The mares and foals follow her around the pasture, and there is clearly a level of trust and intimacy among them that is a wonder to watch.   

In 2006, Gerald took their Thoroughbred business to a new level when he purchased stallion Max Forever (Montbrook, out of Jiffener) at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Kentucky. He was the second last horse in the sale catalogue, and Gerald persevered through the end to make the purchase. Gerald and Tina breed most of their own mares to Max, but also take mares to other stallions if they feel there is a better cross available. With their mix of foals by Max Forever and out of Kentucky purchased mares they have a nice balance of bloodlines and a good variety for the yearling sale buyers.  

Gerald and Tina have a deep and abiding love for their mares and foals. When Tina states emphatically that “I want everyone who buys a Stone Ranches horse to get a win. I want all of my babies to do well and win races, because that makes all of the effort worth it”, she says it with so much emotion and passion that you know that even though the foals are sold, they never really leave her heart. She rattles through the names of her foals by referencing the broodmare “that was the second out of Graph” or “Malakwa’s first baby”, and she keeps track of their careers long after they are sold. When a Stone Ranches bred horse wins, you know that Gerald and Tina were in the background cheering it on.

Stone Ranches also boards mares to foal out for clients. They are as diligent with their client horses as they are for their own, and client Kathie Roller-Stell writes about Tina, “She is soooo good. I had bad luck with breeding Thoroughbreds until I met them. They've had my horses for a decade and, knock on wood, in a decade I've never lost a mare, or foal, or had anything really bad happen… and we all know s### can happen! Tina is SO vigilant!” That kind of statistic is very rare with any animal breeding operation, and speaks volumes about the level of care given to all the horses at Stone Ranches.

Gerald and Tina Stone are just one of the amazing couples who make their living in the Alberta racing industry. The love that Tina and Gerald bestow onto their mares, foals and yearlings is evident in every interaction with horses at Stone Ranches. Raising foals and prepping yearlings for sales is a tough way to make a living, it’s not a 9-5 job with evenings and weekends off and vacation days. Gerald and Tina do it for the love of the mares and a love of the foals who go on to race in Alberta. Their dedication and love is rewarded when one of their babies goes through a yearling sale, into a trainer’s barn and on to win a race. Tina and Gerald Stone are the big city girl and an Alberta cowboy who are living their happily ever after on a ranch in Alberta raising Thoroughbreds.

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