Ponderosa Quarterhorse Stud

Home to the bloodlines of Lynx Little Pep, Jessie's Koolibah & Mr Jessie James

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Jessie James

The Outlaw's Legend

At first the name Jessie James conjures up images of an illusive bad man of the old west. To the modern cutting horse industry, the name Jessie James brings to mind a cutting horse legend remembered more for his ability and unique style, than the outlaw attitude that gave him his name. The exploits of Jessie James have bought immortality to his legend as one of the all time great cutting horses.

Jessie James was foaled in 1943 on the Tom Elrod ranch in Odessa, Texas. He was sired by Red 204 and was out of Reno May by the thoroughbred, Reno Bay. The Red/Reno May cross produced five foals with Jessie James being the only one shown in AQHA competition.

Jesse James' pedigree is one that is heavily embedded in Quarter Horse history. His sire Red is double bred to Harmon Baker. Red's sire was Jazz, a son of Harmon Baker.

Jazz was bred by William Anson. According to quarter horse historian Bob Denhardt, Anson was the son of an English nobleman who came to America to find his fortune. Anson got his start in America by selling horses to his homeland for use in the Boer War. He established his 'Head of The River Ranch' at Cristoval, Texas. Denhardt credits Anson with being instrumental in saving the quarter horse with his breeding program and the historical data he collected. Anson was responsible for key articles on the quarter horse that aided historians like Denhardt in compiling the early history of the breed.

Anson had purchased Harmon Baker from Samuel Watkins of Petersburg, Illinois. Harmon Baker was by Peter McCue and out of Nona P. Peter McCue was by Dan Tucker and out of Nora M. He was a successful racehorse and became an important foundation sire through his foals like Harmon Baker and Hickory Bill. Hickory Bill was the sire of Old Sorrel, the foundation sire of the King Ranch quarter horses.

Jazz was out of an Anson mare by another Anson stallion, Jim Ned. Jim Ned was sired by Pancho by the foundation sire, old Billy. Jim Ned was out of a Gardner mare by Traveler. Therefore, Jazz was a mixture of foundation quarter horse breeding through Peter McCue, Old Billy and Traveller.

Red was out of a mare registered as the Red Dam 2971. The Red Dam was sired by a stallion named Louis Farr. Louis Farr was sired by Harmon Baker and out of a mare by Johnie. Johnie was an Anson bred horse. The stallion, Louis Farr, was named for the breeder, Lousie Farr. William Anson's breeding program is very evident in the top side of Jessie James pedigree and his record stands as a tribute to Anson's efforts to perpetuate the quarter horse as a breed. The red Dam's maternal granddam was also an Anson mare.

Reno May was sired by the thoroughbred, Reno Hay, and out of an Eidson mare by Old Salty. Denhardt's book on foundation sires lists Old Salty as being by Henry Barrow by Berry Ketchum. He was bred by Clarence Scharbauer of Midland Texas.

In 1945 E. Paul Waggoner, of the famed Waggoner ranch, bought the young stud and turned him over to trainer Bob Burton. Burton has the distinction of starting Jessie James and Waggoner's great sire, Poco Bueno. Poco Bueno developed into a famous show horse and a great sire, while Jessie James is remembered mostly as a great performer.

Burton is quoted while comparing these two cutting legends in Mary Ellen Harris Western Horseman story "Jessie James" (December1975). "I don't think there was a whole lot of difference between the two horses. Jessie wasn't near as stout a horse as Poco Bueno; they were just two different type horses. I don't think there ever was a horse like Jessie James."

Jessie James began his show career under Waggoner's ownership. In 1950 Ben Fussel of Eagle Lake, Texas bought the horse from Waggoner. Fussell gave Jessie James the opportunity to earn the NCHA Reserve World Championship in 1951 with earnings of $7,352. His rider was Matlock Rose. Jesse James returned to the NCHA Top Ten in 1953 with a seventh place finish. He was ridden by George Tyler, earning $4,397.54. Jessie James got his last major win at the 1961 Houston Livestock Show placing as the reserve champion in the NCHA cutting. At the time he was eighteen years old and ridden by Nolan Powell.

Fussell sold Jessie in 1962 to Jim Reno and Jessie was officially retired from arena completion with $18,961 in official NCHA earnings. He had earned the NCHA Bronze Award along with 123 AQHA performance points, halter and a superior Cutting Award.
Reno recently described what made Jessie James' working style so unique and memorable. "He kept his ears pinned flat to the back of his head all the time he was working a cow... He kept them pinned flat almost like he didn't have any ears. He would remind you of a snake the way he moved his head. He worked a cow with his head probably more than any other horse I've ever seen. He would move his head back and forth in front of a cow just like a snake. "Reno added that Jessie James was 'a tremendous athlete' that 'could run, stop hard and turn around pretty.' This horse did everything with his head and neck. That's the most memorable thing about him," concluded Reno.

Reno noted that Jesse James' conformation may have been a key to his ability, " He was a little bit short in the croup and he was flat crouped. " Reno pointed out that he was an extremely straight legged horse behind. Reno, the sculptor and student of anatomy, has found this to be true in many of the great horses. He cited NCHA World Champion Candy's Time, Jessie James and his wife's horse. Lena's Super cool, as prime examples of great cutting horses that are very straight behind. He added that Jessie James was almost post legged in his back legs.

Reno's opinion of Jessie James status in NCHA history is summed up by comparing him to another sports legend: "I always described him to the people that he was to the cutting horse world what Babe Ruth was to baseball. Babe Ruth was the greatest ball player and we thought Jessie James was the greatest cutting' horse... He certainly was a fantastic horse."

Reno's fondness and respect for Jessie James was shared by many of his fellow horsemen. One of his riders, Elmo Favor, reportedly called Jessie James the"greatest" he had ever ridden. In the Harris story of Jessie James, Matlock Rose called him "one of the greatest" he'd ridden. Considering that Rose has ridden five NCHA World Champions, this is quite a compliment for Jessie James. Jessie James was ridden by several riders who would certainly be found in a cutting horse riders' Who's Who. Besides Rose and Favor, he was ridden by Cotton Merriott, Billy Bush, Jimmy Bush, Willis Bennet, Bubba Cascio, James Boucher and Nolan Powell.

Reno sold Jessie James to T.O. Collins of Searcy, Arkansas. Collins stood Jessie James until he died in 1971 at twenty-eight.

Several legends surrounded Jessie James during his illustrious career. One was that he was an "outlaw". He apparently earned that title during his youth. Bob Burton told Reno that Jessie James liked to buck as a youngster. Reno confided that..."the ole devil would try to buck a little even in his later years but wouldn't buck you off." Reno continued, "He was an outlaw (as a colt) - that's why they called him Jessie James." Burton reported in the Harris story that Jessie has a scar on his nose that enhanced his reputation as an outlaw. Jessie's sire, Red, had taken a bit out of his nose as a colt and it left a scar on his right nostril.

One area that Jessie James appeared weak was as a sire. Jessie James sired 143 registered quarter horse foals including 36 performers with 16 ROMs and one AQHA Champion. His sire record seems to fall short of the legend that came about through his ability as a cutting horse.

Fannie James by Jessie James was an early performer for her sire. She qualified for ninth place in the 1952 NCHA Top Ten and sixth in the 1953 NCHA Top Ten while earning the NCHA Bronze Award. Her 1953 effort put her sire who was in seventh place. Fannie James earned her ROM and 26 AQHA performance points as well.

Martins Jessie joined his sire and sister as an NCHA Bronze Award winner while earning his AQHA Championship and a superior rating in cutting. Martin's Jessie was a qualifier for the NCHA Top Ten in 1972.

Reno concedes that Jessie James' sire record was hurt by his limited opportunity - especially as a young horse. "He just wasn't bred to that many good mares as a young horse, "explained Reno. He continued by stressing that it's important for a young horse to have the best opportunity while he is young and Jessie James didn't have that opportunity.

The Jessie James/Pretty Rosalie cross gives a clue to what Jessie James could do when put to a top mare. Pretty Rosalie was a major contributor to the quarter horse breed through her sons, Poco Pine and Poco Stampede. Poco Pine was an AQHA Champion that became a leading sire. Poco Stampede was an AQHA Champion that became the 1959 NCHA World Champion Cutting Horse. Pretty Rosalie's good sons were sired by Jessie James' famous stable mate - Poco Bueno. However, Pretty Rosalie is the mother of two daughters by Jessie James. They are R.L. Banjo Eyes and Jessie Rose. R.L. Banjo Eyes earned an ROM with 13 AQHA show points and was the dam of Poco Jessie. Poco Jessie became an AQHA Champion with 19 halter points and 89 working points. She also earned a Superior award in cutting. Poco Jessie's sire was Poco Bueno.

Jessie Rose has no AQHA show record, but she is the dam of Poco Imprint is an AQHA Champion with 22 points and 46 working points with 39 of them being cutting points. Poco Imprints is the sire of such horses as Imprint's Hope, an AQHA Superior Cutting Horse that was a 1974 and 1975 AQHA World Show qualifier, and Imps Double Jessie is a cutting horse that was a top novice horse at the 1982 Congress show. He is out of Mae Wood, a daughter of Jessie James.

Martin's Jessie supports that Jessie James, Poco Bueno and Pretty Rosalie cross. He is sired by Jessie James and out of Rosy Poco, a daughter of Poco Bueno that is out of Pretty Rosalie.

Jessie James has only 27 AQHA producing daughters with 53 performers that have earned 12 ROMs and two AQHA Championships. Among his daughters you'll find Suzyque James. Suzyque James is the dam of the 1970 AQHA Honour Roll Cutting Horse Jessie James Leo by War Bond Leo. Jessie James Leo edged out Bill's Highness by six points for his title. Jessie James Leo earned 63 cutting points and 15 Halter points.

Jesse James' sons are represented by such individuals as Collins James. Collins James, foaled in 1969, is a successful sire of halter and performance winners. He is the sire of the 1979AQHA High Point Cutting Mare Jess Ta Lady and Jess an Impression an AQHA Champion with over 130 AQHA adult and youth points.

Fred Stolz, the former owner of Collins Jessie, is the owner of Docs Adonis. Docs Adonis is a son of Doc Barand out of Collins Daisy. Collins Daisy is an NCHA Certificate of Ability earner by Jessie James. Docs Adonis will be given an opportunity to carry on the Jessie James bloodlines through the cross with Doc Bar.

The life of Jessie James has become a combination of fact and legend. He was one of the all time great cutting horses and possibly the greatest to ever live. Jim Reno's final comments put his ability into perspective with today's great cutting horses. "I saw this horse do things that were equal to anything we think our good horses are doing today and more. There was no limit to his ability. If we'd worked horses in those days like we do now...if we had known how to train a horse then like we do now...there's no telling how great that horse could have been. "Fitting words for the "outlaw legend" of Jessie James.