Courtesy photo --
The Crago family of Belle Fourche, S.D. was recognized as the Ranching Heritage Breeder by the American Quarter Horse Association.
Courtesy photo -- The Crago family of Belle Fourche, S.D. was recognized as the Ranching Heritage Breeder by the American Quarter Horse Association.

By Colleen Brunner

The Crago Cattle Company (CCC) of Belle Fourche, S.D. has been recognized with the Ranching Heritage Breeder award from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) for breeders who continue to uphold the ranching tradition. The CCC has roots deep in that tradition, dating back as far as 1887 when Peter Crago emigrated from England, homesteading in South Dakota. The first 320 acres were an orchard, but when Peter’s son, Charles, purchased the land, he soon focused on developing cattle, draft horses, and ranch horses.
The famous Rocking Chair Horse brand was registered in 1957 as a partnership between Charles’ son, Vince, and his wife Margaret Beckwith Crago, along with their sons, Bruce, Ralph, Chuck, and their families.
The history of the family brand is unique. The Rocking Chair Horse brand origin is a bit of a mystery, although the creation of it is attributed to Vince and his brother Chet back in 1957 when it was first registered. At one time it was used for both horses and cattle in the Crago business, but today is used only for the horses. “No one in the family really remembers who came up with the idea originally,” says Kristy Schmidt, Ralph and Becky Crago’s daughter.
Vince bought his first registered horses, a mare and colt, and a yearling for $100. He purchased a registered stud, Beckwith Dun. And that was the beginning.
“We want to keep that bloodline alive,” says Kristy. “Beckwith Dun contributed to the Crago’s reputation for good, solid ranch horses that can also be taken to the arena and show pen, and be highly competitive.”
The Beckwith line came from Margaret Beckwith Crago, and the Midland area, where they developed the pedigree that would become the cornerstone of the Crago breeding program.
It’s still all in the family.
“Beckwith Dun was kind of our cornerstone sire that started the Crago Quarter Horses and us having a production sale for 30 plus years,” Kristy says. “They go back to King, Leo, Poco Tivio and Sugar Bars.”
Margaret, at age 86 still owns a few broodmares, as do sons Bruce, Ralph and his wife Becky, and grandchildren Colby, Barry, and Clete and Kristy (Crago) Schmidt.
She has also run the LaMode clothing shop in Spearfish for the past 41 years, going to work six days a week.
In the past few years, Kristy and her husband have been attending and placing well at AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenges, shows that are open to any horse bred by an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder, such as Crago Cattle Company. The challenges consist of several different classes such as working cow horse, working ranch horses, and ranch boxing classes.
“It’s a lot of fun and a really great challenge,” Kristy says. “If someone buys one of our colts, since we are a Ranching Heritage Breeders, they can also take that colt to these Ranching Heritage Challenges and compete on them.”
“There were 360 Ranching Heritage Breeders in the U.S. and four were nominated,” said Kristy, referring to the award. “To be chosen as the recipient of this award is an honor.”
Schmidt said someone from the family needs to attend the 2018 AQHA Convention in early March to receive the award. The event is in Jacksonville, Fla. and at the time of the interview they weren’t sure who would travel there.
This national award means a lot to the Crago family as they are recognized for quality horse and a ranching tradition that goes deep.