Walter Merrick
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Walter Merrick

Born into a western Oklahoma farming family in 1911, Merrick began his working career in the mid-1920s as an open range cowboy and rough-string

rider. From racing to rodeo, from halter to cutting, his influence on the American Quarter Horse industry has become a part of the lore and legend that is the American West.


As a racehorse owner, Merrick's horses have earned more than $1.5 million. As a breeder, he has bred 40 stakes winners and the earners of over $6.4 million. But, behind the numbers is a man who got his start as a teenager working on a ranch in Colorado, where he would break spoiled horses of their bad habits. In 1928 he headed home to Oklahoma, with a vow to someday have "good horses."


He signed on with the Figure Two Ranch as a broncbuster, and promptly fell in love with a young girl hoeing cotton. Not long after Tien Shinn turned 15, the 19-year-old cowboy made her his bride. The owner of the Figure Two presented his Depression-era workers with cattle from time to time to make up for low wages, and when Merrick had a herd of 14, he branded them with that number. It has served as his mark ever since.


Merrick parlayed his 14 Ranch into an operation, which ultimately spanned four states – including Texas - and encompassed thousands of cattle and, true to his promise, only the best horses.


In 1936, he purchased Midnight Jr, and when the American Quarter Horse Association was established, the horse received number 210 in the registry. With this horse, Merrick's racing interests grew, and he began looking for top Thoroughbred blood to cross with Midnight Jr mares.


In 1951, he convinced Sid Vail of Tucson, Arizona, that the Thoroughbred Three Bars should travel to Oklahoma where Merrick could fill his breeding book. Other great horses, which have stood at Merrick's ranch include Tonto Bars Hank, Grey Badger II and Jet Smooth. Another profitable pairing crossed Jet Deck and Lena's Bar to give Merrick one of his best racing prospects, Easy Jet. An equine member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, Easy Jet propelled the Merrick reputation to the top of the breeding heap.


Easy Jet's lifetime record stands at 27 firsts, seven seconds and two thirds from 38 starts, and in 1969, his two-year-old year, he was accorded AQHA's highest racing honor, the World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse title.


His hometown, the state of Oklahoma and AQHA all have honored Merrick for his many accomplishments. When Easy Jet won the All American Futurity in 1969, Sayre proclaimed "Walter Merrick Day" to mark the occasion, while Oklahoma State University named Merrick the 1979 Outstanding Oklahoma Horse Breeder. Two years later, he was the first horseman to be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. That same year, AQHA named him an Honorary Vice President to mark his service to the Association. He had become a Director in 1952. Merrick served on the Show & Contest and Racing Committees. He is also a member of the AQHA Hall of Fame.

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