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Alternate route

Ray and Pat Strickland deviate from the norm to breed Andalusian horses
Story and Photos by Chris Villines 2/23/2018


Ray Strickland and wife Pat have translated their love for horses into a stellar reputation for raising and breeding top-quality Andalusians on their farm, Wolf Trap Ranch, in Santa Fe. They also have a 30-year-old Appaloosa, the "boss" of their 15-horse stable. The Maury Farmers Cooperative customers rely on Pinnacle Horse Feed to provide premium nutrition for these athletic animals.
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Trek across the Volunteer State, and the landscape is dotted with horse farms primarily focusing on quarter horses or walking horses. After all, they are called Tennessee walkers.

But on a secluded stretch of beautiful, rolling land in Maury County, Ray and Pat Strickland are casting their lot on Andalusians, the ancient horse from the Iberian Peninsula of Spain with origins that date back as far as 20,000 B.C. Known as the “horse of kings,” these animalswere used as war horses, in bullfighting, and as stock horses.

Today, Andalusians are used as dressage horses, as well as for Western pleasure riding, saddle seat, and even jumping. The breed is, however, still relatively new to the U.S., as exports from Spain only began arriving in the early 1960s.

At their 800-acre Wolf Trap Ranch in Santa Fe, the Stricklands — Ray is a retired physician, Pat a retired nurse — have been developing and breeding these graceful, athletic horses since 2000. The couple, married for 30 years, has a stable of 15 Andalusians with mares and foals for sale. They also raise 60 head of Angus cattle.

“I first saw an Andalusian at an open horse show in Murfreesboro in 1998, and I was so impressed,” says Ray, a 1976 graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville who was a gastroenterologist in Columbia and Franklin. “What I was impressed with was their natural collection — the way they were, under a rider, able to round their back and bring their rear end underneath them so they supported more of their weight on their hind quarters. It’s what gives them a lot more quickness and maneuverability.”

The couple’s first foray into horses was almost their last. After Ray had expressed an interest in riding, Pat purchased an Appaloosa for him in 1996. The experience got off to a shaky start.

“He was a wild thing, very spirited,” says Pat. “We turned to David Archer to train him and straighten him out, which he did.”

That horse, Elijah, is now 30 and serves as the “boss” of the Stricklands’ stable.

“He’s very dominant,” says Ray. “He’s a gelding but he’s never believed he’s a gelding so we can keep him with the mares. And he’s a great horse trainer, too. He keeps the foals in line and teaches them manners.”

After watching David in action with Elijah, Ray and Pat have retained the nationally respected trainer’s services ever since.

“David is a naturally kind person, and I’ve never met a good horse trainer who is fundamentally angry or mean spirited,” says Ray. “If you get out there and lose your temper with a horse, you’ve set yourself back two weeks. David stays calm, and he can read a horse really well. He has preferred methods, but he realizes they don’t work for every horse. He’s willing to alter the methods to fit the horse as needed.”

 Currently, David is working with the Stricklands’ prized stallion, Charlie, who will turn 4 years old this spring. The veteran trainer says Charlie has the potential to be a rare “super horse.”

“Whatever someone wanted to do with him, they could do it, whether it’s dressage, reigning, or even jumping,” says David, whose has more than 12,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel of instructional horse training videos. “The nice thing about Ray and Pat is that they let me take my time to get this horse to where we all want him to be. Instead of sticking him in a stall when he was a yearling colt, they had him out and about with Elijah. Your studs are better off that way.”

Ray and Pat work with all their horses, including Charlie, “from the time [the horses] hit the ground,” says Pat. The horses are not put under saddle until they turn 3 years old, with Ray riding. He says he tries to ride “every day.”

“I do the early training, the halter training and the leading and backing up,” says Pat, a Maury County native. “These horses are so smart and easily trainable. If you say ‘back up,’ they’ll back up. And they respond really well to positive reinforcement. I’ve never seen one of these horses try to kick a person or another animal. They just seem smarter in that they sense things.”

Ray interjects that like all breeders, they are trying to produce the highest quality horse possible.

“For us, a perfect horse involves conformation, of course, but also an intelligent, sensible horse that is safe for anyone to ride,” he says. “What we aim for and breed for are horses that are athletic, trainable, willing, and kind. And we try to raise them in as natural an environment as possible. After they are born, the foals stay a few days in the barn with mom, then mom and foal get turned out with the herd. They are raised like a foal in the wild with mom and a whole bunch of other mares around.”

The Stricklands’ thought-out management of these equine athletes extends to their nutritional program. For that, they turn to Maury Farmers

Cooperative, where they purchase Pinnacle Mare & Foal (#331) and Pinnacle 1400 (#321) Horse Feeds.

“We start the pregnant mares on the Mare & Foal at 8 pounds per day, especially in the third trimester,” says Ray. “The foals start eating Mare & Foal with their mothers before they are weaned. Once we take mom away, we continue that feed for up to a year — initially at 4 pounds per day and increasing as their weight increases — with a hay ration in the winter and pasture in the spring.”

Ray says the Mare & Foal’s nutritional package is critical to the animals’ development.

“What we’re interested in is the 16-percent protein and the calcium-phosphate ratio, which is important for growing foals,” he explains. “This feed also includes, of course, all the micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins they need. It’s really worked well for us.”

When the horses turn 1-year old, they are transitioned over to the Pinnacle 1400 to provide continuous high-quality

protein and energy.

“It’s been great in maintaining the horses’ body condition scores coming out of the winter months,” says Ray. “We want to go into spring, when the mares are going to breed, with a body condition score of at least 6. The 1400 helps us accomplish this.”

Another mission the Stricklands are hoping to accomplish is turning more and more people on to the versatile Andalusian breed.

“There are only about 5,000 Andalusian horses in this country,” Pat says. “They are extraordinarily capable animals that are not that well known. That’s why we encourage people to come out to the farm on Saturdays and ride these horses, look them over, and see what they’re like. If someone ever gets on and rides an Andalusian, then they’ll know what makes them so great.”

For more information on Wolf Trap Ranch, call 931-446-3482 or visit their Facebook page.

To learn more about Pinnacle Horse Feeds, go to or see the professionals at your local Co-op.

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