Rowland D. Stanfield, Sr
Rowland Stanfield’s influence on the Quarter Horse industry had such an impact that ten years after he left the business Jim Scarborough, from The Quarter Horse Journal, wrote an extensive article about him.
Some called him the first of the big spenders. Others called him reckless. He was probably a little of both but the truth is that Rowland Stanfield was a shrewd businessman who believed in the future of running Quarter Horses and had the guts to put his money where his mouth was.
Rowland “Stan” Stanfield was in the Quarter Horse business in a big way for a relatively short time. He operated his Stanfield Stallion Station in Broken Arrow, OK from 1958 through September 11, 1962 and the impact he left on the industry is still being felt today. A decade or more after he left the business his dollar sign S brand could still be found on some of the top-flight stallions and mares around the country. He was a fun loving, generous man, but when it came down to business he was always thinking about the future of the industry.
When Stanfield came on the scene in 1958, the Quarter Horse world was at an important crossroad. Three Bars and Top Deck blood had taken the Quarter Horse tracks by storm, much to the consternation of some, but the squat, bulldog type horses were still winning the halter shows. Many horsemen were in doubt as to which way to breed, the longer, streamlined Quarter Horse or the blockier built Quarter Horse.
Stanfield showed them the way. Part of his theory was that a good horse is a good horse regardless of breeding. Stanfield, whether he was actually thinking of it in this manner or not, directed the Quarter Horse public to both racing and halter horses.
In addition to uncertainty about body type, there was also much apprehension among breeders and owners as to what a horse was worth. Again, Stanfield led the way. He bought horses as cheaply as possible, but he bought with confidence and didn’t let price get in the way of owning what he thought was a good horse.
Well-known names owned by Stanfield in the halter class were Poco Chata by Poco Bueno, Ace’s Loeleta by Moore’s Ace; Tamet, winner of 44 Grand Championships, Strummer by Pretty Buck and never defeated Grand Champion Hot Shot B. Stanfield definitely led the way in halter classes all over the country with these and other horses.
The racehorse world should remember such names as Clabber Bar, son of Three Bars; Johnny Bull; Piggin String; Johnny Dial, the 1952 World Champion; Tonto Bars Hank, 1960 and 1961 champion colt; Paula Thomasina; Paula Laico; Myrna Three; Leo’s Queen Bee; Maggie Dial; Goldseeker; Sweetie Bar; Depth Charge; Sixteen Tons; Miss Wonder Bars; Sugaree Bars; and others of equal importance. Stanfield led the way with these horses in the running end of the game. Winnings from horses owned or leased at one time by Stanfield garnered every conceivable honor in the Quarter Horse Running world.
Further proof of his good judgment lies in the fact that direct offspring from mares owned by Stanfield compiled fantastic records. Through 1971, the produce of the mares earned approximately $1,400,000 on Quarter tracks; 15 are AAAT; 53 AAA; 58 AA; 24 arena ROM; 11 AQHA Champions, 1 World Champion Running Horse; 2 Champion Two-Year-Old fillies, 1 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly; The World’s Richest Quarter Horse; and numerous track record holders at various times. In addition, offspring from mares owned by Stanfield have won virtually all of the major championships, futurities and derbies around the country at one time or another.
Add to this list the names of the winners of grandsons and granddaughters of the mares and stallions who made names for themselves in the 1970’s. This story has no end, as good horses for generations to come will bear the stamp of Rowland Stanfield.
He gained the attention of the Quarter Horse World in a big way when in October of 1959, two of his horses, Tamet and Poca Chata made national news by winning the top stallion and filly grand championships at the International Quarter Horse Show in Chicago. A clean sweep by two Oklahoma Horses had never happened in the history of the show. The Tulsa Tribune even published an editorial cartoon about the two history making horses.
One month later, more news was made when Tamet won the grand championship at the American Royal Quarter Horse show in Kansas City.
Many claim this man, who grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Central High School, put together the best set of Quarter Horses to be found. He conducted two sales, one in 1959, the other in 1962. Both were record setters.
The 101 head of Quarter Horses at the Stanfield sale on November 19, 1959 averaged $4,000 per head. Fifteen daughters of Three Bars were in the offering. The total take of $406,010 was a record high, in total dollars for a public Quarter Horse auction. Also included in the sale was Sugaree Bars by Sugar Bars, which later proved to be the first AAA-AQHA Champion of the breed.
Stanfield’s second and final dispersal sale, on September 11, 1962 was another record breaker. A $647,000 gross, a $10,110 average and $86,000 paid for Clabber Bar, were the magic numbers. All three figures were new highs for a Quarter Horse dispersal sale. Lady Bird Leo and Leo’s Queen Bee, both by Leo and out of Yeager’s Lady JA, tied for the top-selling mare honors at $26,500.
That day the ranch in Broken Arrow was packed with buyers, horsemen, curiosity seekers and locals who had heard about the sale and the free barbeque. Cars were lined up along all the roads surrounding the ranch and Rowland said people from every state in the country attended. August Busch, Rowland’s friend and customer, made sure there was a large Anheuser Busch truck there dispensing the well-known brew.
That year, the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce honored Stan for his contribution to the Quarter Horse industry and the Broken Arrow Community.
The two sales culminated what had been a profitable experience for Stan. But there had been many obstacles, much skepticism and not all of his dealings had been peaches and cream.
Stan was fond of telling about various horsemen proclaiming, “Here comes the sucker” as he came walking up. “They honestly thought I was a sucker because I paid what they asked for their horses”.
The man from Tulsa knew what he was doing and turned what many thought to be mistakes into handsome profits. According to knowledgeable sources, he did well by knowing his business and playing his cards right.
Stan had a heritage of shooting for high stakes and dealing with big numbers. He was born in 1920 on an 8,000 acre ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma near Ketchum. His grandfather, Wade Stanfield, was one of the first U.S. Marshals in Indian Territory and later a circuit judge for the northeastern district of Oklahoma. Wade Stanfield was one of the first developers in the Alluwe oil field and according to Stan, did very well in the oil business.
Stan’s father was born in Indian Territory, and served in World War I. After being gassed in the war he could no longer stand the rigors of running a ranch and settled in Tulsa in 1921. He later became the CFO for Williams Brothers Pipeline Company.
Stan told of going to the ranch every weekend to visit his grandmother and he spent all his summers there. As he related to the Quarter Horse Journal in February of 1972, “I remember there were around 20 families who worked and lived on the ranch and I vividly remember the purebred Percherons they raised. One picture that we used to have showed 22 teams of those huge Percherons breaking bottomland.” It was Stanfield’s uncle who imported the first registered Shorthorn cattle into Oklahoma in 1914.
Stan’s education from the University of Tulsa was interrupted when World War II broke out. Captain Stanfield first served in Panama, then as an Air Force pilot operating out of the Flight Test section at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. He was a project engineer and test pilot on the remote control aircraft that were being secretly developed at the time. We now know them as drones. In October of 1945 his photo appeared in Life Magazine as he pilots a “robot plane” from the mother ship, as they called it, using a box with what look like “joy sticks” similar to today’s video games.
Before heading to Panama, he was briefly stationed at Hunter Field near Savannah, Georgia. While there, friends introduced him to a Southern Belle and beauty queen, Patty Johnson. Ironically one of Patty’s titles was Miss Savannah Air Queen. She was selected by actor Clark Gable to preside over the opening ceremonies of Savannah’s newly constructed airport at Hunter Field, just before meeting Stan.
They became engaged before he left for Panama and got married only a few days before they headed to the Dayton Air Force base. They had three children, Rowland Jr., who died in 2010, Patricia and Jeffrey. Mrs. Stanfield still resides in Tulsa, and regrets that she could not be here this evening.
After the war Stan returned to The University of Tulsa to complete his degree in petroleum engineering.
Stan went to work for Williams Brothers Pipeline. In 1950 he and six other partners bought the company. As vice-president and director of the company, Stan fell victim to the pressures of the business world. In 1951 he developed a severe case of rheumatic fever that left him with extensive heart damage. His doctor told him to slow down and not work so hard if he wanted to live.
The partners owned Angus Valley Ranch west of Tulsa, one of the top Angus cattle establishments in the country. Eventually, Stan left his executive job to manage that business. Mrs. Stanfield told her daughter that while recuperating from rheumatic fever he studied and memorized the bloodlines of the finest Angus cattle in the world. As a result he quickly learned the cattle business and traveled to Scotland and Canada to purchase champion bulls. He had an uncanny eye for spotting fine bloodlines. His daughter recalls driving with him in a pickup across the pastures as he pointed out the champions among the grazing herd.
The partners owned another smaller ranch near Broken Arrow. With the desire of being his own boss, Stan sold his interests in Williams Brothers, took the smaller ranch as part of the payment and started a horse business.
He hired Darrell Rose as ranch manager and they worked very closely together. Darrell said in 1972, “Rowland learned a good horse just like he had learned the parts of an airplane. When he went to look at a horse it had to be a doggone good one or he wouldn’t buy. On the other hand he expected his horses to sell for a good price and they usually did. He was an awful good judge of horses.”
Another thing about Rowland, Darrell said, “He spent a lot of money helping youngsters in the area. He gave away lots of colts and fillies to kids that a lot of people didn’t know about.”
Rowland was also an active proponent of urging the Oklahoma State Legislature to approve a pari-mutuel horse racing bill. In December of 1960, he and other members of the Sooner State Thoroughbred Breeders Association, including Dale and Chet Robertson, designed a plan to gain state-wide support for pari-mutuel betting. They also ratified a proposed bill laying out a pari-mutuel betting plan that was submitted to the legislature.
Feeling positive that their efforts would succeed, he even put his money where his mouth was by planning the Stanfield Stallion Stakes, a racing event which was to take place in Oklahoma in 1965. Since he sold his business in 1962, the event never took place.
As many of you are well aware, pari-mutuel betting was not approved by the state until September of 1982, but it was Rowland, the Robertson brothers, and many others who paved the way for the pari-mutuel racing we now enjoy in Oklahoma.
After the sale of the ranch, part of which is now the Indian Springs Country Club and housing addition, Stan explored various business opportunities for several years. None of them panned out as well as the horse and cattle business.
On March 11, 1968, Stanfield’s 24th wedding anniversary, the snow from an oncoming blizzard had started to fall. While returning home from a business engagement his car went into a spin as he was coming around a curve on the icy “river road” near Jenks. He hit a bridge abutment and his car settled in a ravine.
Attending physicians told Patty Stanfield that her husband would not make it through the day. He suffered multiple injuries including a punctured lung, broken ribs, facial cuts and a massive coronary. After three months in the hospital, one leg had to be amputated and he lost the sight in one eye. Miraculously, he lived, although it took a full year to recover. He acquired an artificial leg and started figuring out a way to make a living.
Once again, while recuperating, he had plenty of time to think. He used his engineering education and developed a better trailer sway control device. He also designed a new automobile transmission and engine cooler. In 1970 he formed Thermo-Chem Corporation and marketed his products all over the United States, Canada, South America, South Africa and Australia.
He and a partner owned two race cars used to promote their high performance equipment. With the excitement of the racing bug still in his veins, the two cars racked up wins in every major off-road race in 1971 including the famous Baja 1000 Road Race. Their car sliced 44 minutes off the record previously set by the well-known Parnelli Jones.
On the evening of July 23, 1973, after watching the All Star baseball game and eating warm apple pie with ice cream, Stan retired for the evening. The damages from the rheumatic fever and the automobile accident finally took their toll and he died at age 54 from a massive coronary attack.
Accepting the award for Rowland Stanfield is his daughter Patricia Wofford.