Among the rocks, cactus, drought, thorny underbrush and more rock lies William and Marcy Epperson’s ranch. Located on the Edwards Plateau the Eppersons have run everything from cattle and goats to exotics, to their now beautifully established herd of APHA Paint horses. Besides horses, they also raise Corriente cattle, specifically for roping, and Angora goats, which are shorn for the luxury fiber they produce known as mohair. They also have a few sheep and Spanish goats.
William and Marcy both grew up in ranch families, and started riding at early ages. William inherited the headquarters ranch in 1984 after the death of his father while he was still a junior in college. After graduating with a degree in finance he returned to the ranch and for several years operated in a partnership with his brother, Sam. They dissolved the partnership in 1988 and William began his part of Epperson Ranches.
After college Marcy returned to Rocksprings and worked for her parents. Later when William and Marcy married, she quit her job with them and started helping William full-time on the ranch. Now Marcy helps on the ranch when she can, as their 16 month-old son Virgil keeps her pretty busy!
During his college years at Sul Ross State University,
William team roped at college roping competitions. In the early 1990s, he was
a member of the Edwards County Ranch Rodeo team, which won the championship
at the San Angelo Invitational
Ranch Rodeo in 1992 and 1993. One of the people William rode a lot of horses
for was cutting horse trainer Robert Rust who is one of the top cutting horse
trainers in the world today. “ I rode horses for people while I was in
college and after, too,” said William, “We have had Paints since
the early 1970s. A lot of people raise horses and many have good programs. I
just could not find programs that met my needs. You can find cow horses—but
a lot of times if they’re gentle they don’t have a lot of ability
to be a cow horse, or if they have ability they’re so physical that you
have to ride them each day for years to slow them down. One of the problems
we have here is finding horses with good enough hooves to travel in the rocks,
especially without slipping and falling. Bruised hooves can really be a problem.
If a horse gets excited in the rocks, it doesn’t watch where it’s
going and it only takes one fall to hurt you. There are also many horses that
switch their tail or paw and can’t stand still when tied. Whatever the
problems—Epperson Ranches has no toleration for such horses without old-time
patience, so to speak.”
Both William and Marcy’s families began free-range ranching in Edwards County in the 1800s. Marcy’s homesteaded in Edwards County in 1878 and William’s came in the early 1880s. The ranch includes the headquarters, which William inherited from his father’s side of the family and some that he has purchased. The Epperson Ranch was established in the early 1900s; what William and Marcy operate is 13,000 plus acres, of which 7000 or so acres are owned; the balance is leased land.
The Eppersons currently have about 20 mares, of which they breed about 14 a year. They have one stallion, Docs Drifter, who carries a lot of foundation Quarter Horse blood, especially that of King P234. They do not stand their stallion to the public, but instead offer a select group of hiss spring for sale at all times. The Eppersons pasture breed all their mares and had a 100% conception rate last year. They feel that it is very important to ride the mares before they breed them to make sure that they have traits and abilities they want passed on. So, they ride young mares until they are well broke and then breed them if they meet their specifications. This is also beneficial because if a mare happens to have a dry year then they can pull her out of the broodmare band and ride her. They ride their stallion for ranch work after breeding season is over and utilize a rotational grazing system based on methods learned at the Stan Parsons Ranching for Profit School. Horses are used to move cattle from pasture to pasture. William and Marcy also use them to ride many miles of fence each month and for general checking of livestock.
The Eppersons are striving to raise ‘all-around’ type Paints which can withstand the rough terrain, extreme weather, drought and hard work. They need to have good minds and likeable dispositions, bone and conformation, a good neck set, and especially a good mouth (they like power steering). It takes some planning to get everything in one package with color to boot! They want their horses to be not only beautiful but also useful, and have the ability to successfully compete in performance type events. It is also very important that they are easy keepers and easy breeders. They need to stay fat on grass without a daily supplement from the feed store.
“I wouldn’t say that our main goal is the show ring, but the kind of horses we are breeding can fit into any performance program,” said William.
William and Marcy’s goal is to make a decent living as full time ranchers while maintaining and improving their land and animal herds to the best of their means and abilities.
William and Marcy have one child, Virgil Allan, who will be 17 months old this month, and they hope that he’ll grow up with an interest in the ranch. The Epperson believe that the right horse can be one of the most positive aspects in a child’s life.
The Eppersons’ large herd of Angora goats that are sheared for the fiber the goats produce, mohair, are rounded up twice a year. In large pastures (1000 acres plus) two to three people ride horseback to bring in the goats. Rounding up goats is a little different from cattle roundups. You basically make a big-zigzagged circle around the pasture. Which direction they ride depends on the pasture and the weather—especially with the goats since they travel into the wind. It’s kind of like sweeping the pasture with horses. It takes two to seven hours depending on the size of the pasture, and sometimes riders have to make a second round for stragglers. The goats are brought in, sorted by age, sex and quality, sheared, drenched and returned to the pasture until the next shearing season.
The Eppersons also raise Corriente cattle. These are the cattle you see mostly in the cowboy competitions. They make hearty steers for roping and dogging. William and Marcy continue the tradition of using quality horses to gather and work their cattle.
The satisfaction of ranching and raising the type of animals the Eppersons do comes ”from seeing the pleasure their customers get from the animals when they realize the quality they are getting.” It’s lots of hard, hard work and long hours, but William and Marcy sleep well at night!
Visitors are welcome at any time—just call ahead so they’ll be sure and be home. Contact info: William and Marcy Epperson, P.O. Box 546, Rocksprings, Texas 78880, or call 830-683-3131 or you can visit their website: www.eppersonranches.com. (Note that not all horses for sale are on the website at this time)
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