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Stylin A Little








It was 1981 when Mary Benson found her way to Southern Oregon from Seattle, Washington searching for an escape from the big city and a warmer climate. Little did she realize at the time that the years of work invested in college degrees in geology and gelogical oceanography would all be set aside for for a life with horses.

She had been typically “horse crazy” as a young girl, but growing up in Illinois she had never even seen a cutting horse. Her mother though, had been raised in south Texas, not far from the famed King Ranch, and was a wealth of stories about the Texas cowboys. Those stories stayed with her and resonated in the back of her mind so often that all she really wanted to be was a “cowboy.” So it came as no surprise when in the mid-1980s, a horse trainer friend took her to the OCHA Futurity in Prineville, Oregon - Mary was hooked.

Her horse aquisitions began in short order as she first purchased a reined cow horse mare following competition at the Snaffle Bit Futurity. It wasn’t long before Mary made the transition to cutting horses. She purchased her first stallion, Buck N Chex, then a six-year-old grandson of Doc Bar out of a King Fritz mare, and before she realized it a breeding program was born. She established Benson Ranches, began showing in the northwest and acquired some nice mares to breed to her stallion.

Mary has always had an affinity for the Little Peppy horses. Over the years she has had five of his daughters as broodmares. In 1990 she bred a mare to the great stallion; that baby became her first NCHA Futurity horse.

Today, riding and showing is her focus. As she alternates spending summers in Oregon and winters in Texas, she works with trainers in both places. On occasion an outside horse will catch her eye, but predominantly Mary concentrates on showing the offspring of her breeding program.

When Roger Freeborn moved to southern Oregon he had already spent most of his life around horses. From playing on England’s Newmarket Heath as a child, to dressage lessons in Germany, to dude wrangling in southern California, then finally making a livelihood and his mark as a farrier. Despite a clientele filled with great horsemen and celebrities, including the likes of Ronnie Richards, Jack Baker, Jimmy Kahn, John Wayne and Buddy Ebsen, Roger decided in 1969 it was time to leave southern California to raise his three boys in Oregon. He quickly built a clientele in Oregon and taught for some time at the RCC horseshoeing school. By the late 1980s Roger was shoeing for several cutting horse operations in the Rogue Valley (home to Arrowhead Ranch and C2 Cattle Company) when he started shoeing for Mary.

In 1990 Mary’s trainer talked Roger into shoeing for their barn, and so began a partnership. Mary and Roger take a “from the ground up” approach to analysing their horses. They both believe strongly that good feet and good conformation, coupled with trainable minds and athletic ability are key ingredients to a successful breeding program.

In 1999 they bred their good Little Peppy mare, Ima Hurrican Pep, to Docs Stylish Oak and got what they both thought was an exceptional colt that they named Stylin A Little. His good looks worked in his favor after a slip on the ice one January morning fractured his elbow at age seven months. Because of the potential they saw in him, Mary and Roger spent months of rehab on the young colt. Today they are glad they did. Stylin A Little went on to have a limited, but succesful show career, being shown in both open and non-pro competition.

In 2005 Stylin A Little began his career as a sire of performance horses at Northwest Mare Services in Terrebonne Oregon, conveniently located adjacent to Mary and Roger’s Oregon horse facility. The Ranch sits on some of the most picturesque acreage in Central Oregon, with the famous Smith Rock as a backdrop. The large pastures allow the Benson Ranches foals to to run and play freely, building a good foundation for their future as equine athletes. Stylin A Little remained a breeding stallion for 8 seasons, but in 2012 the slow economic horse market made Mary and Roger reevaluate their choice to own a stallion. Since Stylin A Little was still sound to show and over 60 straws of frozen semen had been successfully harvested, Mary and Roger made the decision to geld the then 12 year old stallion and let him enjoy life and the cutting pen he was trained for. He is now a happy, mellow gelding and a pleasure to ride, show and work with.

Mary says, “Benson Ranches has always been a small operation. We feel that hard work, good care, an eye to detail and strict culling of horses that don’t meet our standards are the cornerstones of our breeding program. With Roger to help me in evaluating the young horses, I think we are on track to reaching our goal, which is to ultimately help improve the breed. We strive to eliminate genetic problems such as HERDA and poor conformation. Cutting is too strenuous a sport to allow improper conformation, and while we realize that a proactive maintenance program is necessary for these athletes, we feel that starting with horses that are physically suited to their competitive endeavor is the best way to be successful.