In 1996 the partnership for a well-respected Sporthorse breeding program ended. One partner took his share of the horses and relocated to a new location, while continuing the meticulous breeding plan with which his vision for the breed began. The other partner turned out his share of the horses on the 795 acre Yanci Ranch in Winters, California and let them free-breed. Top quality Appaloosas, Percherons, and Sporthorses (virtually all registered) comprised the foundation stock and the horses immediately began producing phenomenal offspring in a wild-west setting.
Numbers quickly increased to the point that for the well being of the herd the owners needed to cull about 30 or 40 horses annually and they did so through the local auctions, as well as selling a handful to personal friends. During the seventeen years the ranch supported horses it is suspected more than 500 horses were produced and most of these horses were patterned Appaloosas. They had added improvement stock to include Off the Track Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Paints, and Mustangs, so solid horses and a number of non-traditional Appaloosa patterns were also present.
The horses were feral and lived well off the land for many of the seventeen years, however the drought paralleled some tough times for the owners of the ranch and in 2012 the county got involved and required removal of horses, a number thought to exceed 200. Real numbers were impossible to confirm as there were so many different herds living on various sections of the ranch and the Yanci horses reproduced at a rapid rate. Since the horses were primarily feral (with the exception of the foundation stock and the improvement stock) and the recession was in full swing, it was challenging to find them homes. At the time of the liquidation there were some big-hearted people in the community who took a few horses home and gentled them for themselves and/or to make it easier for the horse to find a home with someone who might not have been able to take on the challenge of an untamed horse. 110 horses were given to a buyer who specialized in difficult situations such as this. He took 70 horses to the Cow Town Auction in Turlock (mid-November 2012) and the other forty went to out of state auctions and undisclosed local brokers.
When the Rominger family purchased the property in spring ’13 to add to their farmland there were twenty-three horses left behind. Seven mares quickly foaled, bringing the total to thirty horses. The Rominger family spent roughly eighteen months finding homes for the remaining horses. In an effort to make two of the stallions more marketable, the Romingers registered Chief and Flint with alternative Appaloosa registries (The American Appaloosa Association and the American Indian Horse Registry respectively). Both of these registries require a DNA submission.
In 2015 Renee Boice was looking for answers regarding the history of her new leopard mare Dottie West. Dottie was purchased through a horse broker in Clovis, California and the broker repeatedly refused to provide any history for the mare. The broker truthfully claimed that the sale of the mare did not include any history. With no other options, Renee began to investigate. Renee has a PhD in American Literature and the mystery behind Dottie’s heritage presented an opportunity for real life research. Dottie’s bold leopard pattern is extremely rare and she began by searching the internet for potential sires who might share the pattern. One potential match surfaced almost immediately in the form of a foundation stallion for an internationally acclaimed Sporthorse registry located only a few hours from where Dottie was purchased. An email with Dottie’s picture attached elicited a response which confirmed the possibility. The founder of this Sporthorse registry explained that his ex-business partner had free-bred their foundation stock and that Dottie could well-be from that ranch. He had little hope that it could ever be proved but wished Renee well.
Meanwhile, Renee contacted Heidi Green-Carpenter with the American Appaloosa Association in Republic, Missouri and asked if she had any suggestions for uncovering Dottie’s history. Heidi is an Appaloosa breeder with fifty years of experience and one function of her alternative registry is researching specific horse’s heritage. She has a practiced eye for conformation and color. Heidi took one look at Dottie’s picture and insisted Renee have Dottie’s DNA tested and run against a lone horse registered through the American Appaloosa Association two years prior. The organization had no other matches for the horse called Rominger Chief, but he was a stallion and he had run wild on a large ranch in California. Low and behold, Rominger Chief is the only horse against whom Dottie’s DNA was tested and he proved to be her sire.
Renee contacted the Rominger family about her search for Dottie’s history and the match to their horse Rominger Chief, a horse for whom Heidi had explained the Romingers successfully re-homed as a gelding somewhere in Southern California. Robyn Rominger is an experienced journalist and had taken many notes about her family’s experience with the Yanci horses. She and Renee decided to merge their talents and write a book about the Yanci horses, to honor the amazing horses who had lived there. To do so, they would need to track down every Yanci horse they could find. Because DNA had played such an important role in confirming Dottie’s place on Yanci Ranch, they decided to continue DNA testing the horses and to create a family tree. Due to the large number of Appaloosa patterns present, UC Davis’s prestigious Appaloosa Project became interested in analyzing the herd’s markings and using relevant horses to better understand the crossover application for the human disease Vitiligo.
The adventure continues as Renee and Robyn diligently work to locate and document Yanci horses that have rippled across the United States and potentially into other countries.