Year Inducted: 2011
The legend of Oklahoma horseman Walter Merrick is an enduring one. For more than half a century he, his wife Tien, and their family bred and raised racehorses at the famed 14 Ranch near Sayre, Oklahoma.
Their family members continue the tradition to this day. Merrick’s impact on the American Quarter Horse breed cannot be overstated. He was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1993. There he joined Three Bars, Easy Jet, Lena’s Bar and Easy Date, all horses handled or owned by him.
Walter Merrick was sometimes criticized by his contemporaries for adding so much Thoroughbred blood to his American Quarter Horses. Merrick’s aim was simple—to breed the fastest horses in the world. He believed that adding the right type of sprinting Thoroughbred blood to proven Quarter Horse champions would enable him to do that. The results are hard to dispute. With Merrick’s help, the Thoroughbred stallion Three Bars became the leading sire of his time.
Two of Merrick’s Thoroughbred daughters of Three Bars, Lena’s Bar and Little Lena Bars, were multiple record setters on the quarter tracks and were capable of defeating even the best American Quarter Horses of their time on a given day. Lena’s Bar, when bred to Jet Deck, produced the immortal Easy Jet, who transformed the breed as a sire of runners and producers.