The Kieckhefer family bought the K4 Ranch, 35 miles north of Prescott, in 1941 and will celebrate 75 years of ownership in 2016. Over the years the family has supplemented its holdings with property in California and southern Arizona. The cattle operations now total over 185,000 acres, running 2,500 mother cows.
Wanting to improve the quality of the K4 ranch horses, Robert (Bob) H. Kieckhefer began raising Quarter Horses in the 1940s, registering the first of them in 1943, just three years after the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association. Some of the first horses he bought were the reputable RO branded horses from the neighboring Greene Cattle Company. K4 Ranch has consecutively registered horses for over 60 years with the AQHA.
Within a decade of starting its horse program, the ranch was producing horses that were winning championships at racetracks and in show rings all over the West, in addition to raising good using horses. Bob was very active in AQHA, serving as president in 1976, and being inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1994.
One of the K4's early stallions was Hank Will, a son of Tonto Bars Hank purchased from Walter Merrick. Hank Will went on to become Arizona’s first AQHA Supreme Champion, earning points in Racing, Halter, Tie Down Roping, Heading, Heeling, Hunter Under Saddle, Working Cow Horse, Reining, Pole Bending and Western Pleasure.
Chuck Sheppard went to work for the K4 as manager in 1959 and greatly influenced the quality of the K4 horse program. A top hand and rodeo cowboy, he continued to spread his knowledge for over 42 years, training, showing, and racing many champions. The Sheppard and Keickhefer families merged when Chuck’s daughter, Lynda, married Bob Kieckhefer’s son, John.
Chuck and John were instrumental in purchasing the great stallion Driftwood Ike, the most famous son of AQHA foundation sire Driftwood, in 1963. He stood at stud at the ranch for 17 years and had a tremendous influence on the ranch’s breeding program. His colts were sought after by many rodeo cowboys throughout the years, and several of the mares being bred at K4 today still have Driftwood Ike on their papers.
About 15 years ago, Cee Booger Red breeding was introduced into the program, and the line has crossed very well on the Driftwood bred mares. Quick learners and very athletic, Cee Booger Red horses are highly sought after by ropers and barrel racers. Other stallions in the program include sons of Popular Resortfigure (the 2002 AQHA Superhorse and son of Dual Pep), and Fiesta Royale (son of Royal Shakem, who is the sire of many racing and barrel racing champions).
K4 Ranch now runs 20 broodmares with the bloodlines of Driftwood Ike, Tuffy Ike, Orphan Drift, Drifts Vaquero, Ike’s Last, Harlan, Oklahoma Star, Colonel Freckles, Cee Booger Red, First Down Dash, and Chick Bedeuno.
Today Rick and Sarah Kieckhefer manage the K4 horse program. Rick is a National Finals Rodeo qualifier in calf roping, and Sarah is a 12-time Turquoise Circuit qualifier in barrel racing.
K4 horses have been some of the most successful arena performance horses in the country, and today the ranch continues to strive to produce top all around ranch horses, rope horses, and barrel horses.