Lone Star Horse Report

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Profile: Cruse Acres
August 2007

The premature death of a friend helped Sam Cruse reset his priorities five years ago.

His friend was an equipment broker who often talked about his dream of owning a horse. But one day in his early fifties, he died at his desk of a massive stoke. He never did get around to buying that horse.

"I didn't want to die at my desk," says Sam, who at that time worked for the chief financial officer of a Wichita Falls hospital. The next day, he and his wife Laurie, who headed the hospital's foundation, sent in their resignations.

"We weren't sure how we would make a living," he says. "But we've never looked back." On their 200 acres of land, which Sam's father had purchased in the 1930s, the couple opened a "horse hotel" in 2002.

They boarded 51 horses that first year. In 2006, they registered 608 overnight equine guests.

The convenient location, the safety of the facilities, and the Cruses' warm hospitality have grown their business through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Their reward is not so much financial as social. "Meeting people is really the payoff," says Sam. "When you come here, you're a friend. When you leave, you're a member of the family."

That's what Danny Clostio of Lafayette, La., found when he stopped by on regular trips to Arizona with his horse Roscoe. "I came for the safety and stayed for the personalities," he says in his Cajun accent.

The ranch is located on the access road to U.S. Highway 281, at its junction with U.S. 287, on the southeast edge of Wichita Falls. It's the highest point in the city, Sam notes. "Our horses have the best view in town."

Each of the dozen covered stalls in the tidy well-lighted stable area has an ample run and sugar-sand footing. All pens are made of steel pipe; there's no wire on the place for a horse to entangle himself. Giant coastal Bermuda hay, grown on the premises, and fresh water come with the $25 nightly fee.

Security is provided by the presence of the Cruses, who live just steps away from the horses, and who are on call 24/7 to receive guests who phone ahead. Lucy the Llama protectively roams the turnout pasture. Motels, dining and shopping are within a few minutes drive.

Nothing but positive comments about Cruse Acres is found on the Web site www.horsemotel.com. "Sam made my first time hauling a horse a breeze," wrote one guest. "He met us in the middle of the night and helped us unload. Then loaded us the next morning in the rain." Another said, "Hosts even trimmed tree branches to allow our big rig access without scratches."

Sam's deeds speak of his generous nature, whether he's adopting a couple of Labrador retriever pups rescued by his local priest or sneaking some entry-fee money into a feed bucket for a hard-pressed youth exhibitor.

He hasn't forgotten his family's humble beginnings. His father drove a candy route before borrowing $65 to open a tire shop in downtown Wichita Falls in the Depression year of 1932. A 1945 newspaper profile noted that he couldn't afford a lock, so at closing time he would stack used tires against the front door and climb out a side window. As his business prospered, he purchased the highway acreage and raised cutting horses, notably a Hollywood Gold daughter named Lady Cayenne, later a prominent syndicated broodmare. In the 1970s, Sam was studying finance at Texas A&M when his father suffered a heart attack. He returned home to help with Cruse Tire Company, which had grown to include a full automotive service center, Western wear store and cattle trucking firm, and to finish his degree at the local university, Midwestern State. Sam kept the business running for about five years after his father's death, then sold it to work first in commercial development and then for United Regional Hospital. His job at Cruse Acres is far more enjoyable. "We meet such interesting people we never would have known otherwise," he says. Horse show contestants of all kinds, barrel racers, cutters, reiners, trail riders, even mounted shooters have stopped there on their journeys across the country - some from as far away as Maine and Alaska. Appaloosas, Arabians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Percherons, Miniatures, and even Shorthorn show cattle have slept here. One regular from Mississippi brings her quarter-million-dollar jumper (who also competes twice a year in England). Another trailers 10 horses from Louisiana in a "Cadillac of a rig," bound for the Arabian National Youth Show in Albuquerque. The next guest might be in a pickup with a camper shell and a one-horse Miley. Pat Parelli stops here on his annual USA Tour, as well as Priefert Manufacturing Co.'s Percheron show team, Texas Thunder. They are all welcome. In November, when the stable is full for the D & G Barrel Race in Wichita Falls, Danny Clostio cooks Cajun cuisine for the boarders. That's the kind of hospitality that brings travelers back year after year. In association with Fellhauer & Morris, a leading equine veterinary clinic, Sam also offers daily care and exercise for injured horses on a long-term basis. He also owns 10 Quarter Horses in partnership with Kathy Scanlin, the CEO of nursing services at a new senior care center. Kathy's favorite for pleasure riding is a Mr San Peppy granddaughter nicknamed Baby. With the help of Stephenville trainer Bill Stanley, Sam has enjoyed amateur cutting competitions on Poco Jacks Sondance, who traces back to Doc O'Lena and Watch Joe Jack. Besides the guests they consider as family, the Cruse's circle includes their daughter, Jenny Schreiber, director of cafeteria services for the nearby Windthorst school district; son Hugh, a computer analyst in Tampa, Fla., and six grandchildren. Sam is currently building 12 more stalls and hopes one day to add a show barn with a large arena and living quarters. He needn't worry about having a full house. For information, call Sam Cruse at (940) 767-9284 (cell) or visit www.legacyparkequestriancenter.com or www.horsemotel.com.

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3/29/11 - "I would highly recommend this facility to anyone who is needing a place to stay along with facilities for your horses. It was so nice to have your horse right out your door with a facility that was absolutely magnificent! I will definitely be back to enjoy the accommodations again. Thank you, Chelsea."