Living the Western Way of Life with Kenneth and Laina Banks
Nestled in Schulenberg, Texas, off the banks of the Colorado River, lies Banks Ranch, where long-time AQHA members and agriculture advocates Kenneth and Laina Banks live. Banks Ranch is centered around breeding and raising American Quarter Horses and cattle.
“We have about 800 head of cattle at the ranch that are Brangus, Herefords, and certified F1s. We focus on the cow-calf operation, working to improve our herd through a great artificial insemination program,” says Kenneth. “We enjoy making all the horses on the ranch go out to work the cattle, and sometimes we feel like we have cattle just for that purpose. The ranch is mostly our life now.”
“Along with our cattle operation, we have invested significantly into our Quarter Horse breeding at the ranch,” says Laina. “Our breeding program is very important to us, as one of our passions is to show horses we have raised on our ranch. We are proud to be AQHA Ranching Heritage recognized breeders, and you will see us on a Banks Ranch bred horse very often.”
Kenneth and Laina are thrilled with the future of their breeding program. They are looking forward to foals from their great show mares, including multiple World and Congress Champions Strawberri Wine, Shes A Lopin Machine, and Ima Shady Amiga. Laina hopes to be riding one of these babies in the future.
Banks Ranch has not always been the center of the world for Kenneth and Laina like it is today. While Laina grew up on a ranch where her family raised Quarter Horse racehorses, her education and her career aspirations eventually became the forefront in her life.
“I was raised on a ranch where I worked with horses and cattle from a very young age. Through some of my dad’s friends, I was introduced to the world of show horses. I grew up in the AQHA youth program, showing in the all-around events on a national level. I also was very active in the AQHA leadership and had the honor of serving as the President of the AQHYA, known as the AJQHA at that time. Then I had to put the horses on the back-burner for a bit while I pursued my education and early career,” says Laina.
In her professional life, Laina partook in a successful marketing career. She managed department stores for Macy’s and was even a regional marketing manager for Estee Lauder companies. “Now, I have been involved in almost every aspect of the Quarter Horse world. We are very big believers in the industry and the horse itself,” says Laina.
Kenneth began showing Quarter Horses in 1989 and has since exhibited in numerous events, including western pleasure, working cow horse, ranch riding, and ranch trail. A Texas A&M graduate, Kenneth enjoyed a prosperous career in auto manufacturing, where he managed 300 to 500 employees in the companies that he owned.
“Thankfully, we don’t own any of those companies now. We are, by definition, retired, which means we don’t own the keys to an office anymore. That’s a great event. We get to travel and live life on the ranch preparing to attend our next show.”
The two have both shown in numerous events, but their focus has been on western pleasure, western riding, and, for Laina, the all-around events. “Showing is really where my passion lies,” says Laina. “I’ve been on the racehorse and ranching side, but I always like to tie both of those aspects back into the show horse. Showing is where I met Kenneth.”
Most recently, Laina and Kenneth attended the NSBA World Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Laina is on the NSBA Board of Directors, and she felt the show was a huge success for not only the NSBA, but the equine industry as a whole.
At the show, Laina and her gem of a horse Strawberri Wine won the Select Western Riding World Championship and were Top 5 in the Horsemanship and Showmanship. She also tied for the Select All-Around. Kenneth took his young ranch horse to the show, as well.
“It was really fun for me to take my five-year-old ranch horse to the show where we ended up placing sixth. He is a horse we raised on the ranch, and it was really special. He performed so well for me because I’ve been riding him on the ranch for the past three years, where he works cattle and jumps in the creek. To bring him to the NSBA show and he be able to be competitive was an enjoyable experience.”
The two had a total of seven individuals place in the Top 10 at the NSBA World this year, including A General Concensus, who won a world championship with Gil Galyean and Strawberri Wine, who won the senior western riding world championship with Anthony Montes.
“We are so fortunate to ride with great horsemen like Bruce Vickery, Anthony Montes, Gil Galyean, and Bob Avila,” says Laina. “They put so much effort into our horses and our education. We are so blessed to work with these amazing individuals.”
Along with showing, Kenneth and Laina are both heavily involved with AQHA on an administrative level. Laina is an AQHA director and member of the Show Committee. Kenneth serves on the AQHA Executive Committee, working daily to help improve the industry in his role. He is passionate about having his “boots in the dirt” at the shows, so he can work closely with the people to learn their needs and help make AQHA a true member organization.
When asked about the outlook for the future of our industry, both Kenneth and Laina agreed, the future is a bright one for the American Quarter Horse. “We just finished the largest Youth World Championship show in the history of AQHA,” says Kenneth. “We are seeing membership grow at greater than a thousand additional people per month. We have had a sizable increase in registrations this year, which has been the most in seven years. Our corporate partners are more willing to support us. As a whole, AQHA is really on a positive heading towards seeing a successful 2021. We see 2021 as being an outstanding year for the horse and the western way of life.”
Laina emphasizes how much the equine industry truly means to the two of them. “We want everyone to know how much our life revolves around the western way of life. Everything we do is related to the horse and the western lifestyle. It is who we are and what we do. We want to see the industry continue to grow and succeed.”
Kenneth adds, “Two things that are special about this industry are the horse and the people. The horse is what keeps us together as an industry, and then it is the people who embody the western way of life, day in and day out. They are an honest, dedicated, and loyal group that is fun to be around.”