The $600 broodmare, a lesson in breeding horses from my mother.
For nearly 20 years, I’ve promoted pedigree, expounding the triumphs of the designer genetics of our sport. I’ve pushed hard for the use of registered names and the submitting of results to Equistat. In doing so, I’ve watched the barrel racing breeding industry develop.
When I started working for Barrel Horse News, my leading breeders were largely racehorse people with a of smattering folks breeding strictly for barrel horses. Now, it’s completely opposite. It’s been fun to watch that part of the industry develop and be promoted through statistical issues and stallion registers.
I love that part of our industry. Heck, it’s the backbone of my very livelihood and countless others who see barrel racing as a business.
Yet, for thousands of others, the wins, the records, the pedigrees, and the costs that they entail make even the humblest of barrel racing dreams seem impossible. I hate that people feel they can’t have a piece of the pie because they don’t have the Gucci brand barrel horse.
I hate that people think that by expounding on the benefits of pedigree that it means the no name and grade horses are somehow less. In market value, yes, they are unfortunately worth less to the Gucci paying public, but they’re not less in worth—the value to the people who can afford them.
Where I, and others, too, have struggled is explaining how people with the no-name horses are as much a part of this industry as those riding and raising the horses with the designer genetics. After a good Facebook argument on the subject, I knew I had to find a way to explain how great names come from no names.
The $600 Mare
My earliest memories of horses were of riding with my mom and traveling with her to breeding farms and horse sales. She always had a couple of mares, but my favorite was Miss Snip’s Priss. She was a ‘71 model, and I was born in ’75 and never knew the world existed without her.
Priss was never broke to ride, but she was a friendly thing. I was her personal curry comb. If I climbed the fence or stood on the edge of the big cement water trough, she’d come ambling over and I’d scratch her all over until my little fingernails turned solid black.
My mother had raised her. She sold a cow-calf pair for $600 at the local auction and bought the proverbial gray mare Red Fox Snip, a 1959 daughter of Waggoner’s Snip, a son of Waggoner, out of Casey’s Billie Red Fox. She was far from the finest of equine specimens.
My mother’s plan was to breed up. Breed to the best she could afford and hope for the best.
Snip was bred to an Appaloosa and we got Sagas Red Fox, whom my parents sent off to be trained and shown. He ended up winning the Appaloosa World Show in the roping in 1979 (I loved sitting on the trophy saddle with the Apps painted on the skirt) and was a Bronze medallion winner.
Priss was Snip’s daughter by Hylita’s Son, a grandson of Sugar Bars that had some Joe Hancock and Oklahoma Star on the bottom in too small enough percentages to mean anything significant.
One of Priss’s first foals was by Drill, a son of Little Request (TB) out of Black Easter Bunny, by Hysition (TB). That pairing came about because Drill belonged to a friend of my grandfather’s. The foal was a crop out Paint that my dad named C Spot Run due to his one belly spot. He too was trained and shown, and ended up earning points as a reining horse of all things. Spot started barrel racing training but things didn’t go well for some reason and he was sold.
My mother’s quest to “breed up” took her to nearby Brenham, Texas, home to the now legendary broodmare sire Gay Bar King. She had actually taken the mare to breed to a son of Gay Bar King, when she got the first of many calls that plagued her fledging program. The foal at Priss’s side was killed at the breeding farm. This was long before the practice of shipping semen became standard practice and losing foals at the breeding farm seemed to be my mother’s special kind of luck.
I like to think it’s because my mother’s a sweetheart, but for whatever reason, Jim Daniels gave her a breeding to Gay Bar King. The resulting foal was nice, really nice, and sold really well at Jim Daniels’ annual production sale.
She traded one of Priss’s Gay Bar King fillies back to Daniels for more breedings. The filly, my dad named Bracota, after us kids (BRAndi, COdy and TAnya), sold as a 2-year-old at the 1983 sale for $13,000—that’s $31,000 in today’s dollars.
Now that she had her “in” and a cross, my mother continued to breed her mares to Gay Bar King or his sons. The fillies, in particular, were in high demand and brought good prices.
The fun factory ended when my parents got divorced and my mother sold her mares, one of which was Priss, who was in foal again to Gay Bar King.
The Past Catches Up
I got to ride one of the last colts my mom had raised out of another mare when I was a teenager. In fact, it was one of the first horses that I trained for barrels myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for us to buy the horse, and I never gave much thought to the horses my mother raised again until working on an article for Quarter Horse News almost 15 years later.
I had gone to Brenham to write a feature on Wichita Ranch. As I sat and talked with Lannie Mecom, she told me how a filly they bred had won the AQHA World Show in the calf roping. When I saw the pedigree, one name jumped out at me. Miss Snip’s Priss.
Polly Hollar had purchased Priss, and he had named her baby Patricia Bar King. He had leased Patricia Bar King to Wichita Ranch for a time and she produced several nice babies, including the 2002 World Champion Junior Calf Horse Gay Wooden Heart.
My mom was tickled when I told her that Priss’s daughter had done well as a producer.
The Phone Call
A few years, later I was sitting at the dining room table in California, working on an article for Barrel Horse News, when my mom called. I couldn’t understand what she was saying and she accidently hung up on me twice. She sometimes has phone issues when she’s excited. Finally, she got it straight.
“What did they name Priss’s baby?” Hello, random question, Mom. I think for a second and say, “Patricia Bar King.”
I hear the change in her voice, “These are my mares. These are my mares. Us little breeders can do it, too.”
She was looking at pedigree of multiple NFR qualifying team roper Patrick Smith’s Saturday Night Bingo, better known as Amigo, who had just been named 2007 AQHA/PRCA Co-Heel Horse of the Year. Every mare on the bottom side of the pedigree she saw printed in that America’s Horse article was one she owned or was responsible for creating.
When Smith later won the NFR on Amigo, they were on the cover of Spin To Win. It was just a head shot of Amigo and Smith waiting in the heel box. I kept that magazine cover, and when I look at it, I don’t see a sorrel head. I see gray. He has Priss’s head.
Once that mare got into the hands of people who had access to great stallions, there was no limit. We actually tried to buy Patricia Bar King when she went through Polly Hollar’s sale. At 25-years-old and way low in the back from carrying foals for so many years, she still looked like her momma, Priss. Unfortunately she was in foal to a top son of Peptoboonsmal and we didn’t get her bought as $4,500 was little too much of gamble on a geriatric mare for the sake of nostalgia.
The fun thing is her daughters have produced, too. Gay Wooden Heart is a world champion producer, and I actually came across a weanling of hers by Heart Of The Cartel, while working on an article that appeared in BHN’s August issue Special Prospect Section. If circumstances were different, she’d be in my barn now. But I take comfort in knowing that producers beget producers, so maybe that line will find it’s way home, someday.
Keep The Faith
The whole point is no one really knows what they have at the time, in the here and now.
Heck, my horseshoer’s wife didn’t know she had a full sister to Slick By Design’s mother until I told her. I only found out when I looked at the BHN Stallion Register and saw the mare’s registered name—which Lisa always used when entering.
You just never know.
This is why it’s so important to keep track—use that registered name, get the grade horses registered in any association you can, keep track of the earnings, and pay attention to lines of production.
Those no-names might not bring much at the auctions. They might not get into top training programs in the beginning, but if you keep breeding up there’s no telling how high you can go.