Article written by Tanya Randall • Photos Courtesy of Sharon Welch, originally published in the December 2009 issue of BHN.
For a top-bred running Quarter Horse, the colt was marked all wrong with his half-bald face, lightning bolt on his neck and white bellyband. Rather than besmirch the names of his sire, Top Breeze, a stakes-placed, AAA son of the Thoroughbred Top Deck, or his dam, Clabber’s Millie V, a race-winning daughter of the Iron Horse, Clabber, the decision was made to put down the seven-day-old foal.
Fate intervened when Vince Sanchez saw an opportunity in the royally bred and boldly marked colt. Vince, who was working for the ranch where the colt was born, traded a daughter of Question Mark, a stakes-winning and stakes-siring son of Plaudit, for the 1963 brown and white colt.
If not for that trade, the barrel-racing world would have never had Clabber Pinto (PT), the first stallion to qualify for and run at the National Finals Rodeo to sire multiple National Finals Rodeo horses.
“He has quite a phenomenal story,” said Cheryl Luman-Gatz [Cherry Sanchez at the time]. Cheryl ran Clabber Pinto at the 1973 NFR en route to rookie-of-the-year honors. “He was quite exceptional.
“He was extraordinary looking. He was quite majestic looking, and you could tell there was something more to him than just an ordinary Paint. You have to stop and think what most of them looked liked almost 50 years ago.”
Clabber Pinto may have escaped death, but he would soon find hell on earth as a match racehorse.
When Clabber Pinto was 2, he was put into race training in Cape Town, Calif. But the eye-catching colt caught the eye of an unsavory character, who inquired about leasing him.
“We had a guy call us about leasing him and we weren’t interested as we weren’t sure that was what we really wanted to do with him yet,” Cheryl remembered. “The next morning the trainer called and said so-so just came and picked up your horse and said ya’ll had done a deal to lease him.”
Clabber Pinto had been stolen.
“He was missing for six months,” said Cheryl. “We put ads in the Paint Horse Journal and Quarter Horse Journal with pictures of him because he was so different looking. We had a $500 reward out for him.”
An off-duty cop saw the stallion at Woodward, Okla., and made an inquiry. When confronted, the thief said the stallion wasn’t stolen; it was simply a misunderstanding. He handed the cop the lead rope and said he’d make a call to straighten the situation out. He left in a split second and headed for the hills instead.
Clabber Pinto was in pretty poor shape and had a bad case of diarrhea that left him looking like little more than a bag of bones.
“He was pretty sad,” Cheryl recalled. “It took him several months after we got him home [to get healthy].”
Once he was on the mend, his track career was forgotten and the Sanchezes started showing the stallion in every event from Western pleasure and trail to reined cow horse.
“Rich Randall showed him a lot at all the fairs,” said Cheryl. “Rich told me that he was the best big horse that he’d ever been on and that was a real compliment.”
When Clabber Pinto was about 7, Cheryl started him on the barrels. Although she had grown up showing horses and had competed in gymkhanas when she was younger, all that Cheryl really knew about barrel racing is that they had it at all the rodeos and fairs she went to and it looked like fun.
“I just started galloping him around the barrels,” she laughed. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but he just took to it. You know sometimes you don’t even know what you have.”
Case in point: After work one day, Cheryl took Clabber Pinto to the local barrel race in Fortuna, Calif. After winning the race, Sammy Thurman, the 1965 World Champion Barrel Racer, came up to her and asked if she would sell the stallion.
“I remember thinking, what a great day that was,” she laughed. “I won the local barrel race and impressed a world champion! I thought, if she took an interest in him, he must be pretty special.”
Cheryl spent the next few years running at the California Cowboy’s Association rodeos. In 1972, she bravely bought her permit with the then Girl’s Rodeo Association and entered her first professional rodeos at Watsonville and Livermore, Calif.
“Those were the first one-headers I had ever been to,” she remembered. “I won both rodeos. I remember winning about $400 and thinking ‘This is really something.’”
Cheryl really wanted to run at the Grand National Rodeo held at the famous Cow Palace in San Francisco, but she needed her card to do it. Edith Connelly, the GRA secretary, talked her out of it. The Cow Palace was the last rodeo of the year and if Cheryl waited until next season started, she could go for rookie-of-the-year.
And, oh, what a rookie she was!
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she laughed. “You’re just being led around by the nose because you don’t know what you’re doing. I got my mom, who was a retired school teacher, loaded up my girls, borrowed a camper and put it on the back of my Jeep and got my two-horse trailer and headed for Southern California. I was going to go to Houston. I couldn’t wait.”
Cheryl was working her way to Texas and the famed Astrodome in Houston. She ran at Palm Springs, Calif., Yuma and Scottsdale, Ariz., before reaching El Paso, Texas.
“When I got to El Paso, I heard a bunch a girls talking about how they got up at Houston,” she lamented. “I was still pretty naive about all this, but I had missed the entries to Houston because they were so far ahead. I can remember the deflated feeling I had.”
With the loss of Houston and heavy rains and copious amounts of mud in El Paso, weighing her down, Cheryl threw her lollipop in the dirt and headed back to California. Clabber Pinto spent the rest of the spring breeding mares until the Red Bluff Round-up Rodeo in April.
“I think I went to 43 rodeos that year and placed at 40 of them,” Cheryl recalled. “I only hit one or two barrels. There was only one rodeo where I made a run and didn’t win a check, and he’d slipped at that one and almost fell down. He was pretty phenomenal.
“Everyone always asked me what he’d do if he’d ever turn the first barrel. I said, ‘Maybe win better than first?’ I didn’t always win first, but I won a lot of them. Those were the days you could run a long 17 (on a standard pattern) and win a lot of rodeos. They were hand flagged then. We’ve come a long way since then.”
Cheryl won Rookie of the Year and finished sixth in the world standings with $6,957. (She’s listed as both Cherry Sanchez and Cheryl Luman in the WPRA Media Guides.)
On the way home from the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Cheryl took Clabber Pinto to the vet school at the University of California-Davis.
“His sidebone was bothering him so bad,” she said. “He was crippled. They did an experimental surgery on him and removed the whole outside of his foot. He had good feet and thick walls, but he had such contracted heels from the shoes. That’s the reason I run a lot of my horses barefoot to this day.
When Cheryl decided to retire Clabber Pinto to fulltime stallion duty, he was leased for a couple of years by Cotton Rosser’s Flying U Rodeo Company.
“He was a wonderful stud,” remembered Cotton’s daughter, Cindy. “I can remember Cherry’s girls riding him around the rodeo grounds in a halter and then Cherry would go win the round on him.”
Cheryl’s daughter Jennifer Alexander confessed, “We used to put feed on the ground so he’d lower his head. We’d climb over his ears and he’d lift his head and we’d slide down his neck onto his back!”
Clabber Pinto helped the Rossers get started in the Paint horse business.
“We’ve raised a lot of nice horses out of Clabber Pinto mares,” said Cindy. “I still have a Paint mare out of him. I wish we could have kept him.”
In the meanwhile, Cheryl and her husband, the late Ken Luman, a 13-time NFR qualifying heeler, decided to cut back on rodeo. They moved to Las Vegas.
Cheryl said the decision to sell Pinto was “just terrible.”
“We were trying to start our life after rodeo,” she said. “We didn’t have any business with a stud. We didn’t have a place to keep him. We didn’t even have a house!”
Though the Rossers wanted to continue leasing Clabber Pinto, the Lumans needed to sell.
Sharon Welch had seen Cheryl run Clabber Pinto before and her husband, Charlie, had roped some with Ken. She always remembered just being in awe of the stallion.
“I remember the first time I saw him,” Sharon recalled. “Cherry on her way to Oklahoma for the NFR and she stopped at a big barrel race around Las Vegas or Boulder City. She carried a whip with her and leaving the barrels, she’d just touch him with it; she never hit him, just touched him. I was totally in awe of him and Cherry. She’s such a hand.”
When the opportunity arose for her to purchase Clabber Pinto, Sharon jumped at the chance.
“I paid more money for him than I had ever paid for a horse,” she said. “It was a lot of money for a working girl back then.”
During his four years with Sharon, Clabber Pinto continued to win barrel races as well as horse show events like Western pleasure. He also stood to a full book of mares each year, sired winners in a wide-variety of disciplines, from halter champions, all around show horses, race winners, and of course, top barrel horses.
Sharon continued to compete on the stallion steadily until he fractured his sesamoid.
“He had really bad calcification on that ankle,” she said. “I injected it when I didn’t know he had broken it. I crippled him. I’ll never forgive myself for that. Had I known I would have just laid off of him.”
True to his Iron Horse roots, Clabber Pinto wasn’t done yet.
“We still competed on him every once and while,” she said. “We kept him legged up. He was a great rope horse. My husband headed on him. Every once in a great while I’d pull him out and he was always at the top even with the calcification in the ankle.”
Sharon eventually sold Clabber Pinto to Jerald Crawford, who in turn sold him to D.C. and Floyd Cogburn.
“I told Cogburn, who was in Oklahoma at the time, if he ever wanted to sell him, I wanted first rights on him,” Sharon explained. Ten years after she first bought Clabber Pinto, she met Cogburn in Albuquerque to get the 25-year-old stallion.
Clabber Pinto traded hands once more before his death, moving from the Welch’s in St. George, Utah, to Dr. James Allen’s in Vernal, Utah.
Among Clabber Pinto’s great offspring were three NFR horses – two barrel horses and one barrel horse that competed at the Finals in both the barrel racing and the steer wrestling.
In 1982 disaster struck Sharon Camarillo when her great horse Mister Shilo (“Seven”) got hurt at the rodeo in Albuquerque, N.M. Jerri Mann loaned her the journeyman barrel horse, “Cowgirl,” an unregistered daughter of Clabber Pinto.
“I let her borrow her until the end of the year,” said five-time NFR qualifier and current WPRA Vice-President Jerri Mann. “She made the Finals and her horse still wasn’t well, so she used her at the Finals. I think she ended up fourth in the average on her.”
That put a small winkle in Jerri’s plans. Her intention had been to use Cowgirl at the Finals in Oklahoma City because her main horse Dozer Corder (“Doz”) didn’t excel in the setup there.
“I liked her in the buildings better than my horse,” said Jerri. “I thought she had a little more run than my horse. My horse was consistent, but he really didn’t have the speed that the other horses did. My horse hit a lot of barrels and she didn’t. She was really the better horse to have for the 10-run average.”
Mann had purchased Cowgirl from DiDi Taylor, who qualified for the NFR in 1983.
“I bought her from Cheryl, who was living in Las Vegas at the time,” recalled DiDi, who owns the Tomata Ranch, a barrel racer’s home-away-from-home in Arizona during the winter months. “I needed a back up for my gray horse Leo. I think she was 7 or so when I bought her.”
Jerri sold Cowgirl in the spring of 1983 to “someone back East, around Louisiana, maybe,” and lost track of her.
Like her sire, Cowgirl was very broke and easy to ride, said Cheryl, who trained the mare for barrels. The mare even placed 22nd out of more than 200 head of horses at the Snaffle Bit Futurity as a 3-year-old. Ken also heeled on Cowgirl a lot.
Clabber Pinto’s second NFR qualifier was Cheryl’s gelding Nobody, a 1981 model out Direct West, a daughter of Westphal Lauro and out of Direct Princess, a granddaughter of Clabber Pinto’s dam Clabber’s Millie V.
“It’s like he’s half human,” said Cheryl. “He’s just a different horse. I’ve had him almost 29 years. He depended on us so for so many years. If something scared him or bothered him, he’d just come to you. He’s a momma’s boy.”
As a 4-year-old, Nobody won the Western States Futurity Triple Crown and made ten straight runs between 17.1 and 17.5 on a standard pattern.
“He could just really run,” she recalled. “I don’t think his runs were ever pretty. They were just fast. I just learned to never give up no matter how bad it felt because sometimes the worst feeling runs are the fastest. Ken always used to say ‘I’d rather see you got past because then I know you’re going to be faster.’”
Nobody ran at the 1989 and 1990 National Finals Rodeo and earned almost $50,000 those two years.
On a side note, Nobody ran exclusively barefoot.
“Nobody was tough as nails barefoot,” Cheryl explained. “When he was colt, I told my husband I was so tired of trying to find a horseshoer whenever they lost or tweaked a shoe that I wanted to leave this one barefoot as long as I could. He told me I had nothing to lose. If I didn’t win anything no one was going to say anything, and if I did, they would think I was really on to something.”
Ken and Cheryl often tag-teamed Nobody at the rodeos with Cheryl running barrels on him and Ken heeling on him. Sometimes the draw made the tack and rider change a little dicey.
“One year at Salinas, I made the short round in the barrels and Ken’s leading the team roping,” recalled Cheryl. “I’m about seventh or eighth out. He had the full brother to Nobody that we call Pidgin. He said if there was any way possible, I want Nobody. The team roping and barrel racing are at about the same time, except the barrel racing was on the racetrack. I didn’t even stop after my run. I just kept galloping around the track. He had three teams before he roped. I didn’t think there was any way he would use him. He had a couple of guys there to change saddles. He won the roping on him.
“One year at the Cody Night Rodeo, we were both riding him. I drew up dead last in the barrel racing; team roping’s the next event and he’s the first team out. He drew a big steer and figured he couldn’t win anything on him anyway, so he roped in my barrel saddle. It was a combination saddle of Sharon’s and it did have rubber on it because I did rope in it occasionally. He cinches up that back cinch, and ropes this steer and wins the rodeo. Everybody was giving him a hard time for roping in a barrel saddle.”
Nobody is still ruling the roost at Cheryl’s at age 28.
About the same time Nobody was running at the NFR, his younger full sister Somebody was waiting in the wings for Kelli (Fletcher) Currin, who qualified for the Finals in 1990 and 1991 with her stallion Captain Biankus, now a leading sire of barrel horses.
“My sister got her from Cheryl, who was running Nobody at the time,” recalled Kelli. “Nobody’s really tall, and Somebody’s not. She bought her sight unseen and had she seen her, she probably wouldn’t have bought her.”
Kelli’s husband, Tony, said Kathy was wanting a long-strided horse and Somebody was just a little chunky horse that was really quick, but anything but tall and long strided.
The irony of it all is that Cheryl didn’t really want to sell Somebody.
“She was the only filly we had at the time, and I wanted to keep her, but Ken priced her,” said Cheryl. “He didn’t want to go back on his word, so we sold her.”
Somebody is a 1985 model out of Direct West, a daughter of Westphal Lauro out of Direct Princess, a granddaughter of Clabber Pinto’s dam Clabber’s Millie V.
Kathy had Kelli train and futurity Somebody, who was anything but a piece-of-cake to train.
“She was a hot mare and I wasn’t used to the hot ones,” laughed Kelli. “When I started training her, I’d let her go a 100 miles an hour and when she’d finally slow down, I’d train on her. I think we either won first or ran off. We could loop the barrels and still place. I think I won six or seven saddles on her that year at the futurities.”
Kathi ran Somebody during her derby year, but started having problems with the mare diving at the second barrel. The vet discovered a bone chip in her coffin joint causing the early onset of arthritis.
Kelli managed the problem for several years, and was able to get her around her ducking and diving problem by running her in blinders. Somebody served as her backup horse and spelled Captain in a couple of rounds at the NFR.
When the arthritis made barrel racing nearly impossible, Somebody found her second career as Tony’s bulldogging horse. Somebody was one of the top dogging horses in the Northwest for many years and went back to the NFR several times in the steer wrestling with Brad Gleason and Trevor Knowles.
“She was the best horse to ride at Pendleton for a lot of years,” recalled Tony. “One year I mounted six guys on her and all six made it to the short go. That’s quite a few runs for one day in that pen. We finished one, two, three on her that day. My brother Ron won it and I was second.”
Somebody was retired about three years ago.
“She’s tough as nails and was honest as could be,” said Tony. “I think she could hobble past steers faster than some of these horses could run. When we took her somewhere it was like ‘how much money are we going to win today?’”
Much to Kelli’s regret, they were never able to get a foal by Captain Biankus out of Somebody.
“I bred her to Captain once and she absorbed the foal,” said Kelli. “Her uterus was full of infection. When Kathi got her she was really fat, so she rode her really hard to get her in shape. Turns out, she was bred and nobody knew it, and she aborted a colt. Maybe that’s why she could never carry another foal.”
Ironically, both Cheryl and Cindy hinted that there might have been a Clabber Pinto that made it to the NFR in the rough stock as well since Cindy’s dad had bred a few of his bucking mares to the stallion. Given the Clabber reputation to buck, it’s highly possible.
Carrying on a Legacy
Advanced old age and debilitating arthritis from his competition injuries years earlier finally caught up with the grand old warrior in December 1995 when Doc Allen made the decision to put Clabber Pinto down. He was 32.
One of Clabber Pinto’s most well-known sons was the flashy black-and-white Overo Other Brotha Daryl, owned by Jeff, Bonnie Lemaire, Wickenburg, Ariz. Bonnie, a former NFR qualifier, ran against Clabber Pinto a lot, and she finally had the chance to breed her barrel mare, Rip Roarin Eclipse, to him when he was 26.
The result was a 1990 stallion that the Lemaires’ daughter Betsy (Nunn) named after a character on the popular 80’s sitcom “Newhart.”
“He was a longer backed horse than Clabber Pinto,” recalled Bonnie. “He had lot more bend to him in his turn, according to what people say that have seen them both run. He was a ‘reach-y’ horse, had an incredible stride on him. His colts seemed to too. We get the same pictures, with that front foot extended so you can see the shoe on the bottom of the foot, with all of them.”
Bonnie estimates that “Daryl” ran out more than $10,000 during his brief barrel-racing career as a 5-year-old. Of that total, Equi-Stat can account for $6,651 earned at six futurities with Betsy Nunn riding.
Unfortunately, like his sire, a joint injection gone bad, ended the stallion’s career.
“We just stood him after that,” said Bonnie. “He’s probably got 65 or so foals out there. They were all live cover. I never did ship any semen. Everyone just brought their mares here.”
At age 19, Daryl is no longer standing at stud.
“We’ve had some trouble breeding him the last few years, so we’ve retired him,” she said. “He’s just out there eating. He’s earned his keep.”
Another top producing son of Clabber Pinto is Clabber De Oro, who is believed to be still standing in Northern California.
“Shella Dewhurst has a couple of Clabber De Oros that are really nice,” noted Cheryl.
Remembering a Great One
“He was a helluva horse,” said Bonnie. “Clabber Pinto he was heck of a sire. They were tough horses. They had good feet and straight legs. That’s why they last so long.”
Surprisingly, many of Clabber Pintos offspring are still around though incredibly advanced in years. Sharon still has one, Walter Bob, who taught her children and grandchildren how to ride and win.
As for Clabber Pinto, Sharon said she will never forget his power or disposition.
“I loved that horse,” Sharon said through tears. “He was a class, class act. I didn’t do the horse justice. We just adored him.”
They say one great horse will change your life forever, and Clabber Pinto did that for Cheryl.
“You could do anything on him,” said Cheryl. “He was a really neat, exceptional horse. All of them were.”
Tanya Randall is a frequent contributor to BHN. E-mail comments on this article to [email protected].
Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for the latest in news, training tips, horse health care, event updates, and all things barrel racing!