Walter Hellyer 1923 – 2017

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Walter Hellyer, Waterford, Ontario, an NCHA Hall of Fame Member, past president of the Canadian Quarter Horse Association, and influential breeder of cutting horses, passed away on May 3, at the age of 93.

Hellyer grew up on a farm in Ontario, where he developed a love for working horses. By the late 1950s, he had become active in American Quarter Horse (AQHA) events, and he joined the National Cutting Horse (NCHA) in 1963. During the same period, he met pioneer cutting horse trainers Buster Welch and Shorty Freeman, who both showed horses for him.

As Hellyer expanded his Quarter Horse broodmare band, he shipped many of them to Texas, under the care of Shorty Freeman and Terry Riddle, who also trained and showed many of their offspring. In 1973, Hellyer purchased half-interest in the 1970 NCHA Futurity champion Doc O’Lena from Freeman, who had shown the Doc Bar son, out of the famed cutting champion Poco Lena.

In 1978, Freeman and Hellyer syndicated Doc O’Lena for $1.2 million, each retaining 10 shares from the total 70 shares. It was the first major syndication of a cutting stallion and was to have a lasting impact on the sport of cutting.

Doc O’Lena’s influence as a sire and grandsire is legendary. His Hellyer-bred offspring include Lenas Jewel Bars, sire of earners of $4.7 million and Playboys Madera LTE $409,761, 1988 NCHA Non-Pro World Champion and dam of 1993 NCHA Futurity Open Champion Playboy McCrae.

Hellyer is survived by his wife of 71 years, Doreen, as well as their children Pam Hellyer, Brenda (and Murray) Wivell, Warren (and Diana) Hellyer, Victoria Hellyer (and Dave Pavey), Margaret Kotsch, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Little but mighty: Meradas Little Sue 1990 – 2017

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
Meradas Little Sue

Meradas Little Sue with Nancy Pearce and Penny Youngblood. Photo by Constance Jaeggi.

Meradas Little Sue, three-times NCHA World Champion, 1996 NCHA Horse of the Year, and NCHA earner of $670,098, was put to rest on April 21, 2017, twenty-seven years to the day after she was foaled, in 1990. She spent her final years at Circle Y Ranch in Millsap, Tex., under the devoted care of Penny Youngblood and Nancy Pearce, who purchased her in December 2014, at the Western Bloodstock NCHA Futurity Sales.

“We were looking at a daughter of Meradas Little Sue … and as I was thumbing through the (sale) catalog, there was Meradas Little Sue, and my heart stopped beating,” said Pearce. “We thought, if nothing ever happens with this mare, reproductively, if we can buy her, she will have a wonderful loving home for the rest of her life. The rest is history.”

Sired by Freckles Merada and out of Docs Hickory Sue, by Doc’s Hickory, Meradas Little Sue was bred by NCHA Hall of Fame Member Kenneth Galyean and shown by his son, Jody Galyean, an NCHA Hall of Fame Rider, to place fifth in the 1993 NCHA Futurity.

Meanwhile, Kobie Wood, who had shown the stallion Cash Quixote Rio as 1990 and 1992 NCHA World Champion for Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, had his eye on Meradas Little Sue and convinced the Heiligbrodts to purchase her in April 1994.

“She was a little mare, but real gritty, with a lot of heart and intensity,” said Wood. “She was one that if you cut for two and a half minutes, she would. A horse that can hold one for two and a half minutes, whether it runs out of air or whatever, is a good horse.”

In 2001, Meradas Little Sue was sold by the Heiligbrodts, also prominent Thoroughbred owners, at the Western Bloodstock NCHA Futurity Sales for an all-time cutting horse record of $875,000. “When we bought her, Kobie and I both showed her in the open and non-pro and we advanced to the finals 90 percent of the time, in both of them,” said Corinne Heiligbrodt. “That tells you what kind of horse she is. Dynamite comes in small packages.”

Meradas Little Sue is the dam of 26 NCHA money earners of $1,490,354, with an average of $57,321. Two clones, bred and owned by Circle Y Ranch, were foaled in 2015 – Meradas Little One and Meradas Little Two. Circle Y Ranch is also the home of Im Countin Checks, a current leading sire of NCHA money earners.

Don Bussey, 1937-2016

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Don BusseyFormer NCHA President and Members Hall of Fame inductee Don Bussey, 79, of Guin, Alabama, passed away August 2.

Beginning in the 1980s, Bussey enjoyed showing both on the weekends and in limited age events. He served as an affiliate president, NCHA Director, and member of the NCHA Executive Committee before eventually becoming NCHA President in 2004.

At the same time, he was active in his community, as a banker, a member of Guin’s Industrial Development Board, and as a civic leader.

Bussey’s interest in cutting traced back to the early 1970s when he visited a friend in Oklahoma who rode cutting horses. Bussey rodeoed in high school and spent years with western pleasure horses before the cutting bug bit him for good.

“I guess I wanted to get more active riding than just going in circles,” he said. “When you ride a cutting horse for the first time and feel one or two big moves, you’re hung. It’s addictive. The second time you ride one, you’re hung worse. After that, you’re over the hill. You’ve got to have one.”

Known for his sense of humor, Bussey never wavered from his belief that cutting should be fun.

As president of the North Alabama Cutting Horse Association, he promoted an Amateur Cutting Tournament that offered Rubbermaid buckets for prizes.

“A lot of people get the wrong idea that people just cut for money,” he said. “That’s not true. Those Amateurs who won a bucket were thrilled.”

Along with James Hooper and the late Pat Earnheart, Bussey revived the Memphis Futurity, to give the sport a solid event east of the Mississippi. It continues to thrive today as the Tunica Futurity.

In his campaign in the NCHA Vice President elections, he said, “I want to do all that I can to ensure that my children and yours, my grandchildren and yours, can enjoy the thrill and excitement that I have felt while participating in cutting.”

Services will be held Friday, August 5 at 3:00 p.m. at Guin First Baptist Church, with burial in the Guin City Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday from 1:00-3:00 at Guin First Baptist Church.

Albert Paxton, 1922-2015

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Albert PaxtonAlbert Paxton, 93, who played a major role in the spread of cutting in Northern Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta region, passed away June 8. Paxton, who was inducted into the NCHA Members Hall of Fame in 2002, established Paxton Quarter Horses in Tallulah, Louisiana after serving in World War II.

He was the first president of the Mississippi Quarter Horse Association and a lifetime member of the American Quarter Horse Association.

In 1956 Paxton and a few others brought cutting to the area with a $500-added show in Vicksburg, Mississippi. That led to the establishment of the North East Louisiana Cutting Horse Association in 1961.

In 1957, Paxton bought Poco Poco, an own son of King that was an NCHA money earner and a grand champion at halter. Poco Poco sired NCHA World Champion King Skeet.

One of the most famous horses he bred was Docs Otoetta, winner of the 1981 NCHA Derby with Bill Riddle. In 1982, she set a record for the most money ever won by a cutting horse in a single year with $92,390. She also won the NCHA Open Classic and placed second in the Non-Pro Classic that year, ridden by John Paxton.

Albert Paxton is survived by his wife, Suzanne Brunazzi Paxton; sons, Albert Henry Paxton, Jr. (Sarah), William Theo Paxton (Charlynne), John Houston Paxton, James Edward Paxton (Chris); daughters, Pamela Paxton Ferriss (David), and Valeria Paxton MacPhail (William); step-children Cecilia Grant Draper, Thomas Arthur Grant, III and Richard Arthur Grant; and many grandchildren.

Olan Hightower 1935 – 2014

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Olan Hightower, winner of the 1976 NCHA Futurity, passed away on Sunday, November 2, 2014.

Raised to agriculture in East Texas, as a youngster Hightower gravitated toward ranch work and horses. By the time he married his childhood sweetheart, Peggy, Hightower was training and showing Quarter Horses, and took up cutting in 1959, at the age of 24.

Hightower had given up full-time training and showing in the early-1970s for a landscaping business in Houston, but was lured back to competition by Bob McLeod, who had purchased a talented 3-year-old colt from longtime NCHA president and cutting horse breeder Marion Flynt. McLeod wanted Hightower to prepare Colonel Freckles, a son of Flynt’s stallion Jewel’s Leo Bars, for the NCHA Futurity.

“Terry Riddle had started him and it was the middle of April when I got him,” said Hightower of Colonel Freckles, whose dam, Christy Jay, was by Rey Jay, sire of the 1966 Futurity champion, Rey Jay’s Pete. “And we took it from there and went to the Futurity with him and got lucky.”

The Hightower’s children, Faron, Dan, Melissa, Margaret and Tina Marie, were all involved with rodeos and horse shows as youth, but it was Faron, a member of the NCHA Hall of Fame, who most closely followed his father’s path.

In an article that appeared in the October 15, 2003 issue of the Quarter Horse News, Faron told author Lana Wells: “(Daddy) taught me that the Futurity is the first event, not the last one. He always said, ‘Don’t ruin a good son-ofa-buck just to win the Futurity.”

Wells concludes her article with a quote from Olan that will resonate with his legion of friends and the hundreds of amateurs and professionals that he helped over the years.

“When I’m dead and gone, if one person will stand up and say, ‘That old man helped me,’ it’ll be worth more than hundreds of folks saying what I’ve won.”

A Celebration of Olan Hightower will be held on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 11:00 a.m., at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead, Texas.

Johnny Mac Sanders, 1946-2014

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Johnny Mac SandersJohnny Mac Sanders, 67, a popular cutting horse trainer from Canton, Mississippi, died Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson.

Visitation will be Friday, January 31 at the Wilcox Funeral Home, 106 Jordan Road, Carthage, MS 39051 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. (Phone 601-267-8081).

Services are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 1, 2014 at Freeny Baptist Church with Bro. Shannon Hall, Bro. Marcus Canoy, and Johnny Barranco officiating. Burial was in the Caldwell (Freeny) Cemetery. Wilcox Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Johnny Mac, a native of Leake County, was a member of Freeny Baptist Church. He was a member of the Mississippi Quarter Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association, and National Cutting Horse Association. He was past president of Mississippi Quarter Horse Association and Magnolia Cutting Horse Association.

He served as an AQHA judge where he judged Quarter Horse Congress and the AQHA World Championship Show. He also was an American Paint Horse Association judge where he judged the Paint Horse World Championship Show.

He instructed at clinics in Australia and Argentina for AQHA. In 1995 Johnny Mack served on the ground breaking committee for the Kirk Fordice Equine Building and was a member of the Fairground Commission Board.

Survivors include his brother, Jim Sanders of Carthage, and sister, Mary Griffin of Barndon.

Pallbearers include: Steve Ferguson, Tom Hixon, Johnny Stewart, Meredith MCullar, David Russell, Wilson Harrell, and Tom McBeth.
Honorary Pallbearers were: Dr. John Bower, Danny Watts, Joe Johnson, Joey Carroll, and Ben Emison.

Billy Howard Ware – 1952–2014

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Billy Howard Ware passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, January 3, 2014. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, in June of 2013, and fought a courageous battle, remaining optimistic until the end.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ware was a National Cutting Horse Association director for Louisiana and successfully trained many of his own non-pro aged event finalists. It was during this time that he developed a friendship with the late Bill Freeman, who pulled on him by his friend that Ware enjoyed recalling.

One day, while they were working together, Freeman asked Ware to do him a favor and work an older horse he had in training, so that he could watch and critique the horse. Without fanfare, Freeman handed the reins of a sorrel stallion to Ware, who mounted and headed to the herd, unaware of what was about to happen. Only when the horse made his first “trademark” moves on the first cow and Ware heard the cheers and laughter from Bill and his crew did he realize he was riding the great Smart Little Lena.

Ware, a life-long resident of Rayville, Louisiana and award-winning sales manager for White Ford Lincoln in Winnsboro, La., is survived by his wife of 38 years, Sara Walters Ware, daughter Erin Ware, daughter Anna Ware Berg and son-in-law Marcus Berg, mother Billie Himel Ware, brother Jerry Ware, and mother-in-law Joy Maxie Walters.

Services will be held on Monday, January 6, 2014, at the First Baptist Church-Rayville with Dr. Eddie Wren officiating. Burial will be in the Rayville Masonic Cemetery under the direction of Mulhearn Funeral Home, Rayville.