Archive for October, 2006

Leaving Muleshoe

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

How do you measure time? For Clay McCullar, a span of seconds on October 9 seemed an eternity.

It had been raining hard, then turned to a drizzle at dusk, as McCullar pulled away from a truck stop near Muleshoe, Texas, bound for the Sun Coast Cutting Horse Futurity in Las Vegas. He was driving a Peterbuilt and pulling a 30-foot aluminum trailer with five show horses, including 6-year-old Duals Play Kit, a multiple NCHA champion and earner of nearly $250,000.

McCullar, a top non-pro competitor, manages 4 M Ranch in Baird, TX, owned by his father, Meredith McCullar. Christy, Clay’s wife, was also in the truck, along with Stacy Shanley, who works for the ranch.

As he pulled back onto Hwy 84 heading toward Clovis, McCullar accelerated gradually, mindful of Clovis’ reputation as a speed trap. He had just checked the speedometer – it read 65 mph – when the trailer suddenly fishtailed.

“I don’t know what caused it, but it felt like a train had broadsided the backend of the trailer and knocked it toward the median between the northbound and southbound lanes,” he remembered. “The trailer swung around and was perpendicular to me. It looked like it was going to come all the way around and smack the truck.”

The force of the careening trailer flung the Peterbuilt across the highway and in the instant before what would have been impact, it broke away. McCullar watched in horror as the trailer rolled over and over before coming to land upside-down on its roof.

“With the momentum, it looked just like a log rolling down a hill,” he recalled. “It rolled four or five times and I couldn’t do anything, but sit there and watch.”

Although free of the trailer, the truck was also out of control and sliding in the same direction toward the median. It came to rest upright against the trailer. McCullar, Christy and Stacy were shaken, but unscathed.

McCullar dreaded going inside the trailer. All was eerily quiet. He could see horses’ legs through the trailer windows, but the only way he could get inside was to pry open the small escape door.

“I expected the worst,” he admitted. “I thought that if they were alive, we would have to put them down. But when I opened that door, four horses popped up on their feet.”

One-by-one, McCullar cut the lead ropes, led the horses through the two-foot wide escape door, and handed them to passersby who had stopped to help. In the meantime, a hand from Allsup Ranch in Clovis, had been alerted and was on his way with a trailer.

It was dark and raining, when McCullar went back into the trailer for the fifth horse, which he had not seen nor heard. As he picked his way through partitions that had been torn out of place and flung about, he spotted her – trapped underneath panels that the other four horses had been standing on, when the trailer came to rest. Much to his relief, she got to her feet, when the panels were lifted.

By the time the trailer arrived from Allsups Ranch, all of the horses were grazing and all loaded into the new trailer willingly. When they disembarked at Allsups Ranch, a veterinarian was waiting.

To everyone’s amazement, although they were skinned up, scratched and bruised, none of the horses suffered injuries that required stitches or special treatment. McCullar credits Stacy for saving their legs by insisting that they be cushioned and wrapped before the trip, something that McCullar had never done before.

“If we had not have done that, I think it really would have been bad,” he pointed out. “They ended up standing on the ceiling of the roof and the roof looked like a cheese grater. It had ripped open like a pop-top and there were sharp edges sticking in and out of it. But none of their legs were cut and I know it was because of those wraps.”

McCullar is also grateful that he was driving the Peterbuilt, rather than a pickup; that his pregnant neighbor Lindy Merryman decided at the last minute not to ride along; and that no other vehicles were involved.

“It happened so fast, but it didn’t really hit me until the next day,” he said. “Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m a born again Christian and I’ve heard people talk about feeling the hand of God. It was so powerful, it almost brings me to tears thinking about it and what could have happened.

“They say that God moves in mysterious ways, but there wasn’t anything mysterious about that.”

Mocha Cappuccino hot in Vegas

Monday, October 16th, 2006

If Chad Bushaw hadn’t lost a cow on Mocha Cappuccino in the second go-round of the Brazos Bash, he might not have won the South Coast Non-Pro Futurity in Las Vegas, on October 15.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get her shown to her ability and talent,” said Bushaw. “So on the Sunday of the Brazos Bash finals, I went ahead and entered the South Coast Futurity. The potential was always there and it finally came together at the right place and time.”

Bushaw, who scored 215.5 points for his win, had drawn last to ride  in the South Coast Futurity finals, where Elizabeth Queen and Greg Coalson were tied for the lead with 215 points. Queen was riding Dualins First Choice, by SR Instant Choice, winner of the Brazos Bash Open Futurity under Paul Hansma. Coalson was aboard Funtime Foxy, a CD Royal daughter that he purchased in 2005 from her breeder Linda Wolfgang.

Mocha Cappuccino, by Zack T Wood, is the first performer out of Cappuccino And Pasta, the CD Olena daughter that Bushaw rode as reserve champion of the 2002 NCHA Super Stakes Non-Pro Classic. Although now owned by Julie Wrigley, who rode her as 2002 NCHA $50,000 Amateur World Champion, Cappuccino And Pasta gave Bushaw twin embryos in 2003 – Mocha Cappuccino and Frappuccino And Pasta, who Bushaw has entered to ride in the NCHA Futurity.

“The other one wasn’t near as solid and ready to show as Mocha Cappuccino,” Bushaw noted. “That played a role in my decision to show her (at the South Coast Futurity, instead of the NCHA Futurity). I also have another filly that I thought would be a little better suited for Fort Worth.

“The two (full siblings) don’t look alike, they don’t act alike, they don’t work alike,” he added. “The other mare is a lot like her mother – almost like a clone. She’s more dynamic and quick about some things. But Mocha Cappuccino is probably the biggest stopping horse that I’ve ever owned. She has an incredible way of getting into the ground. I think she’s going to be a really good mare for me next year.”

Bushaw, an investment broker who lives in Weatherford, has earned more than $1.4 million as a leading NCHA non-pro competitor and counts the 2001 NCHA Non-Pro Futurity championship aboard Jerryoes among his many wins.

Bonnie Martin, Las Vegas, NV, won the South Coast Non-Pro Derby with 219.5 points on Kittens, by Highbrow Cat. Dustin Adams claimed reserve with 215.5 riding Reyann Hickory.

Julie Wrigley, Weatherford, TX, current owner of Cappuccino And Pasta, scored a triple with 220-point champsionship wins aboard Wood Ya Wanna, by Zack T Wood, in the South Coast Non-Pro Classic, the Non-Pro Gelding Classic , and the $250,000 Limited Rider Classic.

Catalog connoisseur

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

Some years ago, I spent the night as a guest of Dan Downs in Nelson Bunker Hunt’s former Lexington, KY home. But I didn’t get much sleep because my room was lined with shelf after shelf of sale catalogs peppered with Hunt’s hand-written observations on various consignments. I browsed all night.

Sale catalogs quickly become outdated, but let them age a bit and they offer an interesting perspective on the breeding industry. The catalog for C.E. Boyd’s King Glo Dispersal, held at his ranch in Sweetwater, TX, on July 14, 1964, is filled with sons and daughters of Quarter Horse foundation sires and dams, as well as pedigrees with names such as Mare by Dogie Beasley. There’s even a photo of a fresh faced Buster Welch cutting a buffalo aboard 1962 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity champion Money’s Glo.

But the granddaddy of all horse sale catalogs had to be the 440 Ranch First Annual Sale Catalogof 1982. As it turned out, it was the first and last 440 Ranch sale, but the 3-pound catalog was a dandy. Hardbound with a metallic gold embossed cover, 750 heavy velum-like pages, and measuring  9 x 5.75 inches, it looked more like the a special edition of the Bible than an auction catalog. Scott Taylor, who helped see the catalog through production, said that the cost of printing averaged $20 per catalog. Today, if you can find one on e-Bay, prices start at $250.

Each of the 350 racebred consignments merited two pages. A three generation pedigree with performance and produce records, sire statistics and produce of dams, filled the right-hand page, while the corresponding left-hand page contained a photo (sometimes two or three photos) of the horse iteself, one of its offspring, or its sire or dam.

At least half of the more than 400 photos are in color. No other volume exists with such a rich gallery of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, including Jet Deck, Rocket Bar, Three Oh’s, Jackstraw, Croton Oil, Nasrullah, Johnny Dial, War Relic, Triple Chick, Easy Six, Leo, Three Bars, to name just a few.

More than half of the 440 Ranch sale horses (165 ) were consigned by 440 Ranch, although other noted breeders were included, a few of whom are still on the race scene, today. Located about 45 miles north of Dallas, in Aubrey, TX, 440 Ranch was home to five stallions, all of which owner Gail Cooper was attempting to syndicate, at the time of the sale. Two years after the sale, however, Cooper was involved in three bankruptcies related to 440 Ranch and the horses were dispersed.

Wagner holds aces in Vegas

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Roger Wagner’s mounts were the ones to beat in the South Coast Open Futurity, Derby and Classic, on October 11 in Las Vegas. Altogether, Wagner, who was last year’s Suncoast Futurity champion and Classic reserve champion, earned nearly $90,000 and claimed three championships and two reserve titles.

“It was a pretty good day,” said Wagner, who won the Futurity and the Gelding Finals on CD Boonsmal, owned and bred by Jim Vangilder, Jackson, MO. Wagner, who trains out of Vangilder’s Rock Creek Ranch in Weatherford, TX, also claimed first and second in the Derby aboard Absolutely Stunning and Pet Squirrel, respectively, and was reserve in the Classic on Quintan Blue.

Wagner had tagged CD Boonsmal early on as a prospect for the small futurities. “He was just a nice horse, but not real impressive in the early stages,” said Wagner of the gelded son of CD Olena. “Getting him ready to show in the small futurities made him a little brighter and got him solid. He’s not a big physical horse, but everything he does is pretty correct and stylish. He moves real flat and smooth.”

CD Boonsmal won the second go-round at the Brazos Futurity in September, but lost a cow in the finals. He qualified for the South Coast Futurity with go-round scores of 219 and 211, and marked 218 in the finals. The homegrown CD Royal daughter Cee Dee Royal Tee, ridden by Phil Hanson for Frank and Bonnie Martin, was reserve with 217.5 points.

Wagner and owner Tommy Manion, Aubrey, TX, had high hopes for Absolutely Stunning last fall. But the Smart Little Lena daughter struggled with stifle problems through the NCHA Futurity and into the beginning of this year.

“I’ve had some good go-round scores on her off and on through the year, but we just hadn’t been able to get it together in the finals,” noted Wagner, who scored 225 on the mare to claim the Derby. “She’s always been a little bit fractious, and the fact that she was a little unsound late last year made it hard to work her as much as she needed. But she’s a beautiful moving horse, and she reads a cow good and is real quick to the stop.”

Pet Squirrel, the earner of over $170,000 and winner of last year’s Suncoast Open Futurity, scored 223 for reserve. The Playdox daughter is owned and ridden in non-pro competition by Jim Vangilder. Wagner also split ninth and tenth in the Derby riding Vangilder’s mare Guys Little Jewel, by Dualin Jewels.

Reys Dual Badger, by Dual Rey, shown by co-owner Darren Simpkins, scored 225 points to win the Open Classic; Quintan Blue, who Jim Vangilder sold last summer to Jon Winkelried, Short Hills, NJ, took reserve with 221.5.

David and Stacie McDavid’s CD Olena-sired gelding, DMAC Snoop Dog, recent winner of the Brazos Bash Open Derby under Gary Gonsalves, was the winner of the Open Derby Gelding division based on his score of 218.5, for sixth place, in the Derby Finals.

A singing cowboy

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Western swing star, rancher and cutter Wylie Gustafson was featured on the October 7 edition of the popular radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. It wasn’t surprising that he took the opportunity to tell the audience of 4 million listeners about cutting. Gustafson, who won the $20,000 Non-Pro on Irish Whiskey Sugar at the 2004 NCHA Western National Championships, even lists that achievement above his music awards on his website.

Gustafson, who ranches outside of Dusty, WA, (population 11), caught the cutting bug from his wife, Kimberley, about five years ago. “I was her turnback and her truck and trailer driver,” he said. He bought Irish Whiskey Sugar as a yearling roping prospect in a sale at the John Scott Ranch in Montana in 1999. But when Kimberley checked out the pedigree of the Paddys Irish Whiskey son, the horse had a different future in store for him.

“He ropes. We use him to sort cattle,” Wylie said. “He’s one of those good old-time horses who can do it all.”

When Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor asked about cutting horse competition, Gustafson said, “We’re just the jockey up there. The horse does all the work. We just drop the reins and the horse is supposed to keep the cow away from the herd.”

Wylie and the Wild West’s 11 albums show the influence of western swing, classic country, cowboy, and folk music. Cutters can relate to tunes with titles like “76 with a Miss.” Click here to listen to a clip from “Cattle Call.”

On the riding side, Gustafson cites the Hansma brothers as a major inspiration. “If I could ever ride close to the way they ride, I’d be happy,” he says.

“We’re happy to be from the northwest. There are a lot of good cutters there, and it’s a really good environment to be a beginning cutter. The connection between my ranch life and my music is extremely close,” he adds. “Most of my songs reflect the great wide open where I live and punch cattle.”

Daddy’s Ranch Spread

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Every summer during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, I would make a trip to San Jose Cattle Company, in Pleasanton, TX, to photograph racehorse yearlings bound for the Ruidoso Super Select Sale. At the time, San Jose Cattle Company was owned by Perry Bass of Fort Worth and managed by Art Shahan, who had worked for Bass’ uncle, the famous wildcatter and oil magnate Sid Richardson.

Shahan built an impressive program for Bass based originally on daughters of Jet Deck, Go Man Go, and Easy Jet. Under Shahan’s direction, San Jose Cattle Company became part of the original Dash For Cash syndicate and produced such notable runners as two-time AQHA running champion Dashing Phoebe, as well as major stakes winners Meganette, Sayin Goodbye, Baby Hold On, Ms Secret Cash, Racin Image, Wrangle Alot and Ima Dasher Myself.

As a former field inspector for the Santa Gertrudis Association, who traveled from coast-to-coast and to 17 foreign countries, Shahan had an unerring eye for conformation and an innate skill for breeding outstanding performers. Dashing Phoebe and Meganette, who each earned over $600,000, were as beautiful to behold as they were talented.

In addition to racehorses, San Jose also owned some top ranked cutting horses, including 1978 NCHA world champion Doc’s Play Mate. But it was Miss Silver Pistol, bred by Shahan out of his favorite roping mare, Pistol Lady 2 Be, who would have a lasting impact on the cutting world. As a competitor under Shahan’s son, Wes (pictured), Miss Silver Pistol won the 1985 NCHA Non-Pro Futurity and earned over $500,000 in open and non-pro competition; as a broodmare she has produced earners of more than $350,000, including leading sire Playgun.

When Miss Silver Pistol was just a two-year-old and Wes Shahan was a senior in high school, Frances Shahan, Wes’ mother, gave me a cookbook produced by the Atascosa County Black Hill 4-H Club of which Wes was president. Frances was a great cook and I enjoyed some wonderful meals at the Shahan table, which had a large turntable on top that could be rotated for easy access to the mouth-watering dishes prepared by Frances.

Kuntry Fixins, my treasured Black Hill 4-H Club cookbook, is sprinkled liberally with Frances’ recipes, but one of my favorites, under the category “Appetizers, Pickles, Relishes,” was contributed by Wes and named in honor of his father.

Daddy’s Ranch Spread

  • 2 cans ripe olives, chopped
  • 2 cans green chilies, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 green onions, including tops, chopped
  • 1 T. salad oil
  • 2 T. wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 1/8 t. pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 fresh green chili pepper (optional)

Mix ingredients, adding tomatoes last. Chill in tightly covered container. Serve with Ritz crackers or Doritos, or over meat.

Cutters in Congress

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Smart Lil Paragon scored 146.5 points under Zeke Entz to earn $4,833 and claim the championship of the 2006 All American Quarter Horse Congress Open Cutting Futurity, on October 4th. Cetas Ahoy Mate was second under Tracy Barton.

Smart Lil Paragon, a bay gelding sired by Smart Lil Paradign, is owned by Zeke Entz, Collierville, TN. Entz also rode Smart Lil Jewel to third place in the Open Classic for Brad Spence.

Tracy Barton  had his finest moment in the Open Classic, where he claimed both the champion and reserve titles on Black Catamounts Rey, by High Brow Cat, and High Hope Haida, by High Brow Hickory, and tied for fourth on Sixes CD and Playin Shorty. Black Catamounts Rey is owned by North Ridge Ranch, Pierre, SD; High Hope Haida belongs to Craig Woodlief, Wendell, NC, who won the Non-Pro Classic on the chestnut mare.

Cetas Ahoy Mate, by Smart Mate, also carried his owner, Kirkland Gruber, St. George, SC, as champion of the Congress Non-Pro Futurity, while Jessica Pierce took reserve aboard Tuff Mate, also sired by Smart Mate.

The Open Derby win went to VVF Perfect Plan, by Smart Plan, ridden by Jim Mitchell for Charles Flohr, New Albany, OH. Dottie Oh Dual, by San Badger Dual, and Jazz Atthe Honkytonk, by Dual Jazz, tied for second. Dottie Oh Dual is owned and ridden by Greg Beutenmiller, Harrisburg, MO. Jazz Atthe Honkytonk is owned and ridden by Randy Chartier, Marine City, MI.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Congress, which has grown from a three-day event to a full three-week slate of competition in Richmond, OH, near Columbus.