Archive for November, 2006

Little horses can do big things

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

The Cogdell family’s Tule Ranch in Charles Goodnight country in the Texas Panhandle, has been singled out for the American Quarter Horse Association’s prestigious Bayer Best Remuda Award. Few ranches could match strides with the Tule outfit for both ranching and cutting excellence over the years.

The late Billy Cogdell got interested in cutting around 1944, when he was 12 years old. In 1948, he was World Champion Junior in the American Junior Rodeo Association. Polio took Cogdell out of the saddle when he was 20, but it never dimmed his enthusiasm for good horses, and for the sport of cutting.

In a 1992 interview, Cogdell traced the origins of his horses’ bloodlines to the Waggoner Ranch, King Ranch and the Hankins Brothers. One of the foundation horses was Peppy Buck, a son of Pretty Buck who measured less than 14 hands. The teen-aged Cogdell broke him and trained him until he was three.

“We used him just like a ranch horse, dragging calves and branding, and working cattle out of a round-up. It’s kind of a bred-in toughness,” he said. “They’ve got to be gutty to be little and do big things, but they can do it.

“In the cutting arena, a short horse has less distance to turn. The center of gravity is closer to the ground, and that helps, too.”

While Billy Cogdell put a lot of faith in proven cutting horses, he was never afraid to look for an outcross, which brought such famed Quarter Horse racing bloodlines as Double Bid and Jet Deck into the Tule picture. He had fond memories of Double Vandy, a son of world record holder Double Bid that turned out to be a good cutting horse after he finished racing, and left a string of cowy, athletic ranch horses.

Cogdell’s fondness for little horses paid off when he bought a 13.2-hand bargain filly named Lynx Melody for $6,500 at the NCHA Futurity Sale.

“I probably never would have got her, but everybody was scared of her size,” Cogdell said. “She probably would have brought $30,000 if she’d been bigger.”

Larry Reeder went on to win the NCHA Futurity with her in 1978. She became a top producer, whose offspring include Shania Cee, winner of the 1999 Futurity under Shannon Hall.

Belinda’s Surprise

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Lyn Jank, who died in 1991, had been a screen writer turning out spaghetti westerns in Italy, before she spent Labor Day at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico in 1975. A native Texan, Jank fell in love with Quarter Horse racing that day and became good friends with Ralph Shebester, the breeder and owner of Bugs Alive In 75, who won the celebrated All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs that Labor Day.

As a writer, Jank made her subjects come alive. An article that she wrote about Three Bars for Speedhorse magazine was just a prelude to a book that she had planned with the working title “Brave Dust.” It would have rivaled Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit.”

The first time I met Lyn, she had invited me and my husband to dinner at her home. The meal was delicious and I asked her for the recipe. I am used to jotting down recipes on file cards and scrap paper. But Lyn’s recipe was a narrative, as delicious to read as to eat. It’s the only recipe I’ve ever received in paragraph form. Belinda, in honor of whom the recipe was named, was a race horse.

Belinda’s Surprise

  • 1 pound bulk hot sausage
  • 1 large white or yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes (20 ounces)
  • 1 package shell pasta
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • (Optional: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 cup sour cream)

The sauce can be prepared in advance and kept for several days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it.

Peel and mash garlic cloves. Finely chop onion and pepper. Slowly saute with vegetable oil in skillet until onions are transparent. Do not allow them to brown. Easy does it – about 15 minutes.

While onions, pepper and garlic are cooking, crumble sausage and slowly brown. Drain off all grease. Use fork, potato masher or anything else that is handy to break up any lumps in the sausage. Set aside.

Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet in which you cooked sausage. Use a blender or potato masher to crush tomatoes. Pour them, with juice, into the skillet, add sugar and, if you like, chili powder. Bring to a simmer, stirring once or twice. Add onion, pepper, garlic mixture.

Stir and bring to a simmer. Add sausage, stir, bring to a simmer and stir again.
20-25 minutes after you put the tomatoes in the skillet, your sauce will be done. If you want the option of sour cream, add it five minutes before the sauce is done.

Stir well. At this point you can set the sauce aside until the pasta is done.
Add salt to about three quarts of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add pasta. If you are absent-minded, use a timer. The worst sin in the world is to overcook pasta. If directions on the pasta package say 12 minutes, set your timer for 10, take a taste and go the whole 12 minutes, but only if necessary.

Drain. Return pasta to same pot. Add your sauce (naturally, you’ll have thawed it and heated it if you had in the freezer). Stir well and serve immediately.

Racing returns to New Orleans

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Thoroughbred racing, a 135-year-old tradition in New Orleans, returned on Thanksgiving Day, following 15 months of restoration in the wake of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Fair Grounds Race Course, the third-oldest race facility in the United States, was re-opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony held at the track’s historic entrance gate, which dates back to the first day of racing at Fair Grounds, in 1872.  Thanksgiving Day has traditionally marked the opening of the annual race meet.

Following opening ceremonies, racing officially started as a field of eight Louisiana-breds was called to post for the first race. Appropriately, the winner, Clouds on the Walk, was ridden by New Orleans native Joe Talamo and trained by Larry Robideaux, of Bossier City, Louisiana, who has been racing at Fair Grounds since 1960.

“I entered this horse with the intention of winning the first race back at the Fair Grounds,” said 73-year-old Robideaux, following Clouds on the Walk’s victory. “This helps bring New Orleans back to life. I’ve raced at tracks around the country, but winning here today means more to me than all of those other wins.”

Talamo, a 16-year-old apprentice rider, who is 57 years younger than Robideaux, was thrilled with his win. “I’ve been coming out here on Thanksgiving Day with my family since I was a little kid,” he said. “It was incredible to win this race.”

Turkey days

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Most people don’t think of turkeys as pets. Arlene Hart didn’t either, but the day I visisted her in 1992, it was hard to ignore the turkey roosting on the front window sill of Arlene’s home flush against the foothills of the Davis Mountains in far West Texas. The turkey had appeared one day, Hart explained, and staked her claim. Of course, Arlene was no stranger to the wildlife of West Texas.

Her husband, Berry, (pictured) once roped an 18-point buck. The local taxidermist gave him a free mount for bringing in the biggest rack of the year. “He had a scar where a deer he’d roped threw its head and punctured his arm clear through with a horn while he was trying to take the rope off,” Arlene said.

Berry had gotten a horse named Berlin as part of his severance package when he left his job as strawboss at the X Ranch. Berlin became one of the most famous cutting horses of the 1930s and ’40s.

“Everybody raved about that horse everywhere they saw him,” Arlene recalled. “He was just too powerful for me to ride. If he got after a cow and turned back, I was liable to go off.

“One time Berry was riding Berlin and we jumped a bobcat. He made me get off my horse and get on Berlin because he didn’t want to take the chance of damaging his cutting horse when he roped the bobcat. Things like that were a challenge to him.”

While he was highly regarded as a cattleman, Hart also liked the challenge of buying a horse, making something of it, and then selling it for a profit. So it was probably inevitable that he would sell Berlin to Fern Sawyer, who went on to be one of the founding members of the National Cutting Horse Association.

“Berry was always ready to trade one off. I always said that he’d trade the kids and me for a good horse,” Arlene said. “He had no idea Fern would buy him when he said $1,000. That was a fortune then. But he’d said what he would take for Berlin  and he didn’t back down. It was the only time I ever saw him cry over selling a horse.

“When Berry loaded him into her trailer, Berlin would have a fit when he stepped away. So he’d step up on the trailer and Berlin would calm down. She finally left with him having a fit, and it just tore Berry up.”

Riding with the tush hogs

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

The 2006 NCHA Futurity opens its 21-day run on Sunday, November 26 at Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The $4 million purse is an all-time record for an arena horse sport. The winner of the open division alone will receive $250,000.

The inaugural NCHA Futurity, with 36 entries and a purse of $18,375, was held on November 23 and 24, 1962, in Sweetwater, Texas, home of the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. It was cutting’s first official limited age event, a concept, along with advanced nominations, borrowed from horse racing. Racehorse futurities are for 2-year-olds, but NCHA Futurity organizers settled on the latter part of the 3-year-old year for their futurity and further restricted entries to horses that had never before been shown.

It proved to be a smart move for the organization and for stallion owners with cutting horse bloodlines. The show drew attention to offspring of top contenders and the door was opened for more limited age events. In 1970, the NCHA Derby for 4-year-olds was initiated, followed by the Super Stakes in 1981; 5 and 6-year-old classes are now part of the Derby and the Super Stakes, as well.

The NCHA Futurity moved to Fort Worth in 1967, with 210 entries and $85,571. It was the introduction of the non-professional class in 1969, however, that spurred the event to even greater heights. The first year saw just 36 non-pros compete for $3,802, but six years later, entries had tripled. Then in 1986, NCHA established an amateur class.

“My idea was that amateurs were actually the foundation of the association,” the late, longstanding NCHA president Marion Flynt (pictured) explained to me in 1987. “But they weren’t able to take part in it because the professionals – I call them tush hogs – were getting it all. Nobody could beat them.

“Finally (NCHA) had a big meeting in Houston,” Flynt continued. “All the tush hogs were there and they just raised Old Billy. But we went ahead (and included non-pros) and here they came. People that couldn’t ride a horse just dove right in.

“Now people come to Fort Worth and have a big time. They get to show in a big arena and be like the tush hogs.”

This year, nearly half of the record 1,725 NCHA Futurity entries will ride in the non-pro and amateur divisions

Near record November Sale

Monday, November 20th, 2006

Keeneland’s 14-day November Thoroughbred Sale concluded on Sunday in Lexington, Kentucky with a near-record gross of $313,843,800 and an increase of 8.4 percent over last year’s total of $289,606,400. This year’s total ranks as the sale company’s second-highest grossing November Sale, falling just short of the record $317,666,000 set in 1999. Although the average price of $99,728 dipped 2.9 percent from $102,734 in 2005, the median of $35,000 remained unchanged.

Twenty-seven horses topped the million-dollar mark, selling for a total of $56.7 million compared to last year, when 26 million-dollar horses grossed $54.9 million. The top of the market was highlighted by Keeneland records of $6.1 million for a horse in training (the 3-year-old stallion Half Ours, pictured, by Unbridled Song) and $2.4 million for a weanling filly, as well as the North American record of $2.7 million for a weanling colt. Other sale toppers included Grade 1 stakes winner Madcap Escapade, in foal to Pulpit, and her dam, Sassy Pants, for $6 million and $4.5 million, respectively.

“It’s been an amazing two weeks,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We’ve seen major increases at all levels of the market, but the strongest segment continues to be the middle market. Buyers and consignors have repeatedly used the word ‘fantastic’ to describe the sale, and I have to echo those sentiments.”

Keeneland’s Yearling Sale this past September broke all records as the highest-grossing auction ever, with sales of $399,791,800. Thirty-two of the yearlings brought prices of $1 million or more.

“This calendar year, Keeneland’s gross sales have totaled more than $800 million,” Russell noted. “And we look forward to that momentum carrying forward into next year.”

During the November sale, Keeneland hosted buyers from 33 countries representing six continents – North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. The global diversity of buyers, according to Russell, reflects Keeneland’s ongoing efforts to build relationships in emerging Thoroughbred racing markets.

“Keeneland is unlike any other Thoroughbred auction house in the world,” he said. “We are unmatched in terms of offering the best horses, a state-of-the-art sales facility and a full range of client amenities. For that reason, we are able to aid consignors in promoting and marketing their horses to realize their highest possible value.”

For the fifth consecutive year, Taylor Made Sales Agency, Nicholasville, Kentucky, led the November Sale consignor’s list, selling 321 horses for $51,558,100, including Half Ours for $6.1 million, to dissolve a partnership for Jones and Barry Schwartz.

Trego Montana

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Ever heard of Trego, Montana?

Trego, population 437, is on US 93 in northwest Montana, not far from the Canadian border. Other than a post office and a general store, there’s not much else to Trego. Even the one church in town conducts worship services in its members’ homes.

But Trego is a familiar name to cutters. At least to those who have visited Bar H Ranche in Weatherford, Texas, home to all-time leading sires Dual Pep and CD Olena, and managed by leading trainer Paul Hansma.

Trego Montana, a 10-year-old red and white border collie owned by Bar H Ranche office manager Deb Stahl, took on the role of official greeter for the ranch five years ago. The conscientious canine also patrols the gate to the round pen every morning, when Hansma works horses, and keeps an eye on the feeders close to the barn.

“She’s not very brave on the inside of the fence, but she’s very brave outside of the round pen,” noted Stahl, who rescued Trego during the historic blizzard of 1996, when 80,000 head of Montana livestock perished and major highways were closed with drifts as high as 20 feet. Stahl was living in Montana at the time and managed to get to the town of Trego to assess the damage for a friend who owned a ranch near there.

The ranch owner was out of town when the blizzard hit. Neighbors with a snow mobile kept his cattle alive, but his border collie and her newborn pups weren’t as fortunate. They were starving when the ranch manager finally found them, and the only food he had to offer them was a moose carcass. By the time Stahl and a friend arrived, two of the five pups were still alive. Stahl took the female, the only one to survive.

“The fact that she lived is a miracle,” said Stahl. “She was so weak and sick that I had to carry her around for months and prepare special food for her. I really didn’t know if she would make it.”

Trego survived and thrived. Today, other than greeting guests, guarding gates and playing with squeak toys, one of her favorite pastimes is camping, a passion that she shares with Stahl, although her approach to wildlife is much the same as her approach to cattle. Trego prefers to be on the safe side of the gate.

Stahl recalled one camping trip, when she awoke in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of her bag of groceries, as it disappeared into the woods. A barefoot Stahl gave chase and the thief, a not very clever raccoon, eventually ran up a tree and dropped the bag. But as she retrieved her groceries and turned toward camp, Stahl realized that Trego was nowhere in sight.

“All the time I was running, I was thinking that my dog was beside me,” she admitted. “But when I got back, she was in the tent with just her face looking out the door at me. She was still too scared to come out.

“Im so fortunate to work at a place that lets me bring my dog,” noted Stahl. ”But if you know Paul Hansma, this is a dog place. Sometimes there will be six dogs in the office. We have lots of toys and chewys. It’s wonderful.”