Archive for December, 2011

War Horse

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

War Horse, which opened on Christmas Day, is a lovely film about the ugliness of war.

Joey, the title character, serves as a foil and unwitting compatriot for both British and the German forces during World War I. In spite of a sentimental plot, which should come as no surprise since it was directed by Steven Spielberg, War Horse illuminates the irony of subjugation and the beauty of unfettered spirit.

The scene where an English soldier and a German artilleryman wave a white flag and venture into “No Man’s Land” to free Joey from a tangled girdle of barbed wire is especially poignant. The two men talk soothingly to the gelding while they consider how to cut the strands of wire so that Joey will not become frightened and struggle against them.

Another powerful moment comes when the camera catches and holds Joey as he gazes into the sunset with the “look of eagles” that every horseman treasures.

A breath-taking scene early in the movie comes as an English cavalry unit, sabers extended, charges from a field of tall, golden, feathery brush into the face of heavy artillery. It is the leap from centuries old warfare into a new era where horses become as obsolete as bucolic villages where families make a living on small farms.

There is something for everyone in War Horse, and if you love horses, it is a movie not to be missed.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of horses in World War I click here.

It’s almost Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

No one could tell  a story better than the late James Kenney, and it was my good fortune that the well known and admired New Mexico rancher, roper and cutting champion, asked me to help him write a memoir about  his experiences as a cowboy for hire in the 1920s and 1930s.

In one chapter of The Cowboy Life of James Kenney, James tells about the time he worked for the Double Circles, when most of the other cowpunchers got to go home for the Christmas holidays.

“We got off from the twentieth of December until the first of the year,” recalled Kenney  (pictured here a decade later in the 1940s). “Bill Martin stayed there at headquarters. He’d been working there for fifteen years and he sure knew that country and was a good hand, but he was really bad about drinking.

“He’d been passed out in the bunkhouse while we were gone and he never had shaved or anything. He sobered up a little bit when we came back and pretty soon, he said, ‘Boys, we’d better shave and take a bath. It’ll be Christmas the first thing we know.’

“Bill, Christmas is already gone,” we said.

“The hell it is?”

“Yeah, we’ve already come back to work.”

“Well, give me another drink then,” he said. And he took another drink or two and out he went again.

The next morning, we started back to work. Bill had a horse called Bluefoot that he always kept there. He was really a good horse, too. We saddled old Bluefoot and got old Bill up on him. He was still drunk and could just barely make it, but we had to go to Four Mile Hill.

We went out of there and rimmed out on a flat, on top of the mountain. When we got on top, old Bill just fell off of Bluefoot and said, “Boys, I believe I’m going to die.” The bridle reins fell on the ground and old Bluefoot stopped. I thought maybe he was going to die, but the others all knew him.

We went on to Point of Pines and stayed all night. Along about two or three in the morning I heard a noise and looked out, and here came a horse walking in real slow. It was old Bill on Bluefoot. He’d made it in. I guess that cold air sobered him up. From then on he was really a hand. He knew that country better than anybody and he sure could rope. Anytime he turned it loose, he had something in it.

Bellwether for the cutting industry

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

As the performance horse world’s richest indoor event, the NCHA Futurity and the pedigrees of the event’s open finalists reveal a lot about cutting horse breeding trends, and have a substantial impact on future crops of contenders.

The 2011 NCHA Open Futurity, for instance, consisted of 25 finalists, 10 of which (40 percent) were sired by High Brow Cat, including champion Oh Miss Caroline and reserve champion Jewel Bars Cat, as well as three other finalists sired by sons of High Brow Cat.

Highbrow Supercat

Those percentages were not a surprise to cutting horse breeders, who have seen High Brow Cat dominate leading sire charts for nearly a decade. Still, some were surprised that six of the 25 finalists were out of High Brow Cat daughters, including Cinca De Maya, by Dual Rey, and Peptos Supercat, by Peptoboonsmal, both out of 2005 NCHA Futurity champion Highbrow Supercat.

Unlike Smart Little Lena, his closest rival as all-time leader in offspring earnings, High Brow Cat did not take the cutting world by storm with his first crop – seven foals of 1993. But those paying attention were impressed by the fact that two of those seven were 1996 Futurity Open finalists – Cats Summertime and Cats Got Ya.

Between 1997 and 2002, High Brow Cat sired a total of seven more Futurity finalists, still not an overwhelming show of force, but one that included 1999 reserve champion A Hocus Pocus Cat.

High Brow Cat’s breakthrough year was 2003, when he sired seven Futurity finalists (out of a 25-horse field), including the champion One Smart Lookin Cat. He followed with 10 in 2004; six in 2005, including champion Highbrow Supercat; 12 in 2006, including champion Oh Cay Felix and reserve champion Hydrive Cat; six each year from 2006 through 2010, including champions High Brow CD (2007) and Metallic Cat (2008), and reserve champion Smart Kitty RG (2008).

In the 12 years, from 1996 through 2007, just two Futurity Open finalists came from High Brow Cat daughters. But there were three in 2008 and four in 2009.

Could 2011 be 23-year-old High Brow Cat’s breakthrough year as a broodmare sire? One thing is certain, cutters who tagged him as a sire of sires, but dismissed him as a broodmare sire, will be taking a second look at his daughters during the sales in 2012.

Find out more about the breeding of Futurity champions in Cutting Horse Gold: 50 Years of the NCHA Futurity.

Oh Miss Caroline!

Monday, December 12th, 2011

“Regardless of what happened, I wanted it to be known that I came here to cut,” said Craig Thompson, who scored 226 points on Oh Miss Caroline, to win the 50th anniversary edition of the NCHA Futurity, on Saturday, December 10 in Fort Worth, Tex.

Oh Miss Caroline, owned and bred by Patrick and Laura Collins, Lincoln Ill., the last horse in the last set of the NCHA Futurity Finals, upset Jewel Bars Cat under former two-time Futurity champion Ronnie Rice, who had scored 225 points in the first slot of the first set.

It was deja vu all over again for Thompson, who won the 2006 NCHA Futurity on Oh Miss Caroline’s full brother, Oh Cay Felix, by High Brow Cat, out of Oh Cay Shorty, with the same draw — dead last. Oh Cay Felix, also owned and bred by the Collins, was Patrick’s mount to win the 2006 NCHA Amateur Futurity and is the only horse to ever win both the open and amateur divisions of the NCHA Futurity.

“You know exactly what you have to do and what cows are left,” said Thompson, who trained Oh Cay Felix and Oh Miss Caroline, as well as Oh Cay Do Over, Patrick’s 2011 NCHA Non-Pro Futurity reserve champion mount and a three-quarter sister to Oh Miss Caroline and Oh Cay Felix.

“Craig showed his horse tonight,” said two-time NCHA Futurity champion Ronnie Rice, who showed Jewel Bars Cat, by High Brow Cat, for Center Ranch, Centerville, Tex.

“We knew going in, that if we were first, we were going to have to do a bunch to get enough marked. You never know until the last horse rides down there. There were a lot of good horses left.

“I was so proud of Craig, Rice added. “He’s fearless. You don’t have to worry about him not coming to the cutting.”

With Oh Miss Caroline’s win, Oh Cay Shorty became one of just three mares in the 50 year history of the NCHA Futurity to produce two Open Futurity champions. The other two are Miss Chickasha Ann, with Chickasha Glo (1963) and Chickasha Dan (1965), and Poco Lena with Doc O’Lena (1970) and Dry Doc (1971).

Oh Miss Caroline extended High Brow Cat’s record as the Futurity’s most prolific sire of all time, with six Open champions, beginning with One Smart Lookin Cat in 2003, and including Highbrow Supercat, Oh Cay Felix, High Brow CD, and Metallic Cat.

2011 NCHA Futurity

Sunday, December 11th, 2011