Archive for August, 2013

2013 South Point Futurity

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The Smart Look and the American Dream

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Don Horton

Don Horton, founder and chairman of Fort Worth-based D. R. Horton Homes, the nation’s largest home builder, was born and raised in the foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks, and because his father was a cattle rancher, young Don was never able to have a horse of his own.

“My father always said that a horse eats three times as much as a cow, so we didn’t have horses,” said Horton, who as an adult realized his dream of horse ownership with one special mare and her progeny. The Smart Look, with offspring earnings of more than $1.46 million, is the cutting industry’s leading living producer of money earners; in addition, her sons have sired earners of more than $4.5 million.

On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, Horton will sell all of his horses, including 25-year-old The Smart Look, at a special sale conducted by Western Bloodstock LTD in Weatherford, Tex.

“Where I was raised and with my father also being county sheriff, it was very similar to Andy Griffith (TV show),” said Horton, who was born in 1950. “I guess I could have been classified as Opie. That’s the way it was. We had our Barney and we had our Otis, who (my dad) locked up every Saturday night and every Sunday came down and had breakfast with us.”

When Horton graduated from high school, he entered the University of Central Arkansas, then transferred to Oklahoma University to attend pharmacy school, where he determined that he “really didn’t want to count pills” for the rest of his life. So he returned to Arkansas in 1972 to manage a real estate business owned by his father and remained there until 1978, when he moved to Fort Worth and “convinced a bank to lend me the money to build my first house.

“I built that first house and sold it in the framing stage,” Horton recalled. “Then I went back to the bank and they lent me money for two more, then four, then eight. And that was the beginning of D.R. Horton Inc., Home Building Company.

By 1987, D.R. Horton Inc. was beginning to expand its operations outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In June 1992, Horton took the company public and since then, D. R. Horton Homes has maintained its’ status as the largest home builder in America.

“I have been especially busy for the past five years,” said Horton. “I am on the road probably a minimum of 200 days out of the year. We are currently building in 28 states and about 80 different markets within those states.

“I never had a lot of time for the horses, but I had a lot of good people that worked with me. Now that I am extremely busy in housing, I really don’t have any time to enjoy the horse business.”

It was curiosity that drew Horton and his wife, Marty, to Will Rogers Memorial Center on a Saturday morning in the late 1990s. “We were on our way downtown and I said, let’s go over here and see what’s going on,” Horton remembered. “It was a horse sale and I came back the next day and bought three horses. That was my first introduction to cutting.

“Why I bought them I have no idea. I guess because it was because I had always wanted a horse, but was never allowed to have one. Now, all of a sudden, I had three of them and no place to keep them.”

Horton placed the horses with Merritt Wilson in Sanger, Tex., and proceeded to build a cutting horse facility on a hunting ranch he owned in Gordon, Tex. By 1999, he had purchased Strawn Valley Ranch, 75 miles west of Fort Worth, and made improvements to include a state-of-the-art breeding and training operation. At the time, Stacy Wilson was training two-year-olds at the Gordon facility and NCHA world champion Pete Branch was running the entire cutting operation.

It was Branch who suggested to Horton in 2001 that he have a look at a 13-year-old Smart Little Lena daughter for sale by non-pro competitor George Stout. At the time, The Smart Look was in foal with Dual Smart Rey, who Horton would raise and eventually place with cutting’s all-time leading money earner Phil Rapp. Dual Smart Rey won the 2006 NCHA Super Stakes under Rapp and earned $330,436, before an injury cut short his show career and he was retired in 2007. As Strawn Valley Ranch’s head sire, Dual Smart Rey has sired earners of over $800,000 and is currently a top freshman sire.

“He has always been very special to me,” said Horton. “He will be my only horse now.”

Horton credits much of Strawn Valley Ranch’s success over the years to an outstanding support team. “I’ve had a lot of good people that have worked with us,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of good people and I’ve enjoyed the business. I don’t have the time anymore, but I think these horses have a great future in front of them and I wish everyone success.”

The Strawn Valley Ranch Absolute Dispersal will be held at Silverado on the Brazos in Weatherford and is anticipated to attract national and international buyers able to pay a premium for exceptional cutting horses bloodlines. Last September’s Marvine Ranch Sale in Aledo, also managed by Western Bloodstock, saw 29 horses sell for $2,455,400, including five-year-old Stylish Martini, purchased for $700,000 by Dottie and Bobby Hill, Glen Rose, Tex., who set an all-time record price for a cutting show horse at auction.

A complete catalog for the Strawn Valley Ranch Dispersal Sale is available for download at

By Sally Harrison

2013 West Texas Futurity

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

2013 Big Sky Futurity

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Larry Reeder, 1944-2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Larry Reeder

Larry Reeder.

NCHA Hall of Fame Rider Larry Reeder, 69, of Cross Plains, Texas, died August 22, following a lengthy illness.

Known for his work ethic, and his allegiance to the history and traditions of cutting, Reeder won the NCHA Futurity on Lynx Melody in 1978.

Larry Reeder came to understand the pursuit of excellence at a tender age, when his father, Sid, took him along to pick up a colt. “We went in this pen and there were probably twenty colts in there,” Reeder once said. “I was just a little boy, but my father asked me which one I liked. Then he picked a colt. I don’t remember if it was the same one I liked, but I remembered that and always worried whether when I got older, I would be able to pick out the best horse.”

Growing up on a West Texas ranch during the 1940s and 1950s, Reeder had an opportunity to evaluate a lot of horseflesh. His father was the sheriff of Borden County, which in 1945 had a population of 1,106 people, 1,076 horses and mules, and more than 22,000 head of cattle. Gail, where Reeder was born, was the only town in the entire 914-square mile county. By the time he was 15, Reeder had become a solid hand, tracking cattle and doctoring them for screw worms in the rugged, dense brush of Borden County.

Reeder had never ridden a cutting horse when he got a job breaking colts for Matlock Rose in 1969. “It was ground floor for me,” he said. “I’d never been where horses were kept in stalls and had blankets put on them. I’d never even seen it.

“Matlock tried you hard,” he added. “I guess he wanted to see how much grit you had and how much you wanted to learn. That’s probably the reason we got along good. I wasn’t afraid of work.”

It was through Matlock’s recommendation that Reeder ended up in California, first working for Hadden Salt, then striking out on his own with a pair of first-rate horses that launched his career as a public trainer. The first was Cal Bar, owned by Pete Mattioli. The seven-year-old stallion had already distinguished himself as the Reserve World Champion Stock Horse and All-Around Horse. But after just seven months with Reeder, Cal Bar was on his way to becoming the Pacific Coast Open and Novice Cutting Horse of 1974, and he set a record for novice horse earnings.

“Then that same year, I got a horse by the name of Jay Freckles that Buster Welch had trained,” Reeder said. “I showed him for third in the NCHA Maturity. Those two gave me a real start.”

Reeder spotted Lynx melody at the 1977 Futurity Sale and Billy Cogdell bought the little mare for just $6,500.

“When I rode her, she was carrying about 250 pounds altogether with tack,” Reeder said. “It always amazed me that a mare weighing in at a mere 750 to 800 pounds could work so easy with my size and that weight.”

“I knew I had something special,” he added. “She was a mare that could really run and stop. And she’d come back to a cow and have a pretty little way about her. I’ve had horses that I’ve won a lot more money on, but the purses were bigger,” he added. “She definitely goes in the with the greatest.”

In 1980, Reeder rode Paloma Quixote to third place in the NCHA Futurity while Lindy Burch was the catch-rider, and champion, on another Reeder trainee, Mis Royal Mahogany. The next year, nine of Reeder’s charges qualified for the Futurity semi-finals, with five of them advancing to the finals.

Among Reeder’s most famous horses were Lynx Star Lady, a Futurity reserve champion that earned over $340,000, and Royal Blue Boon, a Super Stakes reserve champion that went on to become the sport’s all-time leading broodmare.

“A horse and a man are a lot alike,” he once said. “It’s something inside that makes you want to work. If a man’s got staying power, he’ll reach down and get his bootstraps and go another mile. A good horse is the same way. It’s all mental. One man can think he’s dead tired and give up. Another man can be tired, but he’s not going to give up. He’s going to go on. That’s the way good horses are.”

Funeral services handled by Bell Seale Funeral Home will be on Thursday, August 29 at 1pm at East Side Church of Christ in Snyder, Texas. Burial will be afterwards in Gail, Texas.

The Larry Reeder Memorial Fund will support crisis funding through Cutters In Action. Send donations to NCHA Charities Foundation designating “Larry Reeder,” 260 Bailey Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Skeeter Dennis, 1930-2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Longtime NCHA member Winston “Skeeter” Dennis, 83, of Aledo, Texas, passed away August 22.
Dennis, who joined NCHA in the 1950s, was a rancher, cutter, breeder and avid fan of cutting horses. The historic Dennis Ranch & Cattle Co. of Oscar, Oklahoma, is a member of AQHA’s Ranching Heritage Breeders Program and Skeeter Dennis received the AQHA Legacy Award in 2007.

Services are pending.

Winning by design

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Todd Winslow Pierce photo

Jon and Abby Winkelried’s champion cutting horses brought buyers with deep pockets to their Marvine Ranch Reduction Sale in Aledo, Texas, on October 20, 2012. But for first-time visitors, the Winkelrieds’ impressive arena and training facility drew nearly as many accolades as the horses.

Now the ranch itself, winner of the 2011 Texas Architect Award for design and functionality, is for sale.

“We have been thrilled with our ranch in Aledo,” said Jon Winkelried. “Its one of the most beautiful and serene places to spend time enjoying life and horses. But now that we have made a decision to move on from our cutting horse pursuits, it’s time to downsize and give someone else the opportunity to enjoy one of the best equine facilities in the world.”

I went to Marvine Ranch in August 2012 to photograph their sale horses, a job I have performed for more than 30 years at some of the finest equine ranches in the Southwest. But none cast quite the spell of this facility, designed by world-famous architectural firm Lake/Flato; constructed by Lincoln Builders of Texas; and completed in 2009.

When I first approached the ranch from its main entrance, which affords a sweeping view of the arena, barns, paddocks and pastures, I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Not because the ranch is grandiose, which it is, but because it is also stunningly understated and serene.

“We wanted an architect who could give us something on the one hand contemporary and extremely functional and low maintenance, but also with a feel of North Texas,” explained Winkelried, whose online research led him to San Antonio-based Lake/Flato, specialists in melding modern sustainable architecture with natural environment.

The property the Winkelrieds selected for the facility appealed to them because it was natural and unimproved and also because it afforded the perfect site for the arena and adjacent barns.

“It provided us an opportunity to build a large arena that because of the slope of the land, when you drive into the ranch doesn’t appear as a massive structure that towers over everything else,” said Winkelried. “We had built some barns and an arena at our place in Colorado, so I had experience with developing a facility. The first time you do that, you learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.”

Although their myriad projects include everything from private homes to public facilities, Lake/Flato had never designed an equine training facility, so Jon advised lead architect Bill Aylor about the flow of activity between the arena, barns, paddocks and pastures, and emphasized the importance of airflow, as well.

“We were going to use operable windows in the design, but then we found a perforated steel material that became a key element,” Winkelried noted. “If you stand behind a perforated panel, even though the wind is blowing 25 miles-an-hour outside, the panel stops the wind but allows the airflow. Texas winds can be disruptive in an arena with open sides, and windscreens, the usual solution, often flap and disturb the horses.”

Another unique quality of the perforated steel is that from outside, the arena looks like it is completely enclosed. But from the inside, one has the sensation of being outside in a covered space, much like an arbor.

Just as it blocks direct gusts of wind, the perforated steel also mutes sound, lending a cathedral-like quality to the interior of the arena, and when lit from inside at night, the effect is striking.

“The building materials used for all the structures, even in the horse pastures, were basically steel, wood and brick,” said Winkelried. “The fencing is round, raw-steel pipe and we allowed it, as well as all of the steel superstructure and the perforated paneling, to naturally rust. The intention was that although it is a large, involved facility, it would all seem to become a natural part of the landscape.

“Living on the ranch in Aledo has been simply awesome. It feels day-to-day like you’re away from it all, but then you can jump in the car and be in downtown Fort Worth in 25 minutes. It’s the best of all worlds.”

Listed by Williams Trew/Sotheby’s International Realty and described as an “Exquisite Equestrian Estate,” the 340-acre facility, includes residences for owners, managers and staff; indoor and outdoor arenas; 22-stall barn; 12-stall mare or multi-use barn; hydrotherapy barn; covered, state-of-the-art horse walker; entertainment pavilion; workshop; irrigated pastures; cattle facilities.