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The First AQHA Superhorse

Written by Susan Morrison on .

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Vickie Lee Pine was shown by Jim Brinkman for his grandfather, Howard Pitzer, to claim the first Superhorse award.
It was an unlikely combination: a 4-year-old mare and a 19-year-old exhibitor. They competed with horses such as Zan Parr Bar and Skip’N Stage, and seasoned showmen including Oscar Crigler and Jack Kyle.

 

But youth prevailed in 1978, and Vickie Lee Pine was shown by Jim Brinkman to win the first Copenhagen/Skoal Super Horse honors at the American Quarter Horse Association’s fifth annual World Championship Show. The $5,000 award went to the horse that earned the most points in three or more events.

The bay mare and her young rider did have a lot going for them. Vickie Lee Pine was bred by Lloyd Geweke, Ord, Neb., and owned by Howard Pitzer, Ericson, Neb. The mare was sired by Pitzer’s versatile stallion, Two Eyed Jack, and was out of the Poco Pine daughter Poco Coed. Brinkman had solid bloodlines himself, being Pitzer’s grandson.

Vickie Lee Pine was the Reserve Champion in Junior Heading, placed third in Junior Heeling and was sixth in the aged-mare halter class. It was enough to top 21 other Super Horse contenders at the show.

The Super Horse award was unexpected, Brinkman said. In fact, “it just happened,” he recalled. But in reality, Brinkman had grown up with the type of horses that could do it all, so Vickie Lee Pine was simply nothing out of the ordinary. She was the kind of horse that Pitzer wanted: pretty, sound, physically talented and versatile. At age 4, though, Brinkman admitted that she hadn’t reached her peak.

“She was a short mare, but a real heavy, stout mare. I don’t know if she’d have quite went 15 hands,” he said. “We tried to show her in halter and pleasure when she was 3 and early 4, and she just had a terrible time winning much. She was just too small. Then she kind of massed up, and you just almost couldn’t get beat.”

The mare also had an inherited ability to stop.

“She liked to stop. That was her biggest thing,” Brinkman said. “She could stop with the best of them. She’s the only one in all the time I’ve roped that I broke a poly rope on, roping a calf.”
Vickie Lee Pine wasn’t suited for the slower events, such as Western pleasure. Then again, neither was the young man riding her.

“She was a little bit too hot to be a pleasure horse. She never liked it,” Brinkman said. “She didn’t want to put her head down and go that slow. Of course, maybe I didn’t want to either.”
Vickie Lee Pine also tended to “act like a mare an awful lot,” he said. A bit of advice from a trusted trainer helped Brinkman solve that problem.

“I would have a terrible time with her. I talked to Matlock [Rose] about it, and he basically told me to quit babying her and make her do it,” he said. “She really didn’t make [a show horse] until about the World Show or a little later. I don’t know if she was really getting solid until the next year.”

A natural progression
Brinkman already had won a World Championship in Junior Heading at the 1976 AQHA World Show on Two Eyed Don, another horse by Two Eyed Jack. Growing up in a prominent ranching family, riding and showing were just part of life.

“My mother would tell you that I showed my first grand champion mare when I was 12,” Brinkman said. “Howard had a good mare that he let me show. I was really fortunate. All I had to do was just be there and try.”

As a teenager, though, other activities seemed more enticing than showing horses. The year after he won the World on Two Eyed Don, he qualified a mare named Two Eyed Monita in Junior Heading.

“I was supposed to show her, but I had a chance to go elk hunting, so I scrapped the World Show and went hunting,” he recalled with a laugh. “A friend of mine, Lee Simpson, rode her and won the World on her. I got an elk. I thought it was pretty good that I got to go elk hunting instead of going to the horse show.”

Thankfully, Brinkman decided to go to the 1978 World Show. He remembered being confident that Vickie Lee Pine would get plenty of halter points.

“That mare was going to place deep in the halter because she was so pretty,” he said. “She was pretty good in the heading. In the heeling, she kind of spooked. I roped the steer and she just spooked away from everything as the rope came tight, so I suppose to the judges it looked like she really stopped and took ahold, but I think she really just was scared of it!”

Even today, Brinkman said another team should have been destined to win.

“Jack Kyle had a horse, Skip’N Stage, and he was supposed to win it. He had him in seven or eight events,” he said. “He was a real good horse, and he probably was the horse that really should have won the deal. But that’s just the way horse shows go. We were lucky that year.”

Skip’N Stage would go on to great success as a performer and sire, and his influence has been felt recently in the reining world. He is the sire of Barb A Cita, who produced Rawhides Banjo by Dunit Rawhide; Mandy McCutcheon rode Rawhides Banjo to win the Non-Pro at the 2005 NRHA Futurity and the 2006 and 2007 National Reining Breeders Classic.

True versatility
Pitzer, Kyle and many breeders of the day believed in a true all-around horse. At the time, it wasn’t unusual for a horse to be competitive in more than one event, including halter. “Lead ’em and feed ’em” horses weren’t desirable, and a versatile horse was the norm.

“A horse has got to be pretty and functional. That’s what our halter classes were supposed to be,” Brinkman said. “But then you also have to have a horse that you can ride and go do things on. We’re a ranch, so we use our horses all the time. Howard rode Two Eyed Jack and those studs. He’d take them out and gather cattle. We still use our studs.”

Brinkman, who still lives and works on the Pitzer Ranch alongside his wife, Tana, said he believes Vickie Lee Pine would still be competitive among today’s horses, even at halter.

“If you got her fit up today and could get the right guy leading her, I think you could place her in the top three,” he said. “And she’d still play [in performance events]. You could still win on her.”

Vickie Lee Pine’s show career continued through 1980. She earned 237 halter points, 59 Open performance points, 82 Youth halter points and nine Youth performance points. In 1979, she was the Youth World Champion Aged Mare. She produced five AQHA-registered offspring: a 1981 stallion and a 1982 stallion, both by Watch Joe Jack; a 1984 gelding by Mr Baron Red, Barons Super Star, who earned both Youth and Open points, and was the 1991 Youth World Champion in Team Penning; and a 1987 gelding and 1989 stallion, also both by Mr Baron Red, who earned Super Horse honors in 1983. Sadly, the mare died after a bout with colic.

“Her colt had gotten sick or cut, and we brought them in out of the pasture into the barn,” Brinkman remembered. “We should have left her out in the pasture. They get used to that and then you bring them in, and they get a little worried, or the change in feed gets them.”

Although the 1978 AQHA World Show seemed like just another horse show at the time, Brinkman said he’s fortunate to have the experience he did, and to be able to claim the first AQHA Super Horse title (the honor is now known as the Sooner Trailer Superhorse). The cooler that Vickie Lee Pine won still hangs on the wall at Pitzer Ranch.

“I was pretty jaded in the horse show deal, and it was just kind of another show then,” he said. “But it was nice to win the first one. The best thing about the Super Horse deal was that my granddad deserved it. He was a leader in the industry and had been doing it all his life, and he won the first Super horse award. And it was on a Two Eyed Jack mare, a ranch-raised type of mare. It was really good for him, and I was tickled to death for him. He had his grandkid riding the horse and he won it.

“It was a great deal. We were proud of it. We still are.”