A Night To Remember

AQHAHallOfFameAQHA Hall Of Fame – photo courtesy of AQHAOn the evening of March 10, 2013, five men and five horses were inducted into American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) Hall of Fame. This writer was one of the fortunate five who received admission through those hallowed arches, and I must admit, it was a night I will remember for the rest of my life!

It was memorable not only because I was inducted, but also because I had a personal connection to the other inductees as well as two of the horses. I was very proud to be standing next to each one, for they have all impacted my life.

Bill Brewer, AQHA’s long-tenured executive vice president, was honored that night. Bill was responsible for a new era at the AQHA, beginning some 20 years ago. He planned the work and worked the plan until the AQHA’s member services department reached new heights in providing customer service at its best. Membership grew to record numbers and AQHA’s budget expanded from $15 million to more than $50 million per year. Registrations and transfers increased, all due in large part to Bill devoting his entire life to the association and its horse. His dedication to his AQHA responsibilities often came at a cost to his family. Thank goodness he was married to Sue!

The late Guy Ray Rutland went into the Hall that same evening. He was a leading breeder of show and race performers and a real innovator in the promotion and marketing of American Quarter Horses. Guy Ray was someone I looked up to and tried to emulate in my own approach to stallion management. He had fresh ideas about how to promote his breeding business, and those innovative marketing plans he developed are still used today. Guy Ray was a master at his craft – this honor was long overdue.

My long-time friend and competitor Greg Whalen was inducted, as well. Greg was a force to be reckoned with in the show ring. He always showed superior talent with a halter horse. I grew up showing against him (and trying to beat him), all the while developing a lasting respect for his showmanship, horsemanship and tenacity. I learned many tricks and techniques by just observing his ways. Greg is truly deserving of this honor.

The last person honored was my good friend and co-worker, jockey Kenny Hart. Kenny was one of Quarter Horse racing’s leading riders, in both money and races won, during a stellar career spanning several decades. He and I worked together for leading trainer Blane Schvaneveldt and developed a lasting friendship that is very dear to me. Kenny would be one of the first riders at the barn in the morning, ready to gallop or work the stakes horses in Blane’s barn. Very few leading jockeys galloped horses in the morning after a full night of mounts the previous evening at Los Alamitos Race Course in California. Kenny was a tireless worker. It is ironic that the two of us – me who rode the pony, leading Kenny to the track on such horses as Town Policy – would be installed in the Hall of Fame on the same night. Well deserved, Kenny!

Lady Bugs Moon was one of the horses enshrined that night, and I had the pleasure of standing him at Windward Stud during the 1980s. He is a sire whose impact on our breed is still being felt today through his granddaughters. He was a pleasure to handle – a true gentleman.

I lived right across the road from the pasture where Miss Olene grazed in Purcell, Okla., when I was a young man. I could watch her, along with two other Hall of Famers, Barbara L and Miss Meyers, graze in the same pasture right outside my bedroom window. Little did I know, I was watching history in the making! To see her honored that night was a special treat.

For myself, that evening in Houston brought back so many fond memories of a life that I have devoted to this association and the magnificent horse it represents. I was surrounded by my friends and family and felt a tremendous amount of support and affection from all the people in attendance.

I have never been so moved. What a night!

As always, I remain,