Who Would You Choose?

The winter of 2013 will probably go down in the record books as one of the worst in recent history. Snow, ice and bitterly cold temperatures blew across the country in recurrent waves of bad weather. The conditions often made travel dangerous, stranding people wherever they were when the storms hit – at home, in the store or on the freeway. Even when the roads were clear, many opted to stay in the warmth of their homes, rather than deal with falling temperatures and even lower wind chills.

In mid-March, overnight temperatures still touched freezing in Fort Worth, Texas, home of Quarter Horse News (QHN). This morning, my Facebook news feed featured photos from my Michigander friends, who are dealing with another 8 inches of snow that fell overnight. The longer the cold weather remains, the more active my Facebook friends become, sharing photos and news items to relieve the tedium of winter.

Right now, there seem to be several polls, surveys and quizzes getting digitally passed around. In a fit of extreme boredom at the airport recently, I answered a few short questions to determine the equestrian discipline in which I should compete. (Western pleasure.) You can find out what state you should live in (Georgia), what country you should live in (Japan), and what kind of dog you would be, if you were a dog (Labrador retriever). The list of potential time-wasting, grossly inaccurate but fun quizzes goes on and on.

While horse people don’t usually have a lot of time to waste on Facebook, it is a popular forum for gathering opinions on topics such as which stallion you should breed to your mare. Recently, another question was posed that made me stop and think: If you could visit any stallion, living or dead, who would you choose?

Two co-workers have had the opportunities to meet two of their favorite stallions in the past couple of weeks. Western Horseman Associate Editor Susan Morrison was lucky enough to have her picture taken with Gallo Del Cielo (Rooster), while QHN Features Editor Kelsey Pecsek got to pet on Big Chex To Cash and have her picture taken with Spooks Gotta Gun.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great stallions through the years, including all-time cutting horse leader High Brow Cat, legendary halter horse sire Impressive, all-time Quarter Horse racing leader First Down Dash, Thoroughbred’s Kentucky Derby winner Free House, a leading first-crop sire before his early death, Varian Arabian’s great Desperado V and National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame inductee Shining Spark.

Getting to see all of those stallions in person was phenomenal, and I consider it a blessing that our greatest stallions are so accessible to the public. But if you ask me which stallion, living or dead, I’d most like to meet, I’d have to take a step back in time and I can’t narrow it down to just one. There are two stallions I’d give anything to have had the opportunity to see in person – Wimpy P-1 and Three Bars (TB).

Why these two stallions? Because each of them had a profound influence on the history of my favorite breed – the American Quarter Horse. Both stallions lived and died before I was even born. Wimpy was foaled on the King Ranch in 1937 and passed away in 1959, at the age of 22. Three Bars was born in 1940 and died in 1968, on Walter Merrick’s Oklahoma ranch.

Merrick was the driving force behind Three Bars’ emergence as a Quarter Horse sire. He leased the stallion from 1952-1954, increasing his book from 12 or 15 mares a year to 70. “The Three Bars Legacy,” published in America’s Horse in 2008, quoted Merrick as saying, “I was criticized very sharply for introducing a Thoroughbred into the Quarter Horse industry,” Merrick said. “Some people thought it was going to ruin the breed.”

In reality, Three Bars helped define the breed. He is one of only a handful of Thoroughbreds to be inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Hall of Fame. He achieved that well-deserved honor in 1989, more than two decades after his death.

People have said Three Bars had a calm demeanor that made him sought after as a sire of Quarter Horses. I wish I could have met him, and found that out for myself.

Wimpy’s story takes place in the earliest days of the AQHA, when it was decided that the winner of the stallion class at the 1941 Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show would receive the No. P-1 in AQHA’s first stud book. They wanted the best representative of the Quarter Horse breed to be the first registered, and that was Wimpy. In today’s increasingly specialized equine industry, where two Quarter Horses standing side-by-side often don’t even look like the same breed, I’d like to take a step back in time and see Wimpy in person. I’d like to see him stand up in a halter class and see what the founders of our association believed an American Quarter Horse should look like.

I know I’m not alone in my admiration of Three Bars and Wimpy, and their place in the history of the AQHA. Another great thing recently happened because of Facebook, and it involves Wimpy and his registration papers. QHN contributing writer Pat Feuerstein tells the story, which begins on page 62. Whether or not Wimpy is on your list of horses you’d like to meet, I know you’ll enjoy reading about him and the good that can come out of a group of friends on Facebook. Enjoy!