Little Badger Dulce made an incredible impact on the cutting industry as a performer and later as a producer, but on Aug. 6, at the age of 26, the mare was humanely euthanized at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital, where she’d lived for nearly a year under the supervision of Dr. Charlie Buchanan.
“One of the reasons she was retired from the show pen is because her ankle got really bad,” said Branch, of Farwell, Texas. “We were able to keep it maintained for a long time, but they called me and told me she couldn’t get up anymore and she was really in pain, so we went ahead and put her down.”
No doubt it was emotional, but it was an easy decision for Branch and the mare’s owners, Lonnie and Barbara Allsup, of Clovis, New Mexico. “Dulce” is one of the top 10 cutting horses of all time, with $668,461 garnered in cutting pens – she deserved to rest in peace.
Before Little Badger Dulce (Peppy San Badger x Sandia Dulce x Doc Bar), bred by King Ranch Inc., of Kingsville, Texas, set foot in a performance arena, she was making memories with her trainer. While in Missouri showing his other 3-year-olds, Branch tested the mare’s skills in an unlikely way.
“There was a jumping horse stable behind the arena, and they had all these natural jumps set up through the woods,” Branch said. “I’d get out there early in the morning and be loping her, and every time I’d come by one of those jumps, her ears would go up. So I aimed her at one of the low jumps and she went straight to it and right over it. She loved it.”
Despite the resident jumping trainer’s opinion that Dulce had enough natural talent to succeed as a jumper, Branch pointed the mare toward the 1992 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, where she finished as Open Reserve Champion. Dulce started 1993 off right when she topped the Abilene Spectacular 4-Year-Old Open with a 225.
Her Equi-Stat record for the rest of the season is peppered with first- and second-place finishes that combined to give her $154,337 in earnings for the year. Thanks to the heart and cow smarts she’d consistently shown across the country, she was voted the NCHA’s first Horse of the Year.
“It was really cool, just because I thought so much of her and she deserved so much,” Branch said. “After being second at the Futurity, to come back and be Horse of the Year just proved she was the real deal.”
Dulce continued her competitive career through 1998, carrying Lonnie to the 1996 NCHA Non-Pro World Championship and finishing as NCHA Open Reserve World Champion twice with Branch. But with nearly nothing left for the mare to prove on cows, it was time for her offspring to carry on her legacy.