A Little Bossy retired from the show pen in 2016 with $405,985 in earnings after carrying R.L. Chartier to the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Championship. His last moment in the limelight was his induction into the NCHA Hall of Fame, and then he went to live with owners Gary and Karen Fields, who turned him out with their miniature donkey. “Pistol” adapted to his non-show life, grew a winter coat and indulged in some R&R in his pasture. But his story didn’t end there.
On March 25, Pistol returned to R.L.’s Seven X Ranch – this time permanently. The Fieldses drove up, handed over his leadrope to R.L.’s 6-year-old daughter Callie, then shocked R.L. and his wife, Mica, with something else: the transfer of Pistol’s registration papers into Callie’s name.
“I think they were surprised, but it was the right thing to do,” Karen said. “The horse really liked to cut, so we just thought he might like to go back and at least possibly be in the program – being kept in the show barn and exercised and ridden.
“We thought, well, are we just going to let him stand out here and turn into a big, fat, fuzzy nothing?” she continued. “It just kind of broke our hearts really thinking about him not ever being seen again or doing anything. He’d make the perfect youth horse for her [Callie] someday.”
To say R. L. and Mica were stunned would be an understatement. The couple goes way back with Pistol – he was the first horse R.L. trained all the way through, and he was one of the first babies by Mica’s family’s stallion CD Lights. They also go back with the Fieldses, who were R.L.’s first outside customers while he was working at Wrigley Ranches. All of those things combined made the gesture even more extraordinary.
“When R.L. won the World on him, Gary and Karen Fields owned him and they’ve always kind of said one day he’ll get to be Callie’s,” Mica said. “We always just thought, when she was ready for him, we’d bring him back out of retirement and she would get to show him. That was it. We never actually thought that he would be hers; we just thought they would allow us to bring him back and let her show him a bit whenever she was ready.”
The Chartiers consider the Fieldses family and vice versa. The Chartier children, including 2-year-old Brayden, even have nicknames for the Fields: Gary is “Bubba,” and Karen is “Honey” after Gary’s pet name for her. Therefore, even when Pistol was down the street at the Fieldses’ place, he was still part of the extended clan.
“He’s [Pistol] always been part of our family, and they said this way he officially gets to be ours,” Mica said of the Fieldses’ generous gift. “They’re like another set of grandparents to my kids and just the most incredible, loving people you’ve ever met. I don’t think Callie really fully understands what a big gift it is. He was Honey and Bubba’s, so she thought that was real cool. She just was excited to get to have a special horse of her own when she knows how much he means to us, but she has no clue what exactly she got.”
It may be a while before Callie takes over Pistol’s reins. She currently has a beginner horse named Deuce, who is from the same foal crop as Pistol. Mica anticipates it will be a couple of years before she is ready to move up from him.
“At the time, we’ll have to see if he’s ready to gear back and slow down a little bit,” Mica said of Pistol. “Obviously he’s used to really going hard in the Open and having hard, fast runs and things like that. It definitely takes a special horse to gear down and still work for a little kid and work pretty properly, but without going so fast they get slung off.”
Callie’s designation as the “Cookie Fairy” has certainly helped bond her and Pistol. Mica estimated with a chuckle that all of the calories Pistol burns while exercising are returned from the amount of cookies his young owner feeds him. Knowing Pistol would be spoiled daily by Callie factored into the Fieldses’ decision to gift him to her.
“Little Callie and Brayden and Mica, they go through the barn every night and give cookies out,” Karens said. “He’s [Pistol] just got a super personality and he’s a people lover.
“We just know that he’s still got some good life left in him for a good long time to come, so we didn’t want him to just grow old and get fat and not be able to enjoy what the horse really enjoys doing,” she continued said.
“It’s one of the most amazing things about this business,” Mica said. “They first approached us to become customers, and we quickly grew into a friendship with them. It’s one of the great things about this business – customers turn into friends, and then they ended up turning into someone that I think of as family.
“Horses can bring everybody closer together. I know they’ll be right there [in the] front row cheering her on whenever she actually is ready to show him. They definitely didn’t have to do this, especially not to the extent they did by actually giving him to us. I know that they did it just because it brought them some joy, too. It’s a big gift, for sure.”
Callie may be content for now to sit on Pistol bareback in his stall and feed him lots of treats, but one day, the duo will make their entrance in the show pen. It will all come full circle for the Chartier and Fields families.
“I don’t think she knows what a powerhouse youth horse she’s going to have,” Mica said. “She’ll be a force to be reckoned with whenever she learns to step up! And if nothing else, in the meantime, they’re going to have fun hanging out and having cookies.”