The Western performance horse industry has changed forever with the loss of an undeniable legend.
All-time leading sire High Brow Cat was humanely euthanized earlier this week, co-owner Darren Blanton confirmed Thursday. The stallion was 31 years old.
“We all loved him and this was a difficult decision,” Blanton said. “It’s a sad time for us. But, we had no choice — he was 31 and it was time. It wasn’t painful for him, but it was painful for him to continue.”
An Equi-Stat Elite $82 Million Sire at the time of his death, High Brow Cat has arguably made the biggest impact on the cutting horse industry of any stallion in the sport’s history. His sons and daughters have carried the industry into the 21stcentury.
Of the 1,853 performers recorded in Equi-Stat on High Brow Cat’s offspring record, a remarkable 236 have garnered more than $100,000 each. Seven of his foals have surpassed the half-million-dollar mark in earnings, and they’re all topped by $850,628 earner Dont Look Twice (out of Tapt Twice x Dual Pep), the 2011 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Horse of the Year.
High Brow Cat (High Brow Hickory x Smart Little Kitty x Smart Little Lena) was bred by Hanes Chatham and Stewart Sewell. He posted his first check to Equi-Stat in December of 1991 when he tied for 13th in the Will Rogers Futurity with Faron Hightower at the reins. It was the start of an incredible journey for owners Jack Waggoner and Susan Ferguson, who purchased the stallion when he was just 2 months old.
Hightower showed High Brow Cat for much of his early years, picking up paychecks at several major limited-age events and winning the Classic Open at the 1993 Augusta Futurity. Others who climbed aboard the stallion in the show pen were Jody Galyean, Olan Hightower, Waggoner and, late in his career, Bill Freeman. All told, the stallion retired with $110,784 won.
“Words cannot express my grief,” Waggoner said when he learned of High Brow Cat’s death. “‘Cat’ was my star, he really was. He was my partner for so long, and he did so much more than I could have ever imagined. Although I am sad, I am truly gratified that Cat’s legacy continues — and will forever — in the cutting horse industry.”
The first foals by High Brow Cat hit the ground in 1993. Seven were registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), and all but one earned money in cutting. The best of the bunch was Cats Summertime, a gelding out of Summer Lynx (by Doc’s Lynx) who earned $357,937.
It just snowballed from there.
Over the last two and a half decades, High Brow Cat has continued to sire winners — including eight NCHA Futurity Open champions. As a grandsire, his influence has been even stronger. His sons have sired the earners of more than $142 million, while his daughters have produced the winners of nearly $40 million.
“I think you have certain people and animals that revolutionize industries,” Blanton said. “High Brow Cat was one of those. For instance, you have Tiger Woods; he changed the game of golf. The same for Michael Jordan in basketball and Tom Brady in football. They were not only superstar athletes, but they completely changed how their games were played and perceived.
“There are lots of great horses, but very few that revolutionize an industry like Cat did in cutting. There will never be another him.”
High Brow Cat was purchased by Blanton’s Colt Ventures in January 2013. Then in March of this year, Kelly and Madison Crum of Beechfork Ranch announced they entered into a partnership with Blanton to become co-owners of the stallion.
Laid to rest at Blanton’s ranch south of Fort Worth, Texas, High Brow Cat is buried next to 2006 AQHA Horse of the Year Express On Heir (The Hot Express x Lulu Of An Heiress x Son And Heir), a rope horse known industry-wide as “Luke.”