major-bonanza
* Photo by Don Shugart

From The Archives: Major Bonanza

Major Bonanza will go down in history as a throwback, a horse pretty enough to win championships in halter and athletic enough to chase a cow down the fence.

Bred by Bill Moomey, Major Bonanza was by Coy’s Bonanza and out of Manana’s Rose (by Major’s Manana). He was born in 1972.

Major Bonanza had a very successful AQHA show career in the 1970s, earning points in halter, cutting, Western pleasure, working cow horse and hunter under saddle. The initial plan was to be a halter horse, and he and owner Andy Rees won many championships in that event as a weanling and yearling classes.

At that time, horses that won in halter often made the jump to performane events, and that’s exactly what Major Bonanza did. He earned a Performance Register of Merit and obtained Superiors in Halter and Western Pleasure. In addition, he was an Open AQHA Champion and, under trainer Bob Avila, was the AQHA’s High-Point Working Cow Horse in 1977.

“Bobby Avila I think summed it up one time,” Rees told Quarter Horse News in 2019. “He said Major Bonanza was the horse that put the pretty in performance.”

Major Bonanza at Stud

 He stood in Oregon, Texas and Canada during a stud career that lasted until his death in 1997 at age 25. AQHA records show some of those mares had pedigrees that would become well known in the Western performance horse industry – daughters of Doc Bar, Poco Bueno and King Fritz, but more were from halter or all-around backgrounds. He also bred mares by racehorses The Ole Man and Tonto Bars Hank, as well as future big-name stallions like Impressive, Sonny Dee Bar and Two Eyed Jack.

Major Bonanza was an example of a versatile Quarter Horse who could win at halter and in the performance arena. • Photo by Don Shugart.

Major Bonanza sired the winners of 16 AQHA World Championships in events ranging from cutting to Western pleasure, as well as roping, trail and cow horse. 

Reining — one of the few disciplines in which Major Bonanza didn’t win a title — is where the stallion is most often found in modern Western performance horse pedigrees. Although he sired money-earners in cutting, reined cow horse and barrel racing, his three leading performers recorded in the Equi-Stat database are reiners.

Although many of Major Bonanza’s foals were competed before Equi-Stat began tracking statistics, he still boasts a record in the database as the sire 84 earners with winnings of  more than $278,682. 

His record as a paternal grandsire is likely more indicative of his siring ability, as his daughters produced the earners of more than $1 million.  As of press time, his daughters had produced 232 money-earning offspring with a cumulative Equi-Stat record of $1,045,910. 

The leading earner foaled out of the late stallion’s daughters is Sparkling Major, a 1999 stallion that has a double-dose of Major Bonanza. In addition to being out of the Major Bonanza mare, Major Affair, the stallion bred by Bob Stinner of Ocala, Florida, was sired by one of Major Bonanza’s grandsons, Major Vaquero. 

A reiner, Sparkling Major earned $118,488 with top performances including making the Open finals of the 2002 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity, 2003 NRHA Derby and the 2005 National Reining Breeders Classic.

Resurgence

Although Major Bonanza died more than two decades ago, he still is available to breeders through frozen semen saved many years ago when someone approached Rees, his owner, about possibly shipping semen to Australia.

While the Australian opportunity never materialized, Rees continued to pay for the storage and in recent years made it available to the public. He was advertised in 2020 through Weatherford Equine and, according to the AQHA, fathered one registered foal in 2011, 2017 and 2019.