Colonels Smoking Gun, aka "Gunner," recently solidified his standing among the NRHA's all-time leading sires. * Photo by Cheryl Magoteaux Cody.

Gunner Becomes NRHA’s All-Time Leading Sire

When Andrea Fappani and All Bettss Are Off won the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Level 4 Open Futurity, the $250,000 first-place paycheck made the horse’s sire, Colonels Smoking Gun (Gunner), the association’s all-time leading sire in the history.

The bald-faced sorrel stallion, who died seven years ago, ended the season with more than $12.6 million in progeny earnings in the NRHA. Officials say he also was the 2020 NRHA Leading Sire, and also was the leading sire of the 2020 NRHA Futurity, according to Equi-Stat.

Story of Gunner

Twenty-four years ago, the then-unknown floppy-eared sorrel stallion with a white tail competed in the NRHA Futurity with trainer Clint Haverty. By the time the go-rounds were over, Gunner had grabbed everyone’s attention by claiming the Level 4 Open Reserve title and the hearts of reining fans everywhere.  

By Quarter Horse stallion Colonelfourfreckle and out of the Quarter Horse mare, Katie Gun (by John Gun), Gunner’s excessive white spots initially kept him from registering with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). He was first registered Colonels Smokingun with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), and eventually was allowed to be dual-registered as a Quarter Horse when the AQHA changed its rules in 2004.

Bred by Eric Storey, Gunner was purchased by Pam and Paul Rohus, who took the colt to Haverty. With Haverty at the reins, he also won the Open Reining Futurity at the APHA World Championships. Gunner was then sold to Kim and Debra Sloan, and won another APHA World Championship, finished as Reserve Champion at the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), and won a Gold medal for the United States Equestrian Team with the late Bryant Pace.

In a time before live-streamed video, it was easy to tell when Gunner was about to go. The stands would fill, a buzz would build, and the anticipation became palpable. The cheering started as he moved into sight–long before he ever reached the arena gate. Haverty, in typical understated fashion, noted: “They love Gunner, don’t they?” 

He was right. Horsemen and horsewomen everywhere loved Gunner and they exalted in the charisma and excitement he brought to the show pen. All totaled, Gunner earned $173,000 and was immortalized as a Breyer model horse in the early 2000s, but that was only a small part of the legacy he was beginning to create.

Gunner’s Influence

His impact upon the APHA was landmark, not only in his exemplary performance in APHA competition but in how he carried the Paint horse name, presence and look to other venues and agendas. 

“The APHA would not have had the high-quality reining horses we have today if not for Gunner,” said APHA Executive Director Billy Smith. “His impact and legacy are incalculable at this point because he is that once-in-a-lifetime individual that was not only able to produce great performers, but also to produce sons that throw great performers. That has created an exponential impact that literally changed the industry.”

Gunner was purchased by NRHA Hall of Famers Tim and Colleen McQuay in 2005, following the passing of their legendary stallion Hollywood Dun It. The McQuays had followed Gunner’s career and even hoped to buy him as a 3-year-old. Tim had ridden several Gunner colts, which cemented his decision to buy the horse. 

“I loved him when he was showing, but what got me going was that we had some colts of his to ride, and I liked them a lot. Stopping was easy for them and they did it with style. They always let you train them, and then they got better and better and better,” McQuay said.

Future Impact

Although Gunner was laid to rest in 2013, his legacy continues to grow. First becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Sire in 2007, he became a Two Million Dollar Sire just three years later. Since then, his offspring have earned a million dollars in the NRHA annually, subsequently moving Gunner to a new milestone each year. He crossed the $12 Million Dollar threshold in September of 2020.

Gunner’s top earning offspring in the NRHA include:

  • NRHA Derby Level 4 Open Co-Reserve Champion Tinker With Guns ($344,000, out of Tinker Nic x Reminic):  
  • NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Reserve Champion Gunners Tinseltown ($305,000, out of Miss Tinseltown x Great Red Pine):
  • NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Champion Americasnextgunmodel ($289,486, out of Cee Dun It Do It x Hollywood Dun It)  
  • NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Champion  All Betts Are Off ($281,000, out of Wimpys Little Chic x Wimpys Little Step).
  • Equi-Stat Elite $4 Million Sire Gunners Special Nite ($219,000, out of Mifs Doll x Mifillena):  
  • NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Champion Gunnatrashya ($218,000, out of Natrasha x Trashadeous): 
  • The Run For A Million $1 Million Invitational Co-Champion No Smoking Required ($185,000, out of Icing Required x Smart Chic Olena):