If Doc Bar's life went as planned, he'd have been a racehorse. Instead, he became one of the most influential sires in the history of the Western performance horse industry. • QHN File Photo.

From The Archives: Doc Bar

When Tom Finley bred Dandy Doll to Lighting Bar in hopes of producing a racehorse, he was sorely disappointed in the result. Instead, Finley created Doc Bar, a stallion who changed the Western performance industry as we know it. 

Doc Bar’s sire, Lightning Bar, was an individual with a stately presence about him. A Quarter Horse News article from 2004 described the Appendix Quarter Horse as having a big, laid-back shoulder and short back aided the stallion on the racetrack, while Doc Bar’s dam Dandy Doll by Texas Dandy is said to have contributed the cow sense to the cross. Despite his sire’s racing success, Doc Bar did not exhibit his running genes. 

After floundering in four race starts, Doc Bar was compared to a fat hen trying to run. As a racehorse, he earned a failing grade with $95 earned. Local California breeder and judge Charley Araujo implored Finley to let him take the 1956 stallion to the halter pen, where Doc Bar found his first real successes.

Glimmer of Potential

Following 15 shows, Doc Bar had garnered 12 first-place prizes in the halter classes. At the age of six, Doc Bar was “purchased” through a trade of $30,000 worth of broodmares to the Jensen family. According to the 2004 QHN article, the California horse community was flabbergasted the Jensens had paid so much for a horse that had merely shown in halter. 

Following a 1962 Grand National Livestock Exposition Grand Champion Stallion tTitle, Doc Bar was retired to stud and bred to the band of Poco Tivo mares owned by the Jensens.

Doc Bar’s unique look helped him win in the halter pen. • QHN File Photo.

Cutting was introduced to Doc Bar’s progeny thanks to the Jensen’s son-in-law Charlie Ward’s interest in the sport. 

“When we came to the ranch to stay permanently, there hadn’t been many big-time cutting horses yet, and that was when Doc Bar was 15 years old,” Charlie’s wife and Jensens’ daughter, Stephenie Ward, told QHN in 2004. “It wasn’t until [the colts] hit the big numbers in the cutting business that his book was full. But from every year from then on, we bred 70 mares to him each season.”

Cutting the Checks

Cutting legends such as Buster Welch, Shorty Freeman and Leon Harrel got their hands on Doc Bar progeny Stephenie sold in Texas. 

“People started talking about Doc Bar, but nobody could believe, until they had actually ridden one, that a horse bred like that could be any good,” Ward said. “The genes went together and did the right thing.”

Three-time National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Champion mare Poco Lena (Poco Bueno x Sheilwin x Pretty Boy) was bred to Doc Bar twice, producing the great Doc O’Lena and Dry Doc in 1967 and 1968. Shorty Freeman rode Doc O’Lena to an NCHA Futurity Open Championship in 1970 and Buster Welch followed the next year with Dry Doc.

Doc Bar’s blood flows through nearly every horse in the cutting horse industry, with horses often carrying multiple crosses to the great stallion through his many successful sons and daughters – especially through his grandson and EquiStat Elite $42 Million Sire Smart Little Lena (by Doc O’Lena).

Doc Bar influenced the Western performance horse industries in many ways, especially through his son, Doc O’Lena, left, and grandson, Smart Little Lena, right. • Photo by Dalco.

“The good trainers helped make Doc Bar’s reputation. His offspring were ridden by many different trainers,” Ward said. 

Doc Bar’s breeding veterinarian Dr. Gary Deter recalled Doc Bar’s supreme disposition and effort in the breeding barn.

“He never failed to be collected, and was a gentleman to be around,” Deter told QHN. “There are a lot of stories about how good he was. A 6-year-old child could have led him to the broodmare barn.”

Doc Bar bred mares until 1975, when he was 19. His stud fee was $5,000 in a time when $250-500 stud fees were common. He sired 485 horses, including Doc’s Oak (out of Susies Bay x Poco Tivo), Docs Prescription (out of Jameen Tivo x Povo Tivo) and Docs Hickory, a son of Miss Chickasha (by Chickasha Mike) who is the grandsire of EquiStat Elite $86 Million Sire High Brow Cat.  

“The Wards did a tremendous job with the crosses,” Harrel told QHN in 2004. “It was nearly impossible to get a horse that wouldn’t work. If you gave any of the horses the opportunity and tried to develop them instead of trying to mold one into some specific type of horse you thought you had to have, they were all excellent.”

Doc Bar passed in 1992 at the age of 36. His impact is still felt today with all of the many High Brow Cat, Dual Rey and Peptoboonsmal-bred horses tracing to Doc Bar at least once.