| TSLN.com

Ranching and Rodeo: South Dakota Stoddard family has ranched for 100 years, excelled at rodeo

When Herb and Inez Stoddard settled near Norris, South Dakota over a century ago, they had no idea the fifth generation of Stoddards would be still be there, raising cattle, horses, and rodeoing.

Now Joe, the third generation, his son Sam and his wife Danielle, and their kids Ciara and Caden are on the ranch that was established in 1924, when Herb and Inez bought it after leasing land in the area for six years prior.

The ranch always produced cattle, but Joe added rodeo and horses.

His dad, Harold, was dead-set against his son rodeoing, so after dad went to bed, Joe would ride five miles in the dark to Burrell Phipps’ place. Burrell, a cutter and team roper, got Joe started in both events.

Joe didn’t start rodeoing till his early twenties, competing in playdays, showdeos, jackpots, and a few South Dakota Rodeo Association events.

He married Linda “Wink” Livermont in 1965, and the couple made their home on the ranch.

They ranched, and as their kids came along: Jodi, Lori, Sam and grandson Kyle, who they raised, they hauled them to rodeos.

They produced some of the Little Britches Rodeos in the area, hiring out the contract people. By this time, Joe quit rodeoing so he could help his kids rodeo. “I could see my kids were going to be a lot more successful than I was, because they had started young. So I switched over and started helping them,” he said.

His kids competed in Little Britches, 4-H and high school rodeo, often practicing at Burrell’s place. Burrell and Joe would partner on team roping steers.

The first competition son Sam remembers is when he was four years old, going over to Gordon Good’s place, for a local play day. Being the youngest of the Stoddard kids, he thinks he benefitted the most from rodeo, as he started out at a younger age than his sisters.

Like his dad, Sam was a team roper and a cutter but also tie-down roped and steer wrestled. In 1991, he was the 4-H state champion tie-down roper. He was a two-time high school state cutter (1990-1991) and in 1992, his senior year, was the high school state champion steer wrestler and all-around.

Jodi and Lori both won state high school cutting titles, and grandson Kyle, who was raised by Joe and Wink after Lori was severely injured in a car crash, won a state cutting title as well, as did another grandson, Tanner O’Daniel. Both Jodi and Sam served as president of the National Little Britches Rodeo Association.

After a year of college, Sam came home but continued to rodeo. He competed in the SDRA and the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Associations a little, but the PRCA was his strength. He qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo once in the steer wrestling and five times in the team roping. He also competed in the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association, finishing the 1994 season as regional tie-down roping champion and qualifying for the Indian National Finals Rodeo once in the steer wrestling, twice in the tie-down roping, and eight times in the team roping.

Sam married Danielle Faulk, a rodeo cowgirl, in 2003. Danielle, a native of Gordon, Neb., competed in the breakaway roping, barrel racing and goat tying in college and at Nebraska State Rodeo Association and Mid-States Rodeo Association rodeos.

For several years, Sam and Danielle owned the Gordon Livestock. Sam’s mom, Wink, had Parkinson’s, and when her care required more and more time from Joe, Joe asked them to come back to the ranch. They leased it for a year, till Joe sold it to them in 2014. Wink passed away in 2019.

Their focus has been on the Red Angus cattle they raise, and a rodeo company.

Sam and Danielle formed Stoddard Rodeos, a stock contracting company, when they realized youth rodeos don’t get a lot of roughstock competitors. They bought a handful of bucking horses and now provide horses for youth, high school and some regional rodeos. In the last few years, they’ve contracted to take horses to the Little Britches Rodeo Finals, the National High School Finals Rodeo, and the South Dakota 4-H Finals. In 2021, they were at thirty rodeos across South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Their family fills most of the roles. Sam sorts; son Caden flanks; Tyler Jones, their hired man, picks up, and Danielle makes sure the little details are taken care of. At the bigger rodeos, Tanner O’Daniel and Kyle Stoddard help out. “It’s a family affair,” Sam said.

Sam and Danielle’s kids competed in rodeo, too. Ciara, a registered nurse in Omaha, was the 2015 state high school champion girls cutter and went to the National High School Finals in 2015 and 2017. Caden, a junior in high school, won the state junior high team roping title in 2019 with Eastan West and that same year, was state champ in the goat tying. He’s qualified for the National High School Finals in the cutting in 2020 and 2021.

Joe believed in volunteering. He was a state high school association board member for six years, serving three of those as president and a director for the National High School Rodeo Association for eight years. He was vice-president of the SDRA in the 1970s, and on the Long Valley Roping Club board for five years. He served as president of the S.D. Cutting Horse Association and the Western South Dakota Buckaroos, and spent 22 years on the Kadoka School Board, twelve of those as chairman.

“I’ve always wanted to be involved when there’s something going on,” he said. “Somebody’s got to do it.”

For a while, Joe and Wink raised American quarter horses. The more memorable ones were Chico, Tiger, Dandy, Cap, Wagamoo, and Big Brown.

Yellowstone Dash, “Chico,” was the best stud they had, Joe said. “He could run. He had a 95 speed index at two different distances,” he said. Sam made the Badlands Circuit Finals twice on Chico and hazed on him, too.

He had another horse, Big Brown, by a stud called Van Dee Frost, who was fast. When Joe raced at the Western Buckaroo races, he rode Big Brown, and “most of the time I could stand up halfway down the race and see who was coming in second.” The races are fundraisers for the scholarships the Buckaroos grant, and when Joe first started racing, when the gun went off, he was the only one standing on the starting line; everyone else had left.

So Joe left the starting line early, too, and the guys gave him flack about it, calling it the “Stoddard Start.” Joe had an answer for them: “if those guys don’t leave early, that’s their fault,” he laughed. “They can see the guy pull the (starting) gun out of his holster,” he joked.

Joe believed his horses and cattle should be good at whatever was needed of them.

For the horses, he wanted good bone, straight legs, a good mind and a good back. Color didn’t mean anything to him. A neighbor used to argue with him, that he should raise horses for color. “I raised them for performance and ability,” Joe said. “He told me, ‘you need to breed color into your horses, and I said, you can’t ride color.” The neighbor argued, “no, but you can sell it,” Joe laughed.

For his cattle, he wanted good mothers, durability, easy wintering, and good disposition. Sam raises Red Angus now and they are “very, very satisfied,” with the breed, Joe said.

When his wife, Wink died, after 53 years of marriage, he reconnected with a school friend, Jo, and they are enjoying life together.

His 77 years on this earth have been good.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate. A lot of guys haven’t got to do half the things I’ve done, and I’m grateful that my kids have supported me through my whole life.”

The Stoddard name lives on, in good cattle, good horses, and good rodeo. While some things have changed since Herb and Inez put down roots, the family carries on, stewarding the same land the couple started on many years ago.

Ciara Stoddard in the goat tying at the 2017 S.D. State High School Finals Rodeo. Photo by Cowboy Images/Peggy Gander
Courtesy photo
Caden Stoddard and Eastan West at the 2021 S.D. State High School Finals Rodeo. Photo by Cowboy Images/Peggy Gander
Courtesy photo
Caden Stoddard, header, and Eastan West, heeler, won the 2017 S.D. State Junior High School Rodeo year-end title. Knippling Kustoms
Courtesy photo
Danielle Faulk Stoddard competed on the team at Chadron (Neb.) State College in the barrel racing. Hubbell Photos
Courtesy photo
A student at Chadron State College, Danielle Faulk Stoddard breakaway ropes in 1996. She is married to Sam Stoddard. Hubbell Photos
Courtesy photo
Brian Fulton hazed for Todd Suhn at the 1999 National Finals Rodeo on a horse, Tiger Treno, “Tiger,” owned by Joe Stoddard. Fulton also hazed on Tiger for Randy Suhn, at the same NFR. Hubbell Photos
Courtesy photos
Joe Stoddard on Lightning in 1971. The Norris, S.D. man was a team roper and cutter, rancher, raised quarter horses, and served in a variety of volunteer capacities. Johnny’s Photos
Courtesy photos
Joe Stoddard (on the left) and Burrell Phipps. The two men were neighbors, and Burrell taught Joe how to team rope and cut. Stoddard family
Courtesy photo
Sam Stoddard tie-down ropes on Van A Rama, “Wagamoo” at the 1994 Indian National Finals Rodeo. Jim Fain
Courtesy photo
Sam Stoddard team ropes on Tiger, one of the horses trained by his dad. Tiger was “phenomenal,” Sam said. Sam began roping steers on him as a two-year-old, and when he was three, was hauling him to rodeos. Courtesy photo
Sam and Danielle Stoddard stand in front of their ranch sign. The couple own Stoddard Rodeos, providing bucking horses for youth, high school and regional rodeos. Stoddard family
Courtesy photo
Joe and Linda “Wink” Livermont. Courtesy photo
Joe and Wink Stoddard and their grandkids.
Ciara Stoddard finished as reserve champion in the cutting at the 2017 S.D. State High School Finals Rodeo in Belle Fourche. The Stoddard family name is known for cutting and performance horses. Cowboy Images/Peggy Gander
Courtesy photo


AQHA Racing Special Achievement Winners: Butch Wise, Judy Horton and Ross Brigden honored with special achievement awards during the AQHA Racing Champions Ceremony.

Each year, the American Quarter Horse Association recognizes the hard work of several individuals in the racing industry. For 2021, the John Andreini Special Recognition Award goes to AQHA Past President Butch Wise of El Reno, Oklahoma; the Mildred N. Vessels Special Achievement Award to Judy Horton of Wheatland, Wyoming; and the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award to Ross Brigden of Medicine Hat, Alberta. These recipients were recognized during the AQHA Racing Champions Announcement Ceremony January 12 at Heritage Place in Oklahoma City.

The respected horseman Butch Wise is honored with the John Andreini Special Recognition Award, which is given to an individual who profoundly benefits the Quarter Horse racing industry. Wise served as the 2020-2021 AQHA president to cap off five years on the AQHA Executive Committee. He was a longtime AQHA director and has served on a number of committees. Wise is also a past president of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association and has been inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and the Remington Park Hall of Fame. He is currently the manager of the Lazy E Ranch LLC in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Mildred N. Vessels Special Achievement winner Judy Horton works tirelessly to improve American Quarter Horse racing, especially in her home state of Wyoming. She is an AQHA director emeritus and current member of the AQHA Racing Committee. Horton has helped promote racing youth programs such as the AQHYA Youth Racing Experience at both the state and national levels.

Gordon Crone Special Achievement winner Ross Brigden is a long-time supporter of racing. An AQHA director-at-large and a member of the AQHA Racing Council, he has twice been the Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association’s president. During his career as a trainer, Brigden saddled graded stakes winners Katies Sign and A Special Martini and trained the earners of nearly $1 million. He has bred the earners of nearly $500,000, including stakes winners Snoboat and Princess Of Zoom.

For more information on AQHA racing, visit www.aqha.com/racing.


Saying goodbye to Prorodeo Hall of Famer Jerome Robinson

ProRodeo has lost one of its superstars. ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Jerome Robinson passed away Jan. 9. He was 74.

Robinson, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2019, qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 11 times – 1970-75 and 1977-81.

Jerome Robinson. PRCA
Courtesy photo

Robinson went on to become a cowboy with many hats – a contestant, contractor, event producer, contract personnel and member of the PRCA Board of Directors. With so many titles on his résumé, Robinson was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame as a Notable, a word that perfectly summarizes his career.

“I was floored to be truthful,” Robinson said in the July 19, 2019, edition of the ProRodeo Sports News. “It was completely unexpected knowing all the other people who put time into this association. I’m completely humbled by it knowing the other people who have done a lot for this outfit.”

During his time in the professional ranks, Robinson served as the Bull Riding Director on the PRCA Board for four years, vice-president for one, a term on the National Finals Rodeo Commission, and was on the PRCA research and development committee for the building of the Colorado Springs headquarters and Hall of Fame.

Robinson made a lasting contribution to rodeo when in 1975 he helped institute the centralized computer entry system, known today as PROCOM. This system utilized a computer to implement the rules and guidelines of the PRCA Rulebook and a bank of toll-free phone lines to communicate with rodeo contestants, stock contractors, secretaries, and committees.

PROCOM consolidated more than 500 individual rodeo entry offices across the nation into one, facilitating a vastly more efficient method of contesting in and producing PRCA rodeos.

“If we took notes, it would have crumbled around our ears,” Robinson laughed in the July 19 PSN article. “We could have written a book on all of that, but the roof would have caved in on us because there was so much touch and go. We worked unbelievable hours to keep both of those moving.”

Tom Glause, PRCA’s CEO praised the work done by Robinson.

“Jerome was a visionary … He was always willing to lend a helping hand,” Glause said. “So many bull riders were touched by him, and so many rodeos are better off from his keen eye for production. He was an operational genius and so much more. His passing is a loss for the world of rodeo.”

Steve Rempelos, PRCA’s Chief Marketing Officer and dear friend of Robinson concurred with Glause.

“Jerome was instrumental in creating the PROCOM central entry system and was a Vice President on the PRCA Board in 1979 when the PRCA moved to Colorado Springs and built the Hall of Fame,” Rempelos said. “He helped form the Association of Rodeo Committees while he was still competing as a PRCA bull rider and was an 11-time qualifier to the NFR. His passion for quality production at rodeos started early and took him on a path worldwide to showcase our iconic American sport.

“Jerome touched so many lives and careers. I truly enjoyed our close friendship of nearly 40 years, and I share his loss with his family, friends and the rodeo community.”

Fellow ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Donnie Gay, an eight-time PRCA world champ, praised Robinson for his contributions to the sport.

“You don’t qualify for NFR 11 times without being pretty good,” Gay said. “Jerome was always in the mix, and he out rodeoed everybody in those days. He was able to get to so many rodeos and ride so many bulls and he would draw a check almost everywhere he went. He was getting a check as many times as he could get a check and that was probably at 30 or 40 more rodeos a year than anybody else was competing at. He was a top NFR bull rider because he was smarter than most and was dedicated. That’s the way he approached every job that he did.”

Robinson finished a career-best fourth in the 1974 and 1975 PRCA world standings.

Robinson attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins to study education but maintained that he really majored in rodeo. He qualified for three National Intercollegiate Rodeo Finals and was rodeoing professionally when he graduated in 1969.

Robinson competed on his PRCA card for 16 years, starting in 1967, and made 11 trips to the NFR. He went on to mentor several PRCA world champion bull riders and many others involved with rodeo production.

“Before The American Rodeo last year, he drove out to Terrell (Texas), which is about 50 miles from AT&T Stadium and spent the afternoon with my dad (Neal), and my brother (Pete) and I,” Donnie said. “We were real close friends. We enjoyed having him over and had a good visit. He saw stuff that was keeping rodeo off TV and stuff that was holding us back sponsor-wise. He always blended in and that’s the way he produced events.”

Jeff Chadwick, Wrangler’s Director of Special Events, also praised Robinson.

“I’ve known Jerome forever because we were both from Fort Collins, and I also worked for Jerome when I was right out of college,” Chadwick said. “He was a great friend, a mentor and a gentleman. He was one of the classiest guys in rodeo far and away. He’s a guy who remembered every building manager, everybody who worked in the building. He would go back to a building and call everybody by name. He had the unique ability to remember people and things about them. He had a real connection with people. I never worked for anybody who could get you to work 16 hours a day and like it, but he did.”

An injury in 1982 took Robinson out of competition for four months but afforded him the opportunity to launch an integrated rodeo production business specializing in indoor rodeos. He handled everything from booking venues, hauling in dirt for the arena, hiring contractors and producing the performance. In 1985, the PRCA asked Robinson to execute the production of the ESPN-televised rodeo series “Winston Tour.”

He considered creating PROCOM and starting the Winston Tour to be his most challenging achievements.

“Having PROCOM was a gamechanger,” Donnie said. “We used to call it (PROCOM) 1.800 dialing for dollars. You could get in rodeos so much easier. Jerome was a real forward thinker.”

Robinson’s company produced events in Japan, France, Finland, Oman, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Of all his accomplishments, Robinson couldn’t pick a favorite when asked in his July 2019 article in the PSN.

“Serving on the board was definitely educational but just being involved in the lifestyle and the day-to-day of all of it,” Robinson said.


Sun Frost remembered for skill, grit and ‘the look’

There is no doubt that if a list was written of Sun Frost’s biggest fans, and ranked in order of who was the biggest fan, brothers Tigh, Tork and Treg Cowan would be at the top, and they’re not afraid to tell you that.

Sun Frost was bought as a colt by Pat Cowan, Tigh, Tork and Treg’s father, as a colt in 1979 from Stanley Johnston, the South Dakota man who bred and raised the now nationally famous 2022 American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame inductee. Johnston and his wife, Frances, were passionate about good horses and helped bring many greats to South Dakota. Two of which were the sire and dam of Sun Frost, Docs Jack Frost by Doc Bar and Prissy Cline by Driftwood Ike. The cross proved themselves time and time again, with the Cowans owning three full brothers before they even bought Sun Frost with the goal of keeping him as a stud prospect.

The first brother was a horse by the name of Runnin Gun, who Elayne Cowan, the boys’ mother, picked out, and the Cowans hazed, cut, roped calves, heeled, bulldogged and tied goats off him. The second, Quick Draw Cline, proved to be a talented bulldogging horse and the third, Marco Doc, turned in to a rope horse.

“To me, those were good horses 30 years ago and they would definitely be good horses today,” Tigh says. “I think what those horses had that we look for in horses today, is they were capable of moving very quickly and they were capable of being able to think as fast as they could move which I think is part of one of the very strong points of the Sun Frost line.”

In the beginning, Pat was interested in racing horses, in fact he owned Laughing Boy for a time with Tex Fulton, a horse who came to South Dakota thanks to Stanley and later, when one of his daughters was crossed with Sun Frost, created the now-famous Frenchmans Guy line. But eventually, after starting many young Docs Jack Frost and Orphan Drift colts for Stanley, the exposure to cow bred horses changed his focus. The arrival of Sun Frost pushed Pat to start gathering mares from lines he admired through his travels from his race horse days, as a rodeo cowboy, and from the perspective of a South Dakota rancher who used horses on his ranch.

When Sun Frost was a long yearling, Roy Durfey was working for Pat and put the first few rides on the stud colt. The following year, in 1981, Pat and Stanley decided that Tigh would ride a now two-year-old Sun Frost in the high school cutting.

“I had no idea what cutting was, nor did I know how to do it, but Stanley was a cutter and he was very knowledgeable so he and my dad went to putting Sun Frost on cattle and eventually, I got on him,” Tigh says.

While they were practicing that spring, someone on the ranch accidentally let some calves into the pen with Sun Frost and they ate his long, beautiful golden tail off. Usually a passive man, Tigh says his dad wanted to whip somebody that day when he got on the radio and called anybody and everybody that worked for the ranch to come meet him, and now. Days later, Pat woke Tigh up at 4 a.m. and told him they were still going to cut on Sun Frost, and Tigh was going to put a tail on him.

“I said, ‘Now? How, Dad?’” Tigh says. “He said there’s an old yellow gelding, you go pull his tail and I don’t know how you’re going to do it but get it put on that yellow stud. If you look in the pictures, his tail is floating in the sun and those little shiny deals in there was super glue holding his tail together.”

With a new tail, and despite both the horse and jockey being green, Sun Frost and Tigh made it to the state finals, then lost a cow, missing the opportunity to make it to the short round at the state finals.

Something about the horse made him special, maybe it was his natural ability, maybe it was his unique character that seemed like he constantly just knew what was going on, or maybe it was the way he could look at you, and like Tigh’s wife, Jill says, it felt like he was looking over the tops of his glasses at you.

“He just knew what was going on and so did those brothers of his, uncanny like,” Tigh says. “They would try harder if the chips were down heavier, they would just do things that were remarkable.”

And when the chips were down for Sun Frost the following spring, the Cowans had to do all they could to help him out in return. It was his three-year-old year and they were preparing to start cutting on him again when he got into a pen next to some cycling mares. Sun Frost went to jump the fence to get in with the mares and a piece of sucker rod broke and impaled him from the inside of his back left stifle, coming out the side of his hip where his brand was.

“I remember to this day looking at that and thinking, this is over, no way we’re coming out of this,” Tigh says. Someone was sent to get a tractor, someone else a gun. “Dad thought that pipe had gone directly through his stifle, and if that were the case he would never be sound again. We got him lifted up off there, cut the bottom of that pipe with a cutting torch, got him stood up and he stood on that leg.”

The pipe merely grazed his stifle, only going through muscle, so they cleaned up the wound as best as they could. When the vet showed up, he confirmed it was a flesh wound and Pat put a saddle on Sun Frost, ran a stick through the fork of the saddle and tied it to the left side of the cantle, then tied a burlap sack filled with ice to the end where the ice melted and dripped down into the wound. Eventually, the wound closed and Sun Frost resumed cutting, although no longer in high school rodeo.

A few years later, in 1984, Pat held his first public horse sale in Highmore, marketing Sun Frost’s progeny. The colts brought good money and Pat was just getting into the groove of the horse industry when he passed away the following year. For the next 12 years, through the farming crisis of the 1980s, the Cowan siblings, who had already lost their mother years before, focused on running the ranch and surviving. Sun Frost bred Cowan mares every year, but the majority of those colts were used on the ranch with very few sold to the public. During that time, they partnered with the Loiseau’s, breeding Sun Frost to their mares, from which the colts were being marketed publicly. Eventually, the brothers held a sale in 1988, but it wasn’t until nearly 10 years later, in 1997 that they established an annual sale, re-entering the horse industry as the Cowan Brothers LLC, with the help of their sisters, Patti Werdel, Mari Shaull, Shannon Daly and Caly Dirk and their families.

“We knew the horses we had were good because we’d rode bad ones before,” Tigh says. “We knew what we were riding and raising were good, straight forward, honest horses that had a lot of run and a lot of cow and we rodeoed enough to know these horses had some talent, so we decided to have a sale.”

Around that time, a gelding by Sun Frost, French Flash Hawk, or Bozo as he is better known, was fortunate enough to have fallen into Kristie Peterson’s hands and was winning barrel racing titles, as well as being named AQHA Horse of the Year from 1995 to 1999.

The brothers were just hoping that people would show up and buy the horses, little did they know what influence Sun Frost was already having on the industry, thanks to his progeny who were doing very well in the rodeo arena.

“We did have the ability to know what kind of horses crossed well on him thanks to Dad, and we were fortunate to have the different horses, Docs Oaks Sugar and Boon Dox John, to come in as other studs that crossed so well on the Sun Frost line,” Tigh says.

The Cowan siblings held a few more sales, but today, they mostly market grandsons and granddaughters of Sun Frost through private treaty. In a way, it was fortunate that there was a ten-year stretch where they didn’t focus on marketing the horse program, because so many of their now paramount broodmares are the results from that time. For only siring 464 foals, Tigh says it’s amazing to look back now and see how many horse programs and individuals that that yellow stud from South Dakota has touched.

“I look at it, and keep in mind, I’m one of his biggest fans, but it tickles me to think what my dad, Pat Cowan, and Stanley Johnston were thinking, about one little old plan they had 40 years ago, and how powerful that plan was that touched this whole industry,” Tigh says.

Sun Frost is a 2022 AQHA Hall of Fame inductee.

Docs Jack Frost, Sun Frost’s sire, was raced by Stanley Johnston, and ridden by Roy Durfey, who eventually started Sun Frost.
Pat Cowan and Stanley Johnston were good friends and neighbors who had little to no idea what impact their breeding programs would have on Quarter Horses, not only in the state but across the nation.
While Sun Frost was never campaigned as a cutting horse, Pat Cowan and Stanley Johnston took him to cuttings to show off his natural abilities as a cow horse.
Quick Draw Cline, one of the full brothers to Sun Frost who was owned by the Cowans before Sun Frost’s time, was a good indicator to the Cowans of what Sun Frost would turn out to be.
The Cowans have worked hard to make their broodmares the showcase of the program. While the sons of Sun Frost are important, the daughters are truly irreplaceable.
Despite losing his tail to calves before the high school rodeo season, Sun Frost went on as a two-year-old to make it to the state finals, competing against many older horses.
Sun Frost had unique characteristics, including “the look” he could give a person that many owners of his progeny attest their horses to having gotten from him.
Today, the Cowan brothers, Tigh, Tork and Treg, have formed a partnership, Cowan Brothers LLC, to markert their Sun Frost based Quarter Horse program.
The entire Cowan family is proud of the yellow stud that only sired 464 foals, but whose progeny has a record of over 2 million dollars in earnings. Cowan family
Courtesy photos

SDQHA honoree Stage Bird Tom: An all around type horse

Growing up in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, Dr. Robert M. “Doc” Christensen learned quickly that he loved horses and purchased his first registered Quarter Horse in 1955. He earned the 50 Year-Breeder award from the American Quarter Horse Association, and until the day he passed in August, 2021, his love for horses and his passion for Quarter Horses only grew, in large part due to his prize stallion, Stage Bird Tom, who is being honored by the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association as the 2021 Notable Horse of the Year.

Stage Bird Tom was a 1966 sorrel Quarter Horse stallion and grandson to the famous King, who was well known for his early influence on the breed. With the help of a long-time friend and mentor, Art Reeves, Christensen found Stage Bird Tom down in Texas and brought him back to South Dakota to grow his own breeding program.

“First and foremost, he looked for a horse that was put together conformation wise, built in a way that he can do whatever you needed to get done, whether that was working on a ranch or taking him into a show ring to show halter or do more performance type events,” says Doc’s son, Eric. “He was looking for a stallion that could produce good all-around working horses when he found Stage Bird Tom.”

And Stage Bird Tom certainly left a legacy in the show ring of being an all-around horse and producing all around horses. Over the years, Doc employed various horsemen to train and show Stage Bird Tom and his offspring, the first being Pat Trebesch, who showed Stage Bird Tom from 1971 to 1973. In that time, the stallion participated in 51 shows in South Dakota and surrounding states, winning 47 aged stallion classes, 25 grand champion stallion titles and 18 reserve champion stallion titles. He also earned points in western pleasure, hunter under saddle and reining.

“He was real smart and he was so athletic,” Trebesch says. “He could turn around faster once than you could blink an eye. I hauled him many a mile and he was nice to haul, even though he was a stud.”

It was within the first month of working with Stage Bird Tom that Trebesch realized the stallion was something special because of his athleticism, halter look and incredible disposition, which was proven one day when Doc stopped by the barn to see how his stallion was progressing. At the time, Pat’s daughter was practicing her roller skating in the same cement alleyway that Stage Bird Tom was tied up in. Just as Doc asked Pat what he thought about the stallion’s potential and his temperament, Pat’s daughter roller skated right underneath Stage Bird Tom, who didn’t react in the least.

“I think that gives an idea of the temperament of the horse,” Eric says. “Calm enough to handle things like that.”

Trebesch showed a daughter of Stage Bird Tom as well, Stage Birds Image, a 1973 sorrel mare who also became an AQHA champion, earning 28 halter points and 71 performance points in her career.

Doc continued to breed Stage Bird Tom, having greatest success when he crossed the stallion with his Roan Bar mares. Some foals went on to be shown and earn AQHA points in the youth, amateur and open divisions, a testament to the temperament of his offspring that they could be shown by all ages.

“Dad didn’t have much patience for a horse that didn’t have his head on straight,” Eric says. “If it wasn’t easy to handle, it probably wasn’t around for too long. He tended to like the ones that were easy to get along with and smart enough to train and teach some things.”

Stage Bird Tom sired 154 foals over 16 years, and of those, 12 earned a total of 1,212 AQHA points, including six all-around wins and two reserve all-around wins, nine superior awards and one AQHA world champion award.

Other notable direct descendants included Stage Bird Lad, a 1973 blue roan gelding who earned 33 AQHA performance points; Stage Bird Ladie, a 1975 red roan gelding who earned 8 halter and 48 AQHA performance points, including the title of 1980 South Dakota Quarter Horse Association All-Around horse; Stage Bird Bill, a 1975 sorrel gelding who earned 722 performance points, numerous show titles and eight performance register of merits; and Stage Bird Roanie, a 1976 gray stallion who earned 220 performance points, a performance register of merit, numerous roping titles and was a contender for the 1981 AQHA Super Horse Award.

One of the most recent trainers that Doc hired before his passing was John Kabeiseman, who first got involved with a great-great grandson of Stage Bird Tom in 1991 by the name of Kahuna Ben.

“In the spring of ’94, Doc brought me a mare to breed to Kahuna Ben and that started our relationship,” Kabeiseman says.

Through the years, Doc and K bred many of Doc’s mares who went back to Stage Bird Tom back to Kabeiseman’s stallion, dabbling in linebreeding but seeing great success in the crosses. K was able to make both a son and grandson of Kahuna Ben into AQHA champions and has high hopes to do the same with the next generation.

“These are just good using horses that go all day and I know that comes from Stage Bird Tom because I’ve heard that from other breeders,” Kabeiseman says. “The ones that didn’t end up in the show pen ended up on ranches and they’re loved because they can use them all day, they don’t have to go in at noon and switch horses. I think a lot of today’s modern bloodlines might be more specialized, better in one or two events, they’re not the true all-around horse that the Quarter Horses are supposed to be.”

As his name gets further and further to the right on registration papers, it was his legacy of producing those true, all-around type horses that Stage Bird Tom leaves on South Dakota.

“I think that’s a testament to the strength of the horse that Dad’s breeding generated,” Eric says. “One time Dad got a letter from a guy who had this horse for 25 plus years and the horse passed away, so the guy took the time to write Dad a three-page letter telling him how much he liked the horse. I think moments like those were some of the things he appreciated most and really got a kick out of, just visiting with folks who purchased and liked his horses over the years, whether they had shown them or just had them for fun because they could do just about anything.”

Pat Trebesch showing Stage Bird Tom in the early 1970s.
Doc Christensen showing off Stage Bird Tom’s awards at a show, thanks to the training of Pat Trebesch.
A true all-around horse, Stage Bird Tom even showed in hunter under saddle, earning 21 AQHA points.
According to many, Stage Bird Tom was the most correctly put together halter horse that could be found. Courtesy photos

2022 Stallion Showcase: She’s a Hand: Jill Rigler makes a name for herself in the ranch horse world

Jill Rigler is not your average 17 year old.

She might enjoy The Office and spend time on Snapchat like other kids her age, but the proverbial “hundred pounds soaking wet” cow hand also gets called to day work on big outfits like Sunlight, raises and trains her own sale horses, and is making big moves to become a professional horse trainer.

According to Jill’s mother, Heather, she knew her daughter had a talent from the start. “It truly is her gift. It has been since she first climbed on a horse. She was four years old,” she says. In fact, Jill fell off and was stepped on one of her first times horseback, when her horse spooked at an elk calf in the grass. Her dad asked, “Are you going to get back on?” The answer was: yes.

The Rigler family owns a commercial Angus operation near Lodge Grass, Montana on Lower Rotten Grass Creek. Jill says that she “likes living in the middle of nowhere.” They have good neighbors, and most of all, Jill gets to ride horses every day.

Living so remotely influenced the family’s decision to homeschool their four children. For Jill, the third child, this means the freedom to help with spring and fall work at neighboring ranches, which might include brandings, preconditioning, pulling bulls, moving cows, preg checking, and shipping. Heather says her daughter would not have been able to be as involved with horses if she was traveling any distance for school.

The family moved to Lodge Grass from Gardiner, Montana twelve years ago. Ryan, Jill’s father, owned an outfitting business. When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park, it depleted the elk herds and hunting, so the Riglers had to make a change.

Ryan fulfilled his wish of raising larger numbers of cattle after the move. Jill says that of all the people in the world, her dad is her biggest influence. He has inspired her to learn more about training a variety of horses. His level of motivation is also something she aspires to emulate. Right now, Jill’s preference is not necessarily with starting colts but rather putting the finishing touches on horses after her dad starts them. “Once they have the 30 days on them, I really like taking them and making them into something,” she says. Following this model, the father-daughter duo consigned a horse to the REAL Ranch Horse Invitational Sale in Billings last April.

However, Ryan wants Jill to be a well-rounded horsewoman, so he encourages her to take outside colts and start her own. “Getting them from nothing to something is pretty cool. It’s crazy how much time it takes,” she says. Each year, Jill and Ryan purchase three weanlings apiece. Jill buys them with the intent to sell one and keep two for her own use. She currently has three weanlings; a two-year-old; two three-year-olds; and seven finished horses shared with her younger brother and dad.

Jill has her sights set on building a good reputation as a horse trainer, with honesty at the core. “I want my word to mean something,” she says. She sold a roan colt to a man from Jackson Hole, who came up to her at a later sale and said, “I love your roan horse. Everything you told me about him was true.” He then tried buying a second horse from Jill in that sale. Additionally, a couple of neighbors were bidding on her sale horse on the same day–a testament to her reputation close to home.

This is Jill’s senior year of high school, and she is busy making plans for her future. Bypassing college, she is choosing instead to intern or train with one of several options to better her horsemanship, showing, and roping skills, all of which will suit her vision for a finished cow horse that can be used on the ranch or in the arena. Her heroes (besides her mom and dad) include: Joe Wolter, horsemanship clinician; Nick Dowers, National Reined Cow Horse Association Open Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion; Jaton Lord, clinician; Sarah Verhelst, professional breakaway roper; and Lari Dee Guy, Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion.

Jill says that spring brandings progress a colt the most, especially with the blend of head-and-heel and drag-to-the-fire style brandings in her area. “I like heading and heeling on a colt first, because everything is in front of them and you’re not really dragging anything unless you’re heading. It really helps them to look forward instead of behind them,” she says.

In these settings, she learns the codes of respect that accompany the western lifestyle: “When we’re at the neighbors I never try to run their show. If they ask me to do something, I’ll do it. Never cut in front of anybody, and don’t offer advice unless you’re asked,” she says.

A typical fall day for Jill might include an early morning helping the neighbors move cattle or precondition, helping her dad check water and their own cattle, and riding colts in the evening. She finishes her school work on the slower days, focusing mainly on business, finance, and writing classes to help her to be independent in the coming year.

Though she has not competed in the show ring or the rodeo arena extensively, she actively looks for opportunities to learn and grow. At the end of October, she plans to show in the Brannaman Pro-AM Vaquero Roping Stock Horse Classic. One of the weanlings she bought is nominated for the American Quarter Horse Ranching Heritage Challenges, giving her even more opportunities to compete in a few years. She plans to better her breakaway roping over the winter and log time with local trainers to hone her skills.

Heather says, “She likes to make her horses stop hard and she likes to rope,” so the transition into the cow horse and roping disciplines ought to be smooth. Though Jill does not “ride the papers” she recognizes the ease in selling a horse with quality bloodlines. She enjoys her current cow bred horses, descended from Boonlight Dancer (NRCHA World Champion Open Snaffle Bit Futurity), WR This Cats Smart (NCHA & NRCHA All-Time Leading Sire), and Sixes Pick (Versatility Ranch World Champion), and dreams of owning own offspring of Hashtags, Hickory Holly Time, and Spots Hot.

Grown men, like Brett Heggie, who regularly cowboy with Jill give her the greatest compliment in just a few words: “She’s a hand.”

Jill Rigler will be a horsewoman to watch in the coming years.

Stallion Showcase: Pedigree Power: Alan Woodbury’s program focuses on diversifying solid mare genetics

Tell Em Belle. Dash Ta Vanila. Rosas Cantina. Alan Woodbury, a Quarter Horse breeder from Dickinson, North Dakota, built some of the most sought-after mare genetics in the barrel horse world. When Woodbury started building his broodmare band, he knew the bottom of the pedigree was just as important–or more so–than the top. 

Woodbury got into the breeding business by chance. After raising three daughters who competed in barrel racing, he was left with quality performance mares. So he decided to start breeding them. The foundation and focus of Woodbury Performance Horses has been the broodmare band ever since.  

Whereas stallions are limited to one line of breeding, Woodbury has the freedom to match the best-performing mares to any combination of stallions for the perfect cross. “I’m a mare man. I’m a believer in the mare. If you focus on mares, you can skip around to multiple stallions in the hopes that they’ll work,” he says.  

Woodbury bought the first embryo out of SX Frenchmans Vanila, the first barrel racing futurity triple crown winner, owned by Carissa Shearer. “It was exciting crossing Dash Ta Fame with a Frenchmans Guy mare,” he says. The product, a buckskin mare he called Dash Ta Vanila, was born in 2005. In 2011 she and Nicki Steffes Hansen won the Pendleton Roundup, and in 2012 they won the Fort Worth Stock Show, and went on to finish fifth in the average at the NFR. After that NFR they discovered she had bone chips in both knees, and following extensive rehab, Woodbury realized she’d never recover to perform at the level she had before. So he added her to his broodmare band, and worked on carrying on and improving her genetics. He later sold her, which he regrets. “But you can’t keep them all,” he says. 

Woodbury and Steffes Hansen worked together on another 2005 mare that has Woodbury’s heart–Tell Em Belle, by Tres Seis and Teller Corona, an own daughter of Corona Cartel. Tell Em Belle was a round winner at Pendleton, and an average and round money earner at the NFR. Later, Woodbury’s granddaughter, Sydney Maher and Tell Em Belle won two state 4-H titles, the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association barrel racing championship and average, and the South Dakota Rodeo Association barrel racing twice. Woodbury says, “She’s retired now and I just pull embryos from her. She’s one of those horses that’s going to die here.”  

In addition to her athletic ability, Belle has shown she passes on her good mind to her offspring, even several generations later. “She just wants to love people and so do all of her babies and even her grandbabies. They’re user friendly, they just love people […] Visitors will come to the barn and open a stall door and there’s a Tell Em Belle relative in there and a lot of them just come right up to you and say, ‘What can I do for you?’ and you just pet them on the head. That’s quite a trait when you see that mind coming through like that,” he says. 

As a breeder, Woodbury says that mating a mare to a stallion is always a gamble. However, his depth of pedigree theory has helped shape his decisions to find the best crosses possible by looking back several generations on their papers. “You can have a great horse come from anywhere. They can be a $100 or $1,000 horse, but as a breeder, when you have depth of pedigree, you’re increasing your chances,” Woodbury says. “As horse breeders, we are rolling the dice all the time. When you establish depth of pedigree, it’s a little more predictable.” 

Using an artificial insemination and embryo transfer program has given Woodbury the chance to put together some pedigrees that are packed with high-performers, and lets those high-performing mares continue to excel while getting their offspring on the ground. For example, Rosas Cantina CC, a 2010 buckskin mare out of Dash Ta Vanila, has been to the NFR five times with 15-time NFR qualifier Lisa Lockhart. The 11-year-old mare has lifetime earnings of $420,000, and 13 foals on the ground. Woodbury was able to experiment extensively with different crosses, including First Down Dash, which produced Lucky Wonder Horse.   

Lucky Wonder Horse, owned by Myers Performance Horses, is a prime example of Woodbury finding the best pedigrees he could, and putting them together. Lucky’s papers include Dash For Cash, Corona Cartel, Rocket Wrangler, Gallant Jet, Holland Ease, and Dash Ta Fame. Notable females on his papers include Find A Buyer, Rose Bug, Corona Chick, and SX Frenchmans Vanila.  

Woodbury is excited about some of the other horses entering the arena in the coming year, as several of the horses he’s produced are ready for competition, including Jaguarr, a stallion by Dash Ta Fame and out of Rosas Cantina.  

Woodbury uses a computer program called PedigreeBiz to view the crosses of bloodlines, up to four generations back, before ever making a decision. “I do know one thing, the most important thing is that the mare has a pedigree. If the mare performs and is a champion, that’s even better. But the pedigree is something that I need,” he says. 

A year ago, two fillies were born that Woodbury is especially excited about, both out of Rosas Cantina CC, one by Tres Seis  (the sire of Tell Em Belle; $2+ million dollar sire) and the other by One Famous Eagle ($1.3 million LTE). Early this spring, Woodbury welcomed two more babies with promise of pedigree, also out of Rosas Cantina CC, one repeating the same cross with Tres Seis and the other by Epic Leader ($1 million+ sire).  

Last year, he crossed Tell Em Celina (Corona Cartel x Tell Em Belle) with Metallic Cat for a unique cross with the same depth of pedigree that he consistently seeks. “She’s a really beautiful filly. It’s the sire’s pedigree that’s packed, and I think that’s a good thing. We’re always experimenting,” he says.  

One of his most prized babies was born last year. Woodbury crossed Tell Em Celina on her grand-sire, Tres Seis, and got Tell Em Lucille, which is a “carbon copy” of Tell Em Belle. “I like that mating and I did it again and I’ll get more,” he said.  

When raising horses, Woodbury finds that success in the long run is in the small details starting from birth. “Everything starts as babies. When we are getting them halter broke, the only thing we want to avoid is having a bad experience. If they have a bad experience, that’s stored back there and it’s going to come out again,” he says. Handling, tying out, repetition, and lots of handling gets their colts very gentle before moving onto their new owners or the training process.  

As for weaning, he pays close attention the condition and growth of the babies before pulling them from the mare.  

Woodbury was the long-time owner of Woody’s Feed, a livestock feed company based in his hometown of Dickinson, North Dakota. He owned that business for nearly 40 years, but sold it in 2015, to focus on his horses and family. “As you get older and a little long in the tooth, you have to accept reality. I’m 78 and four or five years ago it was getting harder. Those in professional life and ranchers and everybody goes through it,” he says.  

Woodbury’s granddaughter, Sydney Maher, who ran Tell Em Belle in high school, is now in college and running Pure Vanila, a daughter of Wicked Felina CL (a full sister to Rosas Cantina CC) and Dash Ta Fame. Woodbury has a few more prospects in the stable, wanting to make sure that–if her life takes her down the professional barrel racing path–Sydney has some of her grandpa’s horses to ride. “I can keep them, but I may not be able to buy them back,” he says.  

Woodbury is still helping the sport of barrel racing evolve. While watching the horse races at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, he was struck by the level of technology used to time every single horse. “It’s amazing to sit there and watch 10 horses down the track, and they all got a time. That’s really up there in technology,” he says. Through his connections and friends, he formed a partnership to develop some similar advanced methods for timing barrel racing. “We’re going to apply it to the barrel racing world. We’ve got eyes and timers, and it was a great stride forward 40 years ago, but it hasn’t had any changes in 40 years. The technology is out there, like at Ruidoso Downs, to do better on it. That’s what we’re playing with,” he says. Though he can’t divulge specific details at this point, they are in the product research and development stage and hope to be moving forward with it soon.  

Alan Woodbury’s Two Mare Lines  

  • Dash Ta  Vanila (Dash Ta Fame X SX Frenchmans Vanila)  
  • Wicked Felina CL (Corona Cartel X Dash Ta Vanila)   
  • Rosas Cantina CC (Corona Cartel X Dash Ta Vanila)  
  • Pure Vanila (Dash Ta Fame X Wicked Felina CL)  
  • Rosas Little Eagle (One Famous Eagle X Rosas Cantina CC)  

Rosas Cantina CC has 13 registered foals as of 2020. Three are nationally known stallions (Lucky, Monsterr, Jaguarr), two are running barrels at a very high level (Golden Cloud by Dash Ta Fame, and Fiestas Cantina by Fiestas Gotta Gun), two are in barrel training, one is in Brazil and Dollar is in training with Ron Ralls.  

Wicked Felina CL has nine registered foals through 2020. The oldest is Byeza and he is a 1D barrel horse by Dash Ta Fame. Pure Vanila is next, and she is a 1D barrel horse ridden by Woody’s granddaughter, Sydney Maher. Then is Wicked Boy AW, who won the 2021 AQHA Select World Championship in Stake Race with Rick Neff of Missouri. Cinderalla Man is owned by Lacey Boyd of Georgia and he is a 1D barrel horse and breeding stallion. Two of Wicked’s 2-year-olds by One Famous Eagle are money-winners on the track.   

  • Tell Em Belle (Tres Seis X Teller Corona)  
  • Tell Em Celina (Corona Cartel X Tell Em Belle)  
  • Tell Em Twice (Teller Cartel X Tell Em Belle)  
  • Tell Em Lucille (Tres Seis X Tell Em Celina)  

In 2021 Woodbury got nine foals out of Tell Em Belle, Tell Em Celina and Tell Em Lucille, by eight different stallions:  

  • Mitole  
  • Dash Ta Fame  
  • Corona Cartel  
  • Tres Seis  
  • Coronado Cartel  
  • PYC Paint Your Wagon  
  • Epic Leader  
  • Metallic Cat  

Stallion Showcase: Stem cells and the future of horse health

Stem cell therapy has been utilized in horses to help heal tendon, ligament and joint injuries for more than 25 years, and new uses are always being explored. These stem cells are mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), which are isolated from fetuses, foals or adult horses, as opposed to embryonic stem cells from embryos. The MSC stem cells can be isolated from almost any tissue, but are most commonly obtained from bone marrow, fat tissue, and from the umbilical cord of newborn foals.  

The two main methods are use of the patient’s own cells (autologous cells) or cells from another horse (allogeneic cells).  

Autologous Cells 

The advantage of using autologous cells is that they are not rejected by the patient’s immune system, and there are fewer regulations for use. The disadvantage of using autologous cells is that it takes 2 to 3 weeks to expand the cells prior to use, to get enough. This involves a two-step process requiring the horse to return for treatment after initial sample collection. This may hamper optimal treatment time since an adequate number of cells are not readily available. 

Allogeneic Cells 

Allogeneic cells have the advantage of being already available, with time to select and potentially enhance cell functions prior to use.  

The disadvantage is that cells from another horse are recognized by the patient’s immune system (and rejected) faster than autologous cells. Also, the regulations are different; allogeneic cell product development is considered drug development  

Drugs vs Devices 

A number of veterinarians, clinics and stem cell companies have treated thousands of horses with stem cells for many years. They started by treating soft tissue injuries and then progressed to treating joints. Some have also treated laminitis with stem cells.  

There was such an expansion of stem cell therapy in veterinary medicine that the FDA became involved, to make sure it was regulated and that this kind of therapy wasn’t being used inappropriately. Use of stem cells was put on hold, and the FDA ruled that stem cells fell into the category of drug therapy. That meant regulations for bringing a new drug to market, apply which requires years and a lot of money. There was very little stem cell use in horses for a number of years. 

Today, most commercial strategies are focused on developing frozen allogeneic cell products. One approach is use of allogeneic stem cells from umbilical cord blood that could be basically off-the-shelf/storable and given to any horse. Two products have been approved in Europe, and trials are underway in North America to get equine products approved here. 

There are no approved stem cell products currently available in North. Other regenerative therapies like platelet rich plasma (PRP) or interleukin receptor antagonist protein (IRAP), fall under the FDA’s category of devices rather than drugs. “There is a big difference between getting a device approved by FDA and getting a drug approved,” says Dr. Thomas Koch, associate professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Canada. “It is very expensive and time-consuming to get a drug approved, which is a big impediment for veterinary medicine. From a pharmaceutical perspective it is a very small market,”  


Koch is founder and CEO of eQcell, a company that is starting two trials using stem cells in equine synovitis and early stages of osteoarthritis–one at University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College Equine Sports Medicine and Reproductive Centre, and the other trial at the University of California-Davis Veterinary Institute for Regenerative Cures (VIRC).  

The Canadian study in equine fetlock and carpal joint osteoarthritis is authorized by Health Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate and is the first stem cell trial in Canada for treatment of equine osteoarthritis. The U.S. study in fetlock osteoarthritis is being conducted under VIRC’s Investigational New Animal Drug (INAD) with the FDA. 

Collecting and Growing Stem Cells 

“The cells we are working with are from umbilical cord blood of newborn foals,” Koch says. “My PhD work reported on the presence of these cells in 2007. This had been reported in humans, but we were the first to see if we could find similar cells in equine umbilical cord blood.” 

Koch continued that work after he finished his PhD.  

His company gets the cells from umbilical cord blood. Most people get it from bone marrow or fat tissue. 

“These cells adhere to certain types of plastics. In the lab we use plastic culture dishes. In the first few days a lot of cells are just floating in the media and don’t attach, and then some start attaching to the plastic. When we aspirate the media off and replace it with fresh media, this gets rid of all the floating cells. We end up with a cell population stuck to the plastic.” 

After 8 to 12 days some of the cells on the dish start to form colonies, undergo cell division and expand. “We use enzymes to lift them off the plastic; the enzymes cleave the binding without damaging the cells. We harvest them this way and split them into 3 to 5 flasks of the same size. Those cells reattach and keep growing. We can eventually grow them into billions of cells,” he says. 

The original cells from umbilical cord blood come from breeding farms. “I work with Standardbred and Thoroughbred farms in southern Ontario. During foaling season they have eQcell’s collection kits, and whenever a foal is born, the attendant clamps the umbilical cord. When the foal stands up, the cord simply breaks at its natural breaking point. With the clamp across it (toward the mare side) the blood is not gushing out from the placenta, and is saved.” 

The attendants use a blood transfusion bag to collect it. “These bags come preloaded from the company, with anticoagulant and a needle on the end. The attendants clean the cord and put the needle into the blood vessel within it, and the blood can drain into this collection bag. It’s non-invasive; you are just saving the blood that would otherwise drain out and be lost.” The infusion bag can be stored in a refrigerator overnight, then shipped by FedEx to the lab.  

“What’s nice about this source of cells is that they are as young as we can get them, and consistent. The cells are from newborn foals, and mares that have no signs of disease during the pregnancy,” he says. 

There are advantages to having very young cells. “If you get cells from fat tissue, blood or bone marrow from adult horses, they may be damaged. All cells age, so even if you have a healthy, normal animal, there are stringent requirements for donor testing.” With foal cells, there is some variability between one foal and another, but these cells are more consistent.  

Osteoarthritis Treatment 

Koch says the many treatments being used for OA indicate there’s not one really good answer to the problem of osteoarthritis.  

“There are many products being used for OA, and veterinarians have different preferences in treatment,” Koch says. “This indicates that no one treatment has been shown to be superior. There is interesting data in humans and animals, however, showing that stem cells may be useful in treating some joint conditions.” 

Stem cell therapy holds a lot of promise because it has several advantages over traditional pain medications like phenylbutazone, “bute,” which merely mask pain and has a narrow window of safety and can have damaging side effects, and can’t be legally used in competition. 

Some biologic products, like PRP and IRAP can be injected into joints, and there are fewer regulations regarding their use, as opposed to stem cells. “But it’s hit or miss whether they work, depending on the individual horse,” says Koch. Steroids have also been used for treating OA, but there is controversy about using those in joints because they may damage the cartilage.  

Stem cell therapies are gaining interest because they have several advantages. “There are now two cell products approved in Europe for treating inflammatory joint pain in horses caused by synovitis and early OA,” Koch says. “These are HorStem and Arti-Cell Forte. They both use culture expanded MSCs. HorStem utilizes cells from equine placental umbilical cord tissue, and Arti-Cell Forte isolates MSCs from peripheral blood of adult horses. These two products are both approved for use in horses with joint pain due to early stage synovitis but are slightly different in formulation.  

“HorStem contains only the cells (15 million stem cells) and Arti-Cell Forte is a combination product. It actually has only 2 million cells, plus PRP. So it’s difficult to know if the healing effect is due to the cells or the PRP, or whether the two may have a synergistic effect working together,” says Koch.  

Arti-Cell Forte was acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim (a large international pharmaceutical company) last summer. “This is a boost, to know that this big company thinks stem cells and regenerative medicine have a role to play in veterinary medicine,” Koch says. 

At Cornell University a research trial studied the effect of mesenchymal stem cells on damaged cartilage in research horses. “In the follow-up, the researchers saw that the cartilage in the joints that received the cell formulation were much more preserved than the joints that did not get those cells,” Koch said. 

“I’m not sure if these therapies can turn a damaged joint into a less-damaged joint, but the Cornell study indicates that maybe we can arrest the damage and prevent further damage.” 

Every new effective treatment offers more hope for horses with damaged joints. “There’s possibility now for more consistent disease management, with joint injections, to keep a horse comfortable. It might only have to be every 6 to 8 months or even longer. It might depend on the horse, but for horses that do respond, we may be able to manage their disease more consistently and have some degree of joint disease arrest,” Koch says. This could be career-extending for some horses. 

2022 Stallion Showcase: 2021 Black Hills Stock Show Horse Sale High Seller: NU Gunny In Town

Eighteen-year-old Maddie Fantaskey had a pretty big year in 2021. She graduated high school. She qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in three events. And she sold the high-selling horse at the 2021 Black Hills Stock Show Truck Defender Horse Sale.  

Fantaskey rode NU Gunny In Town, “Armani,” a 2017 AQHA palomino gelding, through the ring, dealing with mixed feelings as the bidding quickly jumped from $10,000 to $20,000, finally ending at $38,000. “I think I was just in shock a little bit at the amount of money he was going for. When he was lying down in front of me it became a little bit more emotional, because I was thinking of how I couldn’t begin to thank him enough for all he had just done for me and the start to my career. And the little bit of sadness, knowing I was going to have to say goodbye to him very soon.” 

Maddie Fantaskey had some strong emotions when she was in the sale ring, realizing how much Armani had done for her start in the horse business. Photo by Scootem N Shootem Photography. 

Armani, sired by Gunners Tinseltown, by Colonels Smoking Gun, and out of USS Nu Chic, a Smart Chic Olena daughter, was bred by David Silva of Pilot Point, Texas. Fantaskey bought the gelding from the Billings Livestock special Sons and Daughters Sale. He had about 30 rides on him, and was her first attempt at making a sale horse on her own. 

Armani was all hers, from picking him out and training him, to showing him in the preview and riding him through the sale ring. 

He had just turned two when he caught Fantaskey’s eye in Billings. Fantaskey put the next year into building him into a gentle, capable, all-around ranch horse. Fantaskey had ridden with Justin Lawrence, a working cow horse trainer in Montana, and learned how to make a horse “fancy broke.”  

Armani shows off a stop that reflects his reining breeding during the BHSS Truck Defender Horse Sale preview. Photo by Scootem N Shootem Photography.  

In the preview Fantaskey and Armani put on display his reining breeding, his cow horse ability, and the brain and disposition that she says made an easy job of his training. He bowed, and “played dead,” and showed off the flashy palomino that first caught her eye. 

But the man who bought him wasn’t even in the seats. He was sitting at his computer in Texas, with his 10-year-old granddaughter, who may have influenced his bidding, he says.  

Jim Gallogly had never seen Armani in person, but he had heard reliable reports that this was the horse he was looking for. The rancher, who is retired from leadership positions in several major corporations, owns ranches in three states. Following his retirement he decided he wants to improve his horsemanship skills, and to be an asset on his ranches.  

“I was mostly looking for a horse I could enjoy,” Gallogly said. “When I’m on the ranch I want to be a decent ranch hand. If you’re not as good a cowboy, you need a better cow horse. He shows well, even if I don’t.”  

When Gallogly started looking for a horse that was gentle enough for the grandkids, talented, easy to ride, cowy and that he could “grow into,” he called his friend Kirby Hedrick, who ranches in Wyoming. “I called Kirby and I said I need some expert help. I’m looking for a horse that has some reined cow horse training and this and that. He added some of the criteria he looks for in a horse.” Kirby and his ranch foreman went to Worland, Wyoming to ride Armani and reported back, “‘He has a lot of buttons, but is extremely well-trained, and very broke. He may be a bit more than your grandkids would prefer, but he’s a very, very special horse. I know you would like him, I know you would grow into him, but if we want something that’s perfect for your grandkids, we’d need a different horse.'”  

Gallogly decided Armani was what he was looking for, and that expecting him to be all that and suitable for his grandkids, ages 8 and 10, was maybe too much to ask. But when his granddaughter saw the preview video, she fell in love too.  

Armani has met all of Gallogly’s expectations. “I ride him a lot. I like him a lot. I’ve sorted cattle on him some, taken him on trail rides. He’s a wonderful horse. I really love him,” Gallogly says. And while Gallogly isn’t ready to put his grandkids on Armani and send them off to work cattle, they have ridden the flashy palomino in the arena, and have gotten along well with him.  

“Everybody that sees that horse really loves him. He’s got a big personality, is really gentle and he loves people, and he’s so beautiful people fall in love immediately.” 

Gallogly has had lots of offers to help Aramani reach his potential in the show ring or the rodeo arena. Gallogly’s niece would like to show him, and the foreman of Gallogly’s Oklahoma ranch has two sons who are competitive ropers who’d like see what Armani can do in the roping box. But Gallogly says he’s not sure which direction they’ll go. He grants, “I’m 69 years old, so I’m not the right person to ride him in competitions. But I think he’s got the talent.”  

Gallogly credits Fantaskey’s ability as a horsewoman with setting Armani up for success. He also appreciates her approach as a seller. “She’s very straightforward in everything and she’s super capable.”  

Late Start 

Though her horsemanship doesn’t reflect it now, Fantaskey didn’t start riding seriously until she was older than Gallogly’s granddaughter. Raised in Pennsylvania, Fantaskey and her family traveled all over the world, hosting a hunting television show called Triple Mag. They visited Wyoming and decided that was a place they wanted to be. They quit the hunting show and bought a small ranch near Worland, where Maddie learned to ride, starting when she was 11.  

Dean Barent from Worland first taught Maddie to ride–beyond a few English lessons in Pennsylvania when she was 6 or 7– and set her on the cow horse path. When she was ready to improve her skills even more, she took a prospect to Justin Lawrence, a cow horse trainer in Alzada, Montana, and learned to make a prospect into a cow horse.  

This year Maddie’s horsemanship skills took her to the National High School Finals Rodeo in Lincoln, Nebraska in cutting, reined cow horse and barrels. Fantaskey finished 20th in the barrel racing average, fourth in the reined cow horse average, and sixth in the run for all-around cowgirl.  

But it was a reining-bred horse that caught her eye in Billings, and she took all that talent and added a lot of miles on her family’s ranch, hours of groundwork and the knowledge she picked up from respected cow horse trainers.  

“I feel like Armani taught me so much because he was so naturally talented and good-minded,” Maddie said. “I did a lot of ranching on him, did a lot of roping. I basically just used him like he was my own personal horse. He was a heck of a horse. I feel like he trained me more than I trained him. He was super special. ” 

Fantaskey’s original plan was to take Armani to a big sale in Las Vegas, which was canceled because of COVID. But she said selling at the Black Hills Stock Show worked out better, because it got her name out in her area.  

Selling the good ones is always hard, but she recognizes that in order to build a business, you have to do just that. “I bought him as a sale horse, so I told myself I had to sell him. I totally miss him. I always tell myself if this is a business I’m going to be in I have to get used to selling the good ones. It helps that he went to such a good home and they keep me updated.”  

It also helps that Fantaskey is working on another horse, Cisco Santana, for the 2022 Black Hills Stock Show sale. Cisco is also a palomino gelding, and will be 4 years old at sale time. He’s also reining-bred, a grandson of Wimpys Little Step, and spent the last year as Maddie’s nearly-constant companion. Her business plan of, “Buying those good-bred horses that seem like they’re going to be gentle, get them fancy-broke, use them to ranch on and sell them,” worked so well last year, she’s replicating it this year. 

Eventually, though, she’d like to be riding horses bred by her family’s business, Hangin F Cattle Co., through the ring. Their stallion, Boon Beamer, is a son of Once In A Blu Boon, out of a granddaughter of High Brow Cat. They showed the 2018 bay stud at the 2021 Snaffle Bit Futurity, and hope to get some points in the show ring this year. The mares they’re putting together have papers that feature Paddys Irish Whiskey, Nic It In The Bud, High Brow Hickory and High Brow Cat.  

Fantaskey’s family has high hopes for Boon Beamer and his offspring. His first colt crop is on the ground this year. Photo by Maddie Leigh Photography. 

Fantaskeys’ goal is to breed some horses to be stand-outs in the show pen, and some to be safe, solid, capable ranch horses, but somewhere in the middle is Maddie’s ideal. “I like horses you can ranch on, but aren’t so show-horse that someone is going to fall off because they press the wrong button too quickly. We try to keep a good in-between.”  

Editor’s Note: Check out Tri-State Livestock News during the Black Hills Stock Show for a story about the other 2021 high-selling horse, Invester Maudie, which also brought $38,000. Consigned by Ron and Jordanne Wells from Springview, Nebraska, the son of Investers Asset was proven in the performance arena in heading, heeling and the junior rodeos and now makes his home in Sheridan, Wyoming, with Toby Vineyard.

Stallion Showcase: The Making of a Wonder Horse: Lucky Wonder Horse stands out in stallion world

The original Wonder Horse–those plastic horses of every color, attached to springs and suspended in a metal frame–was made by Radio Flyer. They let pajama-clad kids round up strays, win the steeplechase, jockey to a first place finish, or claim the buckle at the National Finals Rodeo. 

Alan Woodbury’s Wonder Horses aren’t all that different. His horses have made dreams come true on the track, in the arena and do just fine in a pasture of cattle. With the help of Bill and Deb Myers, of Myers Performance Horses, one of Woodbury’s Wonder Horses is on track to make even more dreams come true. 

Woodbury, who keeps a stable of elite barrel racing mares at his place near Dickinson, North Dakota, tends to pick themes for the names of the offspring of some of his favorite mares.  

When he bred Dash Ta Vanila (Dash Ta Fame X SX Frenchmans Vanila) to Corona Cartel, he named the twin daughters Wicked Felina CL and Rosas Cantina CC, after Marty Robbins’ hit song, El Paso.  

When Woodbury started producing foals out of Rosas Cantina CC, they were the Wonder Horses–Lucky Wonder Horse, Bucky Wonder Horse, Dollar Wonder Horse, Valor Wonder Horse, Little Wonder Horse, all named after the star of a radio program in the 1940s.  

Some of them have changed owners and names. Three half-brothers, Monsterr (Tres Seis X Rosas Cantina CC), Jaguarr (Dash Ta Fame X Rosas Cantina CC) and Lucky Wonder Horse (First Down Dash X Rosas Cantina CC) are standing at stud now, and are starting to prove that Woodbury’s theory of packing pedigrees that excel in every way–and paying the accompanying five-digit breeding fees–pays off in quality.  

Woodbury uses exclusively artificial insemination, and embryo transfer in many cases. That’s how 11-year-old Rosa, who ran in her fifth National Finals Rodeo with Lisa Lockhart in 2021, has 13 foals on the ground. Lucky Wonder Horse is one of the first foals out of Rosa, and the rodeo world is watching him closely. 

Lucky Guy 

When Woodbury knew he had a stallion that would make a big splash in the world of horsepower, he called long-time friend Bill Myers, who owned Frenchmans Guy, A Smooth Guy, and who broke to ride two of Woodbury’s first mares, SX Frenchmans Vanila and Dash Ta Vanila–Lucky’s second and third dams.  

Bill Myers was impressed by everything about Lucky Wonder Horse, the first time he saw him. Photo by Olie’s Images.
Lucky fall of 2021

“I’d broke both of those mares and liked them a lot,” Myers said.  

But Myers wasn’t interested when Woodbury first called about this yearling stallion prospect. “I just wasn’t in the market for a stallion at the time,” Myers said. “He kept after me. I was very intrigued by his pedigree, and I’d seen his pictures. He’s kind of unique. We drove up there and looked at him, and really liked him.” 

Myers sat down and wrote the check. 

While Woodury sets the price for most of his stallions, Jaguarr, one of Lucky’s half-brothers, out of Rosa and Dash Ta Fame, broke an all-time time public auction sale record for a barrel racing yearling in 2018, with a final bid of  $150,000, by Mill Iron Livestock in Alberta, Canada.   

Myers took Lucky home and let him grow up. Myers started him as a 2-year-old. “He was an easy colt to start. So many things about him impressed us right off the bat. He had good conformation, a lot of bone, substance, he’s real strong-made. He has a lot of natural collection in the way he moves.” 

Bill Myers says he doesn’t know of any own sons of First Down Dash that are buckskin, other than Lucky. Photo by Tabitha Smith.
Lucky Roping

And Lucky has the “wow factor” that’s necessary for success in the highly-competitive stallion world. Myers points out that he doesn’t know of another own son of First Down Dash that’s buckskin. “Stallions have to have uniqueness and wow factor and pizzazz, and all the other things to get people to breed to them because there’s so much competition in the stallion business.”  

Bill Myers broke Lucky Wonder Horse’s second and third dams to ride, and is impressed with the 7-year-old stallion’s performance in the roping pen. Photo by Tabitha Smith.

That “wow factor” is something you can’t measure, but Woodbury also knows it when he sees it. “I remember reading the magazines years ago and First Down Dash was standing at $75,000,” he said. “You looked at him and just drooled. I remember being at the farm and I went in the stall with him. He was really old, but he still had a presence about him. That’s the same with Corona Cartel. I used to go to the Lazy E and the stallion manager would bring him out and you felt like you were in the presence of royalty.”  

Lucky Break   

Myers bought Lucky five years ago, before anyone watching the National Finals Rodeo had heard of a horse named Rosa. Lisa Lockhart’s go-to horse then was still An Oakie With Cash (Louie), the buckskin gelding that was named the Equi-State highest-earning barrel horse of the decade, and has more than $800,000 in earnings.  

Horses like that are tough to replace, but Lockhart saw the potential in another buckskin with a big heart. Rosas Cantina CC took her place in Lockhart’s trailer, and for five years has been part of the team that made it to the National Finals Rodeo. 

Lisa Lockhart and Rosas Cantina, Lucky’s dam, at the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Photo by Kenneth Springer.

When Myers bought Lucky, they knew his dam had potential, though it hadn’t been proven yet, but it was the depth of his pedigree that made them drive to North Dakota to look at the stallion. 

“One of the things that drew us was the first, second and third dams,” Myers said. “Every one of those mares is a great performer, but also great producers. I don’t know of any stallion that has first, second and third dams that are stronger. Most stallions have a mare in the pedigree that’s pretty good. But not many have first, second and third dams that have that much money, performance and production. That makes that horse, to me, unique.” 

The proximity to First Down Dash is another big draw for Myers. “An own son of First Down Dash is as close as you can get.” The big sorrel with a speed index of 105, who is the number one all-time leading sire of money earners, with offspring that has earned nearly $90 million, sets the bar for speed sires in the industry.  

Woodbury said, “If you look at every horse in this horse’s pedigree, there is not a bad one. Every horse is great.”  

Myers agrees. “Every horse in that horse’s pedigree is superstar great.” And some of those superstars are on there twice.  

Pedigree Puzzle 

The technology that allows Rosa to keep competing while producing a multiple-foal crop each year, and to be bred to a stallion that passed away 14 years before Rosa was born, allows crosses that would have been impossible a few generations ago. That also allows Woodbury to diversify his genetics faster, and to make more informed decisions because he has more foals on the ground more quickly, thanks to frozen semen and embryo transfer.  

But Woodbury also thinks it holds the industry back, being able to hang onto those old, big-name genetics, rather than looking for new, possibly better, options. But he likes how it’s worked out so far. 

Most of the stallions Woodbury has been crossing Rosa on have stud fees listed only as “private treaty,” leaving most to speculate about what that dollar amount might be, and to dream about the kind of mares they release that limited semen to. 

But anyone can see what happens when those matings do occur. Lucky is standing in the Myers’ barn in Arizona right now. He divides his time between there, where he’s earning his keep as a rope horse, and Royal Vista Ranches, in Oklahoma, where he stands at stud. 

Lucky’s first colt crop is 3 years old this year. He has three crops on the ground, and Myers is excited to see what they’ll do.  

Myers bred just four of his Frenchmans Guy mares to Lucky that first year. “He’s a strong-siring horse in that he throws well-made, pretty, fast, good-minded horses,” Myers said. “The people who have them are very happy with them. We ride them ourselves, so we evaluate them pretty strongly.”  

The buyers of his get can see the value. Last year Lucky’s 2-year-olds averaged $27,000 at Myers’ sale. This year they sold some privately and sold some through the Pink Buckle Barrel Futurity sale. The three that went through the sale ring averaged $39,000, while the private treaty horses averaged $34,166.  

Myers points out that the $3,000 stud fee has a promising return with that kind of sale price on his young offspring.  

Myers are planning to breed about 50 to 60 mares a year to him, so they’re being a little bit selective in the mares they accept. They offer special consideration to mares that have won $50,000 or more, and are looking forward to seeing what Lucky produces out of more of their own Frenchmans Guy and A Smooth Guy mares. Woodbury has also talked about crossing Lucky onto his Tell Em Belle mare line, Myers said. 

Myers rode one of Lucky’s colts all summer and is planning to take him to some rope horse futurities. Nikki Steffes Hansen, who rode Dash Ta Vanila to the National Finals in 2012, has a filly out of Lucky and a Frenchmans Guy mare that is showing potential in the barrel pen.  

Lucky is paid into some of the top barrel futurities in the nation, including the Pink Buckle, Ruby Buckle and Royal Crown.  

“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that the people that breed to him and buy his colts have some good incentives to go show their colts,” Myers said. “We’re excited about him. He sure throws a lot of stuff that we try to have in our horses. The conformation is something people don’t put enough emphasis on nowadays, and we put a lot of emphasis on that. We’re really looking forward to watching his colts run in the next few years, to getting them in the right hands to excel.”