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