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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.” 

What the CARE Act means for agriculture, cattle producers

Friday, March 27, the U.S. House approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday by a 96-0 vote. President Trump signed it Friday afternoon.

The vote passed the House after four and a half hours of debate, with nearly all speakers in favor of the bill, according to The Hagstrom Report. Some did voice reservations about the $2 trillion price tag, but all agreed it’s necessary, whether for the aid it offers rural hospitals, meals for school children or aid for agriculture. While the vote showed strong bipartisan support, the commentary wasn’t unified. According to The Hagstrom Report, Democrats praised Senate Democrats and their own leaders for making changes to the bill, while House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said, “Senate Democrats, aided by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] recklessly delayed this bill for days and used this crisis to advance a frivolous political agenda. It failed, and the Senate found unanimous, if not perfect, common ground.”

The agreement reportedly includes a $14 billion increase in USDA’s borrowing authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation, consistent with a long history of the CCC being tapped to responsibly support agriculture in times of crisis, and $9.5 billion to assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators.

What, exactly, that will look like is yet to be determined, but the beef industry and those who represent beef states are trying to make sure beef producers are considered during that decision-making.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) said, in response to the passage of the bill,  “Today, the House passed legislation that will provide immediate economic relief to all Americans to help our country get through these extremely trying times. Included in this relief package is critical help for our farm and ranch families, who are officially recognized by the U.S. government as critical infrastructure and must keep working in order to keep our grocery shelves stocked. Our farm and ranch families are living up to this charge and getting it done even under the enormous financial strain of seven straight years of economic recession in agriculture. As they continue to care for their livestock and head into the fields to plant, I strongly urge the Administration and USDA to work swiftly to get this much-needed aid to our nation’s farmers and ranchers without delay. If this legislation is to succeed in bolstering the economy, the overriding goal must be to get aid to all Americans as quickly as possible, including farmers, ranchers, and rural America.”

Jess Peterson, senior policy advisor for the United States Cattlemen’s Association, said his organization commends the bipartisan effort that went into this bill, but they’ll be watching and working with the appropriate agencies to make sure the help gets to where it’s needed. “We look forward to working with the House and Senate to ensure there will be payments as needed to cattle producers, cattle feeders and backgrounders. That those payments, as needed, are issued to producers, and not going to any of the multi-national packers. We want to make sure it goes to the people on the ground.”

American Farm Bureau president, Zippy Duvall, said, “Thanks to Leader McConnell and all the senators who diligently fought for farmers and ranchers to ensure they have our backs in the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. The aid to farmers in this package, including funding for the CCC and the Office of the Secretary, will allow USDA to begin crafting an appropriate relief program for agriculture.

“America’s farmers and ranchers face enormous volatility as markets and supply chains rapidly react to changes, but I’ll say again that farmers and ranchers will not let Americans down. All members of Congress must understand that farmers have almost no control over the prices of the goods we produce, so fulfilling our commitment to America requires a team effort.”

Many industry organizations share common concerns about implementation, and are working to make sure the industry is represented in the agencies making decisions about the funding allocations.

Peterson said his organization has been working with economists and agencies to put together numbers that will be realistic and reflect the needs of the industry, based on the 2020 February projection and outlook. “We have a pricing mechanism in place. It’s a matter of USDA acknowledging that and working through it accordingly. We feel comfortable with the numbers we’ve looked over. We’re working very closely with Congress and the USDA to ensure that when the payment program is formalized, we’re in alignment.”

Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, has been working with South Dakota’s representatives to ask that beef producers be given strong consideration in the allocations. 

“We don’t really have access to any other programming, like other ag products,” Anderson said. “We haven’t been party to any of the previous market facilitation payments that have been happening over the last year. SDCA and NCBA have been arguing that the assistance needs to be focused on the people who were most targeted by the market downturn.”

Scott Edoff, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association agrees that the assistance needs to go to the people who are operating on the tightest margins, for whom this assistance could make the difference between staying in the ag business or not. 

“I just want to see it go to the struggling young people who aren’t going to get their bills paid,” he said. “I don’t want to see them give it to the nonprofits who are not paying taxes. Give it to the average working people who need it.”

Anderson concurs, “I don’t think sending everyone $5 per cow is the answer. Then no one gets enough to do any good. That may be the easiest thing to do to get it done fairly, but we’re advocating for a better way.”

Edoff further hopes the market volatility will be the incentive needed to address the issues the industry all agrees are present in the cattle market.

“I’d like to see them fix our cattle markets instead of giving us the handout. We’d be better off if they could make it a better, more open and fair market than give us a handout. Break up the packers a little bit. Make it more open and honest market out of it, where it’s transparent and anyone can follow it, instead of this secretive market they have going now.”

Anderson says the economic uncertainty has highlighted two things for the cattle market. “One, the futures market is not working as the risk management tool it was intended to be. The futures market is setting the cash market, instead of vice versa. That’s something we really have to address moving forward. Second, we don’t really have a crop insurance-like program for livestock. A big piece of that is we can’t seem to agree on what that should look like. We, as an industry, have never had a unified voice to ask for it. Maybe it’s time we revive that a little.”

Peterson said that while the markets and the CARE Act are two different issues, the last few weeks of market volatility have piqued the interest of representatives and agencies that oversee the markets. “The key thing I can’t emphasize enough is we need to improve our competitiveness and true price discovery in the cattle market,” he said.