Before They Were Legends–The Industry’s Top Horses

When you’re watching greatness like Peyton Manning last night (yes, I am a Colts fan, but also a Manning fan), or even some of the top horses competing at the All American Quarter Horse Congress this month, it’s hard to imagine that at one point, everyone had to start somewhere. Peyton had to start in the pee-wee football leagues. Harley D Zip had to start out with a trainer to figure out the right buttons.

Here are a few quotes and tidbits about some of the horse industry’s top performers and how they were before they were legends:

  • Harley D Zip “I hobbled him; I rode him in orchards and in cow pens, and I treated him like a horse and wore him down,” trainer Doug Pratt remembers. “Jason Martin still had his hands full when he got him, but as he got to be seven, eight, and nine, he got better. But even when he was six or seven, if you didn’t longe him just right, he’d have a hump in his back and you’d have to grit through it.”
  • RL Best Of Sudden “When we first saw him we knew he was special, truly, he just had such a presence he looked like a special one,” says Candy Parrish. “Then, when we saw him lope around under saddle with just a handful of rides, we had no doubt he was a great one. Bo was exceptionally easy to train. He was so naturally gifted that Bret just had to show him what to do and it was easy for him.”
  • Allocate Your Assets When Brian Isbell and partner Kevin Garcia first saw Allocate Your Assets as a long yearling in 2001, it was all they could do to keep calm—they knew he was going to be something. “I knew right then and there, he was going to be my once-in-a-lifetime horse,” recalls multiple World Champion trainer, Isbell.
  • RPL My Te Cheerful RPL My Te Cheerful’s first show wasn’t until late into his two year-old year with Monte Horn. His breeder, Bobbie and Henry Atkinson, felt that the late-blooming son of My Te Telusive needed some time to just grow and be a horse, so he spent many days out to pasture, with some light work here and there with the Atkinson’s farm manager, Michael Ochetto.
  • John Simon “There was never a question the second I saw him move that he would turn into something special,” says Tim Gillespie, who said he was the best minded stallion he has ever trained. “He was very easy to finish out and was a true gentleman. He never had any quirks or gave us any trouble.”
Harley D Zip, ridden by then-owner Brian Ale, and trainer Doug Pratt at the 1998 Tom Powers. Photo courtesy Doug Pratt

Harley D Zip, ridden by then-owner Brian Ale, and trainer Doug Pratt at the 1998 Tom Powers. Photo courtesy Doug Pratt


Read more about these legends and their younger years on Before They Were Legends: A Look Back at their Younger Years


Horse Shopping Tips & Etiquette

Horse shopping is stressful! It’s a big financial commitment that’s more than just purchasing a car, because there’s even more to owning a horse than just the buying process. I was able to talk to three industry professionals for their tips on how to be better prepared to purchase your next horse, as well as how to be a better shopper.

Here are some shopping tips from Candy & Bret Parrish, Lora Whittington, and Ruth Ellen:

  • No question is a dumb question. If you ask a question and the agent or trainer, whoever is representing the horse, doesn’t give you a straightforward answer, it would be time for your red flag to go up.
  • If you look at the price range where you can absolutely not go, you’re never going to find the horse that suits you in the price range that you can afford. So I always tell people that I need to look for horses in their budget, that’s how they find something.
  • Deal with people that you know are looking out for YOUR best interest.
  • Understand that spending a little more up front in your horse investment can be a wise decision. It costs the same amount to take care of, train, show, etc. a high quality horse as it does a horse of lower quality. Buy the best horse you can for you budget; don’t settle for a horse just because it may be less expensive.
  • Show some common courtesy. It will not only earn you respect in the industry; those you treat well will support you in the search for your perfect horse. Return calls and messages. If you’ve asked someone to accommodate your specific requests, only to determine the horse is not a good fit, let the seller know and thank them for their time. They will remember you when the right one comes along!
  • Don’t get hung up on age – Olympic caliber mounts don’t start getting good until they’re about 12 years old. It is my experience that if a horse is still sound at age 10, there’s no reason to think he won’t be for many years to come. Yes, he may require some maintenance, but if you need a horse with miles, it’s a small price to pay for your safety and success.
  • Be ethical! A large percentage of show horses are represented by trainers and agents. These are trust professionals hired by the owners to manage the sale of their horse. Circumventing the listed contact seldom proves beneficial and is often embarrassing.
  • Don’t set unrealistic expectations—every horse will have his flaw or slight issue, and no horse is perfect.


For more tips and advice, read my article on So, You’re Buying a Horse...