‘The Ride’ features great horses

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When decorated reining horse sire Colonels Smoking Gun died two months ago after a bout with laminitis, he left behind a great legacy.

His life and his lineage is just one part of the Sept. 9 episode of “The Ride with Cord McCoy,” which airs at 1 and 11 p.m. Eastern on Monday on RFD-TV. McCoy visits with some of the top reining horse professionals about the stallion, then turns his attention to other outstanding steads, the Express Ranches Clydesdales, providing fans with the opportunity to recognize some of the most majestic animals in the equine industry.

Colonels Smoking Gun died July 8, but as fans of 'The Ride with Cord McCoy' will see in the Sept. 9 episode, the great sire leaves a tremendous legacy. (PHOTO COURTESY OF McQUAY STABLES)
Colonels Smoking Gun died July 8, but as fans of ‘The Ride with Cord McCoy’ will see in the Sept. 9 episode, the great sire leaves a tremendous legacy. (PHOTO COURTESY OF McQUAY STABLES)

Gunner was “one of the best performing horses and producing horses ever in the reining world,” McCoy said as he opened the show. “He will be missed, by not only the producers, the trainers but also the fans.”

Owned by McQuay Stables, Gunner was 20 years old when he died July 8. To date, his offspring have earned more than $5 million in the National Reining Horse Association, allowing Gunner to be one of just five stallions to reach that landmark; he is also the only paint to do so, according to the American Paint Horse Association.

“When we bought Gunner, I thought he would be a sire,” said Tim McQuay, the owner of McQuay Stables. “I was fortunate enough to ride a handful of colts he sired already when we made the deal to buy him. I had a feel that every one that I rode wanted to stop. That’s a big part of what I hunt for.”

Last year alone, the top two horses in the NRHA’s open futurity were his colts: Americasnextgunmodel won the championship, while Gunners Tinseltown was the reserve champion. In addition, another colt, Customized Gunner, was named the NRHA’s non-pro co-champion.

“Last year his colts won a million and a half dollars themselves,” McQuay said. “There’s not another stud in the industry that’s had colts be first and second in the reining futurity. He did his job better than I ever expected him to.”

Gunner’s death reached beyond McQuay Stables.

“It was a sad day when he passed,” said Dell Hendricks, owner of Hendricks Reining Horses. “I competed against him all those years, but he still kind of gets into your heart. I don’t know why that flop-eared thing did it, but he got into you.”

Hendricks isn’t the only reining professional to see that.

“I think Gunner’s impact in the industry is greater than any other stud that we’ve seen,” said Tom McCutcheon, owner of McCutcheon Reining Horses. “As much as anything because any practice pen you go to across the country, you see white legs and white faces. It’s changed the industry completely.”

Gunner not only sired great champions, but he performed quite well in the arena, too.

“He won $177,000 himself,” McQuay said. “Everybody loved him. He was this cute, little bald-face horse with floppy ears, and they loved him. The crowd went crazy when they walked into the pen. It was a different look, a different breed, but it sure did work.”

His work as a sire is where his legacy lives.

“He’s turned into the go-to sire,” McCutcheon said. “He’s always the first horse you think about, at least for us. I manage probably 30 of the best brood mares in the country, and our go-to stud is that. We try to have as many of them here as we can, because we’ve never seen anything like it.

“There’s seven, eight, nine horses in the finals by Gunner. We’ve never had any stud like it. The industry is going to miss him terrible.”

Great animals not only stand out, but the reach deeply into people’s hearts. Whether it’s a great reining horse or a powerful Clydesdale, it’s attractive. Bob Funk realized that 15 years ago when he invested into his own program.

“We’re owned by Bob Funk, who owns Express Employment Professionals,” said Tabitha Minshull, the events coordinator for Express Clydesdales. “He was introduced to the Clydesdales back in 1998. He just fell in love with them, but he particularly decided to have the black and white Clydesdales, which they’re a lot more rare. He purchased a hitch in 1998 and has since used them as a marketing ambassador for the company.”

Now the Express Clydesdales are famous worldwide and are being utilized in numerous ways by the Western community. During the 2011 Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, rode atop the Express Stage that was led by the team of Clydesdales.

The Clydesdales used in the teams range in age from 4 to their mid-teens, Minshull said. They’re started at ages 3 or 4.

“They’ve hit their full height,” she said, noting the horses stand from 17 hands to the biggest one being 19.1 hands tall. “They may have some weight to gain, but they’re maturing to start driving.

“An 18-hand horse is 6 foot to the withers.”

To show the versatility of the animals, McCoy closed the show by riding one of the Clydesdales “off into the sunset.” It was the perfect way to celebrate the episode about some of the most celebrated horses in the world.


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