Bright Marks in Appaloosa History
Horsemen of the day say Bright Eyes Brother could stare right through you.
"It's almost as if he said, 'Go ahead and look at me,'" recalls Ed Roberts, who first laid eyes on the dun Appaloosa stallion at the 1959 National Western Livestock Show in Denver, Colorado. "I've met very few horses who've left that kind of impression."
"Brother" won his aged-stallion class that day and stood grand champion Appaloosa at the show. "That was the most prestigious show of the winter run," adds Roger Klamfoth, who remembers years when horses lined up around the rail vying for the aged-stallion title. "That was the world show for all the breeds before we had world shows."
Roberts, who now lives near Fort Worth, Texas, later became executive secretary of the American Paint Horse Association in 1975, retiring from the position in 2001. Klamfoth bred Appaloosas from the Brother line for more than 30 years at his Groveport, Ohio, ranch and served as chief executive officer of the Appaloosa Horse Club from 1992 through 2003. Both men agree that Bright Eyes Brother, along with his owner, the late Cecil Dobbin, ushered in a new era for the breed. The Appaloosa industry concurred in 1988, inducting both man and horse into the Appaloosa Horse Club Hall of Fame.
Dobbin's account of Brother's acquisition is one of the breed's most colorful tales, and the controversy surrounding Brother's production of white markings has boiled and simmered through the years. Today, nearly 55 years after the stallion's birth, Brother still commands a loyal following of breeders devoted to his brightly marked and highly talented descendents.
A Brother of "Bright Eyes"
The dun colt, by Billy Maddon (AQHA) and out of Plaudette, was born in 1950 on C.L. Maddon's New Mexico ranch. The white blanket over his hips earned him the moniker of "Frosty," an unassuming name for a horse who'd change the Appaloosa breed during his lifetime.
Not only was Frosty an Appaloosa, he was also half-brother to Maddons Bright Eyes (by Gold Mount, AQHA), a blue-eyed Quarter racing filly born with blazing speed and the fire to win against any horse she matched on the track. She collected three world-championship running titles and became the first horse to break 22 seconds on the quarter-mile.
Dobbin, remembered as a keen horseman and deft businessman, hopped into the Appaloosa scene like an investor riding a bull market to the top. A series of right-time moves and guiltless self-promotion made him one of the most famed horse breeders of his age. Later in the 1960s, when he served as an ApHC director, Dobbin conceived the idea for the now-famous Chief Joseph Trail Ride to help market the Appaloosa breed.
In the late 1950s, Dobbin made his living as an auctioneer and horse trader near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Working during the livestock-auction heyday, Dobbin witnessed deals, watched good horses go through the sale pen and listened to stories horsemen liked to tell. One particular story, told by Hank Wiescamp, piqued Dobbin's interest. According to Wiescamp, the mare Plaudette had produced an Appaloosa brother of Quarter Horse racing great Maddons Bright Eyes, the queen of the quarter-mile.
Dobbin ran a successful program at the time, but he knew he needed a better stallion - one such as "Bright Eyes" own brother - to take the lead as an Appaloosa breeder. With this in mind, Dobbin set out to find the dun Appaloosa stallion. By 1958, Dobbin's detective work led to Wiley Donaldson, a roper who lived on the Apache Indian reservation near Dulce, New Mexico.
Donaldson, it turned out, competed in rodeos aboard his Appaloosa brother of Bright Eyes. Only providence had stood between the 8-year-old stallion and the physical alteration that most rodeo colts faced. "Why he was left a stallion, I can only guess was meant for the Appaloosa's future," Roberts notes about the situation. Fortunately for the breed, the stallion remained intact.
With his family's life savings in hand and trailer in tow, Dobbin headed off on a nearly 300-mile trek to see Frosty in person and buy the stallion.
"I wasn't there at the time, but I can imagine 'Cec' nearly dropped his teeth when he first saw that horse," says Harry Reed, a family friend who worked for Dobbin on the ranch. "He'd never seen an Appaloosa that looked like that."
Impressed by what he saw, Dobbin made Donaldson an offer. It's said the negotiations went deep into the night before the pair struck a deal. After Dobbin secured the sale and headed back to Colorado with the horse, he called his friend, then-WH Editor Dick Spencer, who agreed that Frosty was an unworthy name for the next great Appaloosa sire. He also pointed out that Dobbin would introduce the stallion to everyone as Bright Eyes' brother, so with that, Brother got his new name.
See the March issue of Western Horseman for the complete story.