The story behind a legend.
Article and photography by PAT CLOSE, as written in the July 1977 issue of Western Horseman.
If you were not already familiar with this outstanding sire, the ranch sign would give you your first clue to his importance and fame. DOC BAR stands out in big bold letters at the top, with Double J Ranch taking second billing below. The arrow points to the left, sending you down a dirt road through the rolling hills of California, about 45 miles south of Hollister.
It’s a remote location for a stallion of Doc Bar’s fame; but then, he lived there long before he became so famous. And the location hasn’t deterred breeders or buyers in the slightest from beating a path to the Double J. Before Doc Bar’s book was closed to the public this year, he bred up to 85 mares each of the last few years at a cool $4,000 stud fee. And his foals raised by the Double J are usually sold as soon as they hit the ground.
Who is Doc Bar? He is a registered Quarter Horse, and the all-time super sire of cutting horses. His progeny have dominated cutting, particularly the National Cutting Horse Futurity, the past seven or eight years the way the Bold Rulers have dominated Thoroughbred racing, and the Easy Jets, Quarter Horse racing.
This handsome sorrel stallion is now 21 years old. He lives an idyllic life at the Double J with his huge stall, paddock, and irrigated pasture. The Double J is owned by Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Jensen, who live in the San Francisco Bay area at Orinda, where Dr. Jensen is a dentist. However, they maintain a weekend home at the Double J, which is managed by Charlie Ward. Charlie’s wife, Stephenie, is one of four Jensen children and the only one involved with horses.
Tall, easy-going, and softspoken, Charlie relaxed at the kitchen table while Stephenie explained how her folks acquired the Double J, and then Doc Bar. “My mother was into jumping horses when she was young; and when she and Dad first moved to the Bay area, there was lots of riding room and they had a few horses that they just rode for pleasure.
“After my younger brother and sister had grown up and gone away to school, my folks were at a loss for things to do. About that time, this ranch came up for sale. They already knew this area because they had spent some time at a friend’s ranch down here and liked it. They thought it would be nice to have a place in the country, especially since they were looking for something new and interesting to do, and so they bought the ranch.
“For awhile they planned to raise Herefords; then my mother began thinking that foals would be so much prettier than calves so they decided to get into the horse business. They began visiting a lot of people who were in the business at that time—people like Bill Howard, Bob Burnquist, Harry Cotton, and Charley Araujo. They were intrigued with Charley and decided to follow his advice.”
About this same time, Charley was also friends with Tom Finley Sr. of the Finley Ranches down in Gilbert, Arizona. Finley owned a young horse by the name of Doc Bar. He was foaled in 1956, his sire was Lightning Bar by Three Bars (TB), and he was out of Dandy Doll, by Texas Dandy. Finley had hoped for a racehorse when he bred Dandy Doll to Lightning Bar, but as Stephenie explains, “Doc Bar had a very short career in racing because they found out right away he wasn’t a racehorse!”
Doc Bar’s official AQHA records verify this. They list his best race grade as “A.” And out of four starts, he finished third once, and earned a grand total of $95. But he was to have more success at his next career: that of a halter horse. Stephenie continues:
“Charley Araujo had already told Tom Finley that he’d like to show Doc at halter, so Tom told Charley to come and get him. That’s how the horse got to California. But Tom still owned him; Charley just showed him, and earned 36 halter points with him.
“After my folks had acquired four or five broodmares, they began to realize that it was a real effort to haul them to various studs. Since they were watching Charley win halter classes all over California with Doc Bar, they figured that if he ever came up for sale, they’d like to own him. So Charley told them that if Tom ever decided to sell, he’d let them know — and he eventually did.
“It’s funny to us now because every so often we hear someone say, ‘I could have bought that horse for $10,000 when he was three years old.’ Well, Charley could have been holding out on my folks, but I seriously doubt it because he had said Tom just didn’t want to part with the horse. But you know how people are in the horse business. One month they’re not going to sell, and the next month, they change their minds.”
The Jensens finally got Doc Bar in the fall of 1962 when he was six years old. After Charley stood him for a year, he came to the Double J, and that marked the beginning of an era. Stephenie candidly admits that the ranch started not only as a hobby for her folks, but also as a tax shelter. “However, it mushroomed far beyond what they ever thought it would, and now they need a tax shelter for their tax shelter!” laughed Stephenie.
A horse does not establish himself overnight as a premier sire, though, and so Doc Bar remained relatively obscure for four or five years. In fact, Stephenie says that in 1966, the year before she and Charlie moved to the ranch, only 15 people brought outside mares to Doc Bar.
As his sons and daughters became old enough to compete under saddle, however, Doc Bar began to gradually emerge as a consistent sire of exceptional performance horses, especially in cutting. One of the very first Doc Bars to excel at cutting was Fizzabar, a brown mare out of Teresa Tivio, trained and shown by Don Dodge. Janie Bar was another.
Charlie Ward remembers: “At the time, they were the only two that had been tried at cutting. Then, after having been a roper for years, I got interested in cutting; and I was fortunate to get some early help in learning from Buster Welch. I started riding more two-year-olds for the ranch, and kind of pointed them at cutting. I was also able to sell them to trainers who were looking for NCHA Futurity horses. They were good colts, and they got into good hands. After they started doing well at the futurity, their popularity just took off.”
The 1969 futurity was the first one in which the Doc Bars gave an indication of things to come. Shorty Freeman placed second on Doc’s Kitty; Buster Welch placed third on Doc Luck Bar; and Carol Rose was fourth on Doc’s Leo Lad. Then, Doc Bars won four of the next five futurities: Doc O’Lena in 1970; Dry Doc in 1971; Doc’s Marmoset in 1973; and Doc’s Yuba Lea in 1974. And, a Doc Bar granddaughter won it in 1975. That was Lenaette, a daughter of Doc O’Lena.
For those not familiar with the NCHA Futurity, it is the richest event for horses anywhere in the world, exclusive of racing. In 1976, the purse totaled $200,000, and first place in the finals paid $43,800. The futurity has given cutting a badly needed boost in popularity, and many people began jumping on the bandwagon to either raise a futurity horse, or buy one. In either case, many of them headed for the Double J Ranch, and the peace and tranquility that the Jensens had been enjoying at their weekend retreat became a thing of the past. But that’s not to say they were not enjoying the success of their stallion. Their hopes of someday raising outstanding working horses were being fulfilled far beyond what they had ever dreamed of.
For even though Doc Bar was a halter horse when the Jensens bought him, they wanted to breed working horses. And before they got him, they had been breeding toward that goal. According to Stephenie, “They had bred some mares to Poco Tivio at first, simply because Charley Araujo owned him at that time. But Poco Tivio was a proven sire of performance horses. They also bred mares to Puro Tivio, a son of Poco Tivio; and they also had sent mares to Bar Bob in Utah.”
Stephenie continues, “After they bought Doc, a lot of people told them, ‘Well, now you’re going to have to upgrade your broodmares-you’re going to have to get some halter-type broodmares.’ They never did. They had Poco Tivio mares, some daughters of King, and some Hollywood Gold daughters. They were mares that they had bought or raised, and they stuck with them.
“I will never forget how people criticized them. You know how it is when you first get into the horse business…people figure you’re a pigeon if you buy a lot of mares from one person, and a lot of people thought Charley was unloading on them by selling them so many Poco Tivio mares. They were short, fat, brown things, and here they’ve got this classy halter horse. People would say, ‘What are they going to do? Why don’t they get some different mares?’
“They never did. Now people say, ‘Well, they’ve been awfully lucky.’ And they are the first to admit they have been. But they never did breed away from what they had in mind. They wanted to breed working horses. And right down the line, those Poco Tivio mares produced for them.
“Jameen Tivio produced Doc’s Hotrodder, an AQHA Champion; and Doc’s Lynx, winner of the 1974 NCHA Maturity. Doc’s Lynx is also the sire of Doc’s Becky, the sensational mare who placed second in the ’76 NCHA Futurity.
“Susie’s Bay, a big old tank of a brown mare by Poco Tivio, has produced several outstanding horses by Doc Bar: Doc’s Marmoset, winner of the ’73 futurity; Doc’s Solano, the youngest horse ever to earn an AQHA Championship; Doc’s Bar Bender, champion calf roping horse in the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Assn. in ’71 and ’75; and Doc’s Oak, a finalist in both the 1976 Snaffle Bit Futurity and NCHA Futurity.
“These are just two examples of how well those old Poco Tivio mares produce when bred to Doc,” Stephenie continued. “So we think the world of Poco Tivio mares. There hasn’t been one of those mares that, when bred to Doc, hasn’t produced a horse you could be proud of. Some are better than others; but all have ability.”
But his success as a sire of cutting horses has not been limited to Poco Tivio mares by any means. He has also produced well when bred to mares of other bloodlinessuch as Leo, Music Mount, Ed Echols, and even a mare that was straight Thoroughbred. However, mares of King breeding have been the most reliable… and Poco Tivio was a grandson of King.
The Doc Bars have also done well in other performance events, such as the CRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Doc Bar has sired 15 AQHA Champions; and through 1976, his get had earned 2,152 halter points and 2,782 performance points.
Cutting, however, is the forte of the Doc Bars. They have balance, style, expression, and athletic ability. But not all of them are the same. Charlie Ward puts it this way: “Some have more ability than others; and some are little more high-strung than others. I’ve had the most success with ones that are just a little bit hot. But being hot doesn’t mean they are crazy; there is a difference.
“With some, you find out right away that they have the ability and the cow that it takes, and sometimes they’re liable to overreact at first. I still remember the first few times I took Doc’s Starlight into the arena with cattle. She didn’t know what I wanted because she had no experience, but she knew it had something to do with that cow. When the cow moved, she automatically ricocheted back and forth like a cutting horse. She was wild, and scared. But she always had control of her body; she wasn’t just flying off the handle. It took awhile, but I finally got her calmed down so she’d let that cow move, and she would make just one move instead of five. When she got the idea, it was set in her mind. Then she was sure one of those horses that when you were in tough competition and the cattle got bad, and you knew the only way you could win was to really ask he… she always had that extra and she’d come through for you.”
No sire is perfect, though, and if Doc Bar could be faulted, it might be that his progeny sometimes don’t get as tall as today’s Quarter Horse market prefers. Some mature at only 14-2 or 14-3 hands. Doc Bar himself stands a hair under 15 hands; 14-3¾, to be exact, according to Charlie.
If a person owns a young Doc Bar, he can expect this inevitable question: “How big is he?” Stan Glover of Colorado Springs had a classic answer when his colt, Doc’s J Jay, was about two years old. With his typical dry humor, Stan would reply: “He lacks just 8 inches of being 16 hands.”
Height might be necessary for today’s halter and rail classes, but not for cutting. Therefore it’s doubtful if a potential lack of height has ever stopped anyone from breeding to Doc, or buying one of his foals. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, the demand for his foals is so strong that they sell almost as soon as they hit the ground, with the prices ranging between $10,000 and $35,000, according to Charlie.
Surprisingly, his colts sell higher than the fillies, although Charlie says this wasn’t true a few years ago. Then, everyone wanted fillies. But as the colts began proving themselves as sires—take Doc O’Lena, for example—the demand for colts became stronger. As Charlie says, “Doc Bar has not only put a lot of trainers into business, he has also put a lot of breeders into business.”
Because of Doc Bar’s age (21) and reduced fertility, his book is now closed to outside mares. Because of the handsome prices that his foals sell for, some horsemen have wondered why the Jensens didn’t close Doc’s book earlier, and breed just their own mares. Explains Stephenie:
“Our breeding business always made us a great deal of money—it was too lucrative to close his book. And actually it wasn’t until the past two or three years that we could sell the foals as soon as they were born.”
Adds Charlie: “When we first came here, I had 12 or 15 two-year-olds to ride every year. This year, the ranch doesn’t own one two-year-old, and we have only one three-year-old.”
This explains one reason why the Jensens do not have a junior sire, or a replacement sire for Doc Bar. According to Charlie: “Usually the foals don’t stay around long enough for us to make up our minds if we’d like to keep one for a replacement. Also, I don’t think that Dr. and Mrs. Jensen would be satisfied with any other horse after Doc. He will be a tough act to follow.”
Stephenie adds, “This ranch is hard work, and my father has his practice, and he and my mom have their life in the Bay area. So unless they have someone here who’s dedicated and can stay right on top of the horse business, the ranch could begin slipping behind. If you underprice horses, you’re in trouble; and if you overprice horses, people won’t come back. There’s a real thin line, and you have to stay right on top of the business to know what it is. My folks aren’t willing to do that. They’re spoiled. People would come in here and pay them $4,000 just to breed a mare to Doc. If they were going to start with a young horse, you’re talking about 15 years of promoting before they would again have what we have right now. They feel they are too old to start over with a young horse. And, Charlie and I have a place of our own near Paso Robles to which we’d like to move within the next four or five years. It really depends on Doc; we’ll stay here as long as he’s here.”
In the meantime, Doc will continue to breed a limited number of select Double J Ranch mares each year, and enjoy the good life. Charlie says he doesn’t get any special kind of care. He’s fed twice a day—alfalfa and a grain mixture of oats, bran, sweet feed, and Calf Manna. He does get a little fat, but he’s sound and he exercises himself.
Because of Doc’s value, it wasn’t until the past few years that he has been allowed into his irrigated pasture. He was confined to a spacious paddock with a stall. But the Wards decided grass and more exercise would be good for him, so one day took a deep breath and opened the gate into the pasture. The big plan was to let Doc roam the paddock and pasture during the day, but confine him to his stall and paddock at night. But Charlie says it only took Doc about two days to catch on that evenings meant lock-up time, and he would not be caught. So ever since, he’s free to roam his pasture day and night. In return for this privilege, he allows himself to be caught any time.
When we walked into Doc’s pasture to get some pictures of him, it was obvious that he’s quite accustomed to his role as the feature attraction of the Double J Ranch. But he’s too sophisticated to be a ham. Instead, his eyes and expression revealed a look of great intelligence, as if he indeed knows that he has truly earned his status in the horse world as a superstar.