Chiquita Pistol won the 2002 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. Nine years later, she’s back in the show pen and still having the same mesmerizing effect on cattle and cutting fans.
Small and plain, Chiquita Pistol spent her formative 2-year-old year in the capable hands of her owner, Wallace “Tooter” Dorman.
The two checked cows and fences, walking and trotting a lot of miles on the expansive Oakwood, Texas, division of Silverbrook Ranch, which Dorman manages. They worked cattle quietly and purposefully.
Most people wouldn’t have paid much attention to the little sorrel filly, although her breeding was as much of a guarantee as possible that she’d be a “good ’un,” as East Texas cowboys might say. Her dam was Miss Chiquita Tari, a daughter of Pay Twentyone, a King Ranch-bred stallion. Dorman and his daughter, Deborah Dorman Moore, showed Miss Chiquita Tari to earnings of more than $45,000.
“Every colt that’s been out of her has won a good bit of money,” Dorman says.
Chiquita Pistol’s sire was Smart Little Pistol, a son of Smart Little Lena and out of Miss Silver Pistol, a mare who earned more than $500,000—including the 1985 NCHA Futurity non-pro championship with Wes Shahan, a reward for her snaky, smart style on a cow.
Early on, Dorman knew Chiquita Pistol was different, in a good way. He also knew the slow, steady progress she was making was necessary.
“She was pretty tough for a long time,” he says. “I think these colts [of her breeding], their minds don’t develop as quick as some other horses. They can’t take the pressure these trainers put on them. She was pretty contrary at times when you were riding her. If a trainer had her, they probably would have kicked her out. But I could see there was potential there, and I thought if I could get it, I’d have something.
“I guess she finally gave up, and boy, she went to doing whatever you wanted her to do then. I used her at the ranch until she got to where, if we were working cows, I was afraid she was going to fall down, she stopped so hard. But I think that’s what helped her a lot. She never was just in the pen all the time. She was out in the pasture being a horse.”
In the spring of Chiquita Pistol’s 3-year-old year, a shoulder injury put a temporary stop to Dorman’s riding. He called his friend Ronnie Rice, who had just come off a win at the 2001 NCHA Futurity on San Tule Freckles, and hauled the mare to him in Buffalo, Texas, so her training could continue. When Ronnie was in Fort Worth, Texas, for the NCHA Derby, his son, Tag—who had ridden Mr Beamon to reserve at the 2001 Futurity—was responsible for working Chiquita Pistol. It was the proverbial match made in heaven.
Until then, the younger Rice had never ridden the mare. In fact, he says he’d never really noticed her. When Dorman had some interest from a potential buyer, he asked Tag to work Chiquita Pistol and haul her to Fort Worth. He worked her, but the trip never happened.
“She made a big impression on me right off the bat,” Tag recalls. “Some horses and some people just gel. She was just so strong, and the cow meant so much to her that you could hardly hold her off the cow then. And her athleticism—you just don’t see that very often.”
Luckily for everyone involved, Dorman didn’t have to sell the mare. He left her in Tag’s hands to prepare for the 2002 NCHA Futurity.
“They clicked,” he says.
Showing 3-year-olds is a guessing game. It’s impossible to know what kind of preparation they need, how much loping they need, and how much work is too much or not enough. But Tag quickly discovered that Chiquita Pistol was born to be a show horse.
“You could cut any cow you wanted and she’d dang sure go hold it and be able to stop it,” Tag says. “In the go-rounds as we were advancing, you knew you still had a lot of horse left. In the semi-finals, I used her a little more. In the finals, everybody tries to go have the best run they can have. She enjoyed that. We found out the harder you rode her, the more she liked it.”
The Futurity set a pattern for Chiquita Pistol: thoroughly respectable scores in the go-rounds and extremely high marks in the finals. She won the Futurity with a 225. In 2003, she won the Augusta Futurity with a 230.5, the Abilene Spectacular with a 231, the NCHA Super Stakes with a 227, the NCHA Derby with a 228, and the Music City Futurity with a 226, en route to becoming the first mare and only the second horse—the first being Smart Little Lena—to claim the NCHA’s prestigious Triple Crown.
In 2004, Chiquita Pistol won the Western Horseman Cup finals with a 230, and the Augusta Futurity Classic with a 227. It was a fitting end to her show career, and Dorman took her home to begin the next stage of her life as a broodmare.
Bred to Dual Rey that year, she produced a sorrel colt named Crown Him Pistol in 2005. He went on to make the NCHA Futurity finals, tying for eighth place with Tag riding, and is now owned by Sharon Waggoner. In 2006, Chiquita Pistol produced Chiquita Cat, a colt by High Brow Cat. Tag showed him to the 2009 NCHA Futurity finals. Although Chiquita Cat was sidelined by an injury last year, he’ll be back in the show pen this year, Tag says.
Chiquita Pistol also has a 2007 gelding by Smooth As A Cat, a 2008 filly by Reys Dual Badger, a 2009 filly by One Time Pepto and a 2009 colt by Smooth As A Cat. But Dorman, who patiently waited out Chiquita Pistol’s youthful quirks, had more in mind for the mare. His granddaughter, Cydney Kessler, got her first ride on a cutting horse aboard Miss Chiquita Tari. As Cydney advanced in her riding and took an interest in showing, Dorman began thinking about taking Chiquita Pistol out of retirement. With a little encouragement from his wife, Barbara, Dorman decided to give Cydney the mare for her 15th birthday.
“Cydney got old enough that I thought she could ride her right,” Dorman says. “She’s doing real good with her so far.”
It didn’t take long for Chiquita Pistol to regain her old form. In the fall of 2009, Cydney and the mare went to their first show, where she won the youth class. At the same show, her mother, Deborah Moore, who had shown Miss Chiquita Tari and several of Chiquita Pistol’s half-siblings, won a novice/non-pro class on the mare. In 2010, both continued to show Chiquita Pistol and win, adding almost $4,500 to her record. And this year, they’re on the road again, along with the mare’s 4-year-old son.
For Cydney, getting a mare of Chiquita Pistol’s caliber isn’t something she takes lightly.
“I feel so blessed,” she says.
Her mother, too, appreciates the mare.
“She’s so much fun,” Moore says. “I’ve ridden some other good horses, but never one like her. She’s something else.”
And just as she did in her younger days, Chiquita Pistol draws a crowd.
“Everywhere we go, people stop and watch,” she adds.
As for Dorman, getting to prepare the mare for his granddaughter to show—and getting another opportunity to throw a leg over the great horse—isn’t bad either.
“She’s so cow-smart,” he says. “I think she knows what a cow is going to do before the cow does. If you’ll get her one cut, she’ll take care of the rest.
“She was some kind of mare, and still is.”
Chiquita Pistol and Tag Rice will be among the former NCHA Futurity champions competing in the Champions’ Cup on November 26 in Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. All living Futurity-winning riders have been invited to compete, and contestants are eligible to ride any horse. Several of the past horse-and-trainer pairs will compete, including High Brow CD and Austin Shepard, and Oh Cay Felix and Craig Thompson. Among the riders will be legendary cutting horse trainer Buster Welch, who won the first NCHA Futurity in 1962 on Money’s Glo.
General admission tickets are $10, with proceeds benefiting the NCHA Foundation. Tickets are on sale at nchatickets.com/champions_cup/.
Send comments on this story to [email protected]