Read the introduction to the brand-new Legends Volume 9. This volume is a continuation of the popular Western Horseman book series that showcases legendary American Quarter Horses.
Legends Volume 9 profiles 17 stallions and 3 mares, many of whom rank among the most influential Quarter Horses that ever lived. From Smart Little Lena to Gunner and First Down Dash to Zips Chocolate Chip, the lineup is filled with horses that still influence all aspects of Quarter Horse competition. Written by some of the best authors in the equine publishing industry, Legends Volume 9 truly has something for every Quarter Horse enthusiast. Read the introduction below.
The Legends Return
A generation of horsemen and -women have now enjoyed the Western Horseman set of Legends books. This popular series chronicling great American Quarter Horses has been published throughout a span of almost 25 years. We have been buried in the stories, have pored over the photos, and have looked up all the “legends” that show up in our horses’ pedigrees.
The Legends series really began in March of 1990, when Western Horseman ran miniprofiles of legendary Quarter Horse stallions in an article honoring the 50th anniversary of the American Quarter Horse Association. When that issue completely sold out, then-Editor Patricia “Pat” Close proposed that the magazine publish a book that would expand that article to include more horses, both stallions and mares.
This book proposal was a departure from the norm. The magazine’s book line then specialized in horsemanship how-to and training books filled with practical advice, but Close was persistent. In 1993, the book Legends appeared in an initial print run of 10,000, and it sold out fast. What became volume 1 in the series has been reprinted 19 times since 1993 and remains the series’ bestseller, featuring the lives of such horses as King P-234, Three Bars (TB) and Leo.
“That original book tapped into something that people feel strongly about—the ancestry of their horses,” said Western Horseman Publisher Ernie King. “[The book] seemed to give people a validation of their horses. People saw the book as a family record.”
A total of eight Legends volumes were published through 2009, and the books include the stories of 163 great stallions and mares. Defying the “age of specialization,” Legends books unite all fans of the American Quarter Horse. The books have covered racehorses, cutters, reiners, rope horses, halter horses, cow horses, working ranch horses, western pleasure horses and “all-around” show horses that excel in everything from trail to western riding. Legends books have became references for breeders and a universal family scrapbook for anyone with an American Quarter Horse.
Now, after an eight-year gap, the series returns with Legends, Volume 9. As in previous volumes, countless hours put in by magazine staff and respected writers and historians from across the stock-horse industry have gone into capturing interviews, collecting photos and fact-checking stories. Every person involved with this book has a direct tie to Quarter Horses in some form. Many chapter authors knew the horses about which they wrote or have ridden their progeny.
Legends, Volume 9, has an amazing lineup of 20 horses, whose names you’ll recognize no matter what you do with your own horses. Frankly, some of the older individuals were included because we couldn’t believe they hadn’t already been in a Legends book.
But there is a slight difference with many of the horses in this group: Chances are, like me, you personally knew some of them.
“We’ve turned the page to a more modern group of legends,” King said. “With almost all of these horses, their lifespans overlap the lifespans of a lot of horse people out there. People probably have had a chance to see these horses in the flesh, and have even seen them compete. There’s a real connection.”
Twenty-five years ago, I took every chance I could to see Streakin Six’s copper coat in person. Working for racing breeder Bob Moore, I hauled mares down to the old Phillips Ranch in Frisco, Texas, where Streakin Six stood alongside the mighty Dash For Cash and Doc O’Lena, and later to the Four Sixes Ranch headquarters in Guthrie, Texas, when Streakin Six joined Dash and Special Effort there.
I loved seeing all those great horses, but Streakin Six was a secret favorite. To my eye, he was a prince of a horse. And I’d so admired his sire, Easy Six, who died too young and came from the Burnett Ranches’ great horse-breeding legacy. Streakin Six seemed to stamp his foals with his color—sometimes with odd whorls—and every summer I could pretend I had the horse himself in my barn through his yearlings I helped fit for fall sales.
Later, working for The American Quarter Horse Journal, I met Zips Chocolate Chip on a trip to interview his stallion manager, Joe Jeane, who also had managed the horse’s great sire, Zippo Pine Bar, for Bob Perry. Joe showed me the gentle son, just as he’d shown me the gentle father years before—pulled out loose with no lead shank. While out in the pasture on my next visit, I asked if I could kiss Zips Chocolate Chip on the nose. Of course, Joe said, and smiled. You just don’t do that with every stallion.
I love Quarter Horses—their American history, their quality and character, and the hopes every breeder, big or small, has in raising them. These two stallions represented that for me, and maybe others in these pages mean something similar to you.
A more modern group has made this Legends class a little easier to research than those in the past, said Western Horseman Book Editor Fran Smith. For many of these horses, it’s been relatively easy to connect with the people who lived among them. In Smith’s case, she believes that the horse-and-human connection is the real attraction for readers of the Legends book series.“
It’s the stories of the people and the horses that I love,” Smith said. “You get a sense of the personalities, what they went through and what they were like. It’s hearing Dick Pieper say that Playgun was just a happy horse, and that he couldn’t remember the horse ever saying, ‘No.’ Or hearing about how the Vessels family story tied in with First Down Dash, and how together they shaped the industry.
“It’s the horses and the people they own.”
That’s true for all of us. I pull out my little bay mare’s four-generation pedigree page and count two former “legends” on it—Doc Bar and Peppy San Badger. That is just a sample of the blood that gave her the bone and foot and cow sense to do things like help gather 26 sections of high desert pasture under a blue New Mexico sky with the smell of sagebrush all around. There’s something about these horses that includes us all: In blood and story, we ride legends of our own.
Editor, Western Horseman