The Western stock horse world would not be the same without its great, but often overlooked, broodmares.
Far from blazing arena lights or parking lots full of horse trailers, down dirt roads leading to pastures deep in spring grass, the magic of making a great horse begins with a broodmare standing over her foal, nudging it to hunt her bag for milk.
Distracted by siring stats and performance records, people often lose sight of a dam’s significant influence on a horse. Even a horse’s pedigree “shorthand” includes a dam’s sire’s name because he’s typically better known. For example, the great cutting mare Poco Lena is by Poco Bueno (her sire) and out of Sheilwin (her dam) by Pretty Boy (the dam’s sire).
“It’s easy to know about the stallions because they get all the press,” says respected breeder Bill Myers of Myers Performance Horses in St. Onge, South Dakota, home of the late barrel racing stallion Frenchmans Guy, who died in August. “I don’t think people study [the mare] side of the pedigree enough.”
He adds that he and his wife, Deb, originally purchased the now legendary sire because of the horse’s dam, Frenchmans Lady, Casey’s Ladylove’s 1972 daughter by Laughing Boy, bred by James and Frances Loiseau.
“It didn’t matter what that mare was bred to, she produced greatness,” Myers explains. “Her son [Frenchmans Guy] has done the same thing, but he gets more press than his mother because he’s a stallion with thousands of colts, and she only had a few.”
To know the mares, he says, “you’ve got to do your homework;” and people who make their living with horses pay attention to mares.
“The mare family is what dictates the true value of an individual,” Myers says. “What the mare has done herself and what she has produced—those two factors really impact the value of her colts. When we go to sales and look at the pedigrees, the strong mare families usually will have the highest-priced horses.”
To a breeder, a mare’s “family” refers to the females on her maternal side, going back generations. For decades, horse breeders have worked to strengthen their broodmare bands often by developing families of mares proven to consistently produce quality individuals.
“I interviewed [legendary Colorado breeder] Hank Wiescamp once, and we barely mentioned Skipper W [his American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame stallion],” says Larry Thornton, respected author, pedigree expert and stock horse historian. “We talked about his mares.”
Thornton also remembers getting corrected on the subject of mares by Helen Groves—daughter of King Ranch legend Bob Kleberg, Jr., who drove the ranch’s acquisition of foundation Quarter Horse sire Old Sorrel.
“I did an article one time about how to look at the pedigree, and I mentioned that when you study the King Ranch you mostly study the sire side of it, and she took offense,” he says. “She wrote me a nice letter telling me how wrong I was, and how her dad had criteria that before a mare could get into the broodmare band she had to prove herself on the ranch and then to have good colts after that.
“All the major breeders worked to have a great broodmare band for whatever stud they were promoting.”
Terry Stuart Forst of the Stuart Ranch in Waurika, Oklahoma, agrees. The ranch earned the 1995 American Quarter Horse Association Best Remuda Award for the quality of its breeding program originally spearheaded by her father, Bob Stuart.
“People ask me, ‘Terry, do you stand a stallion?’ And I say, ‘No. I have a mare band,’” Forst says. “Our mare band is virtually made up of direct descendants of the first mares Daddy bought in the late ’40s and early ’50s. We put high stock in our broodmare families.
“We ride all of our mares that go back into the broodmare band; we know what they are. They might not have a record because we just can’t show all of them.
“And when I go look at a stud to breed to, I ask, ‘Would I be willing to put a daughter of that horse back in my broodmare band?’”
There are great producing mares, and then there are exceptional mares who have what Forst calls “generational influence,” whose female descendants consistently produce outstanding horses. Horse breeders worldwide, across the breeds, call them “blue hens.”
“The term should be lightly used,” and only for elite broodmares, Thornton says. “A blue hen mare, her line produces superior foals over a series of generations. Her influence does not go away and shows up through daughters and sons.”
Here, we’ve selected five undisputed blue hens to highlight, but there are more. These five legendary mares have had a web of influence throughout the Western performance horse industry from reining and reined cow horse to cutting, ranching and rodeo, and their names are worth remembering.
Amazing mares and mare families from all corners crop up in stock horse pedigrees, all of them with their own stories. Some were great performers; others never left their home pastures; all carried hopes for the next generation every spring.
Check out the mares in your horse’s pedigree—you might find some extraordinary names there.
Casey’s Ladylove — Rodeo Royalty
South Dakota breeders James and Frances Loiseau bought Casey’s Ladylove at a 1963 Minnesota horse sale for their kids to ride, and discovered she had a bit of speed. After getting the mare inspected for American Quarter Horse Association registration, they put her in their broodmare band and founded their “Frenchmans” horses. Casey’s Ladylove had 15 foals, with four performers who earned a total of $7,016 in barrel racing; but five of her seven daughters produced multiple money-earners. To date, the total earned by her daughters’ and granddaughters’ foals is more than $800,000.
It was the strength of this mare’s family that led Bill and Deb Myers of St. Onge, South Dakota, to purchase a 1987 palomino colt by Sun Frost and out of Frenchmans Lady, who was Casey’s Ladylove’s 1972 daughter by Laughing Boy. The colt purchased by the Myerses, Frenchmans Guy, eventually gained fame as a legendary barrel racing sire. Another of the old mare’s daughters, Caseys Charm (by Tiny Circus), produced five-time AQHA/Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racing horse of the year French Flash Hawk, aka “Bozo,” also by Sun Frost.
These are just two examples of the multi-generational impact the old buckskin mare and her daughters have had through their foals, and why Casey’s Ladylove is in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.
Fun Fact: Casey’s Ladylove’s maternal grandsons have sired the earners of more than $20 million and include Frenchmans Guy (Sun Frost x Frenchmans Lady x Laughing Boy), PC Frenchmans Hayday, aka “Dinero,” (Sun Frost x Caseys Charm x Tiny Circus) and Frenchmans Fabulous (Frenchmans Guy x Caseys Charm x Tiny Circus).
Royal Blue Boon – Cutting Queen
Bred by show announcer Curt Donley of Whitesboro, Texas, Royal Blue Boon was owned for most of her life by Larry and Elaine Hall of Weatherford, Texas. From 1983 to 1987 she competed at the top of the cutting game, a blue roan crowd pleaser under the guidance of trainer Larry Reeder. She retired with earnings of $381,764, with a string of successes including top-10 finishes in the 1983 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity and 1984 NCHA Derby.
As a broodmare she produced 17 named foals who went on to earn a cumulative $2.6 million, making her the all-time leading dam of money-earning cutting horses. Three of her performing foals are in the NCHA Hall of Fame—Red White And Boon (gelding by Smart Little Lena) with lifetime earnings of 930,954; Bet Yer Blue Boons (by Freckles Playboy) with lifetime earnings of $350,615 and the dam of the earners of $1.2 million; and Autumn Boon (by Dual Pep) who earned $258,185 and is the dam of the earners of $2 million.
What’s more, her daughters have produced the earners of $5.4 million and her sons—including leading sires Peptoboonsmal, 1995 NCHA Futurity winner by Peppy San Badger; Mecom Blue (by Haidas Little Pep) and Duals Blue Boon (by Dual Pep)—have sired the earners of more than $34 million. The influence of Royal Blue Boon’s maternal descendants continues exponentially with each generation.
Fun Fact: Royal Blue Boon produced the cutting horse industry’s first clone in 2006, a filly named Royal Blue Boon Too.
Diamonds Sparkle — Super Mare
Under the guidance of Colorado horseman Sunny Jim Orr, Diamonds Sparkle won the Superhorse title at the 1979 AQHA World Championship Show—due to her performance in team roping and reining, including earning the world championship in senior heading.
As a broodmare, she quickly proved her prowess with her first foal, Sparkles Rosezana (by Zan Parr Barr), whose successes include winning the 1985 National Reining Horse Open Futurity and AQHA world titles in heading and working cow horse. Diamonds Sparkle continued to produce top performers, first for owner Dick Steward—who sent her to Carol Rose in Gainesville, Texas, to breed—and then for Rose who later purchased the mare. All total, Diamonds Sparkle had 18 foals, with 15 earning more than $440,000.
Her descendants continue to pass on her reining, roping and working cow horse ability, led by her 1989 son of Genuine Doc, Shining Spark, the 1994 NRHA Open Derby champion and legendary leading sire and broodmare sire. As producers, her daughters and granddaughters have foaled the earners of more
Fun Fact: Diamonds Sparkle’s dam, Pollyanna Rose, had several producing daughters including four full sisters by Mr Diamond Dude, such as Diamonds Super Sis, the maternal granddam of European reining standout, Sail On Top Whizard, by Whizard Jac and out of Miss N Sis by Miss N Cash.
Miss T Stuart — Reigning Ranch Mare
The little dun mare spent her life in the section-sized broodmare pasture at the legendary Stuart Ranch in Waurika, Oklahoma, save when Terry Stuart Forst hauled her to show with a foal at side in AQHA “produce of mare” classes. She had 20 foals, all by the ranch’s stallion, Son O Leo, and was part of the broodmare band started by Forst’s father, R.T. “Bob” Stuart, which earned the ranch the 1995 AQHA Best Remuda Award.
“I wanted to name her Misty because of Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry’s book,” Forst recalls. “Daddy said No! When he said no, that was the end of the conversation. The next thing I know, he ended up naming her Miss T Stuart.”
Word of the talent of foals out of Miss T Stuart’s stellar fillies—her three sons made good geldings—spread far beyond the ranch, and they found show pen success in everything from working cow horse, reining and roping to jumping. Now in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, her descendants are still producing stars in the Western performance arena and on the ranch.
Fun Fact: Miss T Stuart’s best-known daughter, Seven S Margarita, foaled a 1991 filly by Genuine Doc named Genuine Redbud, who became the 1995 AQHA World Show Superhorse and dam of sires Nic It In The Bud (by Reminic) and Dun It Big (by Hollywood Dun It).
Sheilwin — The ‘What If?’
Doc Bar had an incredible and indisputable impact on the Western performance industry. Bred to be a racehorse, the 1956 son of Lightning Bar and out of Dandy Doll by Texas Dandy became a halter horse who changed the cutting world and beyond.
“But how big an influence would Doc Bar have been on the [Western performance horse] industry without Sheilwin?” asks Robin Glenn, the director of QData, the AQHA pedigree and information service formerly known as Robin Glenn Pedigrees.
A 1943 dun mare, Sheilwin was foaled on the Waggoner Ranch near Vernon, Texas. By Pretty Boy and out of a Blackburn mare, E. Paul Waggoner chose her to take to his Three D Stock Farm in Arlington, Texas, to breed to his good son of King P-234, Poco Bueno. His ranch manager, Pine Johnson, reportedly wasn’t too high on the mare until he saw her first foal, a 1947 colt they named Poco Tivio, who became an AQHA Champion and leading sire. Sheilwin’s 1949 foal was Poco Lena, who became the first mare inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame.
Glenn has spent decades gathering performance and pedigree records across the Poco Lena Western performance horse industry, and saw firsthand the fruits of one of the greatest “nicks” in the stock horse world.
“When Doc Bar was bred to Sheilwin’s daughter [Poco Lena], and daughters of her son [Poco Tivio], that’s when it all took off,” Glenn says.
Poco Lena had only two foals by Doc Bar: Dry Doc and Doc O’Lena, together the sires of more than $19.7 million in earnings. And it’s mind-boggling what Poco Tivio’s daughters produced when bred to Doc Bar. The short list includes Teresa Tivio, Tasa Tivio and Jameen Tivio.
Teresa Tivio, bred to Doc Bar, produced Fizzabar (in the NCHA Hall of Fame), Cal Bar, Docs Haida (dam of Haidas Little Pep), Nu Bar, Boon Bar (sire of Royal Blue Boon) and Docs Remedy.
Tasa Tivio, also bred to Doc Bar, was the dam of Doc’s Starlight, who produced three great sires: Grays Starlight, Gallo Del Cielo (aka “Rooster”) and Paddys Irish Whiskey. Jameen Tivio, bred to Doc Bar as well, was the dam of sires Doc’s Hotrodder, Doc’s Lynx, and Doc’s Prescription.
“What is Sheilwin had never been?” Glenn asks with a smile.
Fun Fact: Sheilwin produced only six foals, all by the great Poco Bueno; two of them are in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame: Poco Tivio and Poco Lena.
This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of Western Horseman.