A twist of fate turned Frenchmans Guy into a barrel racing legend and improved the livelihood of one South Dakota family.
Due to a life-altering accident, Frenchmans Guy narrowly missed a life as a ranch gelding. Instead, he remained a stallion and has become one of barrel racing’s most prestigious sires, with foals that have won approximately $3 million and have set arena records at every major barrel racing futurity in the country.
Frenchmans Guy was purchased by Bill and Deb Myers as a weanling; what followed was anything but an ordinary start for a barrel horse. With the Myers’s experienced handling, the young palomino was transformed into a trusting competitor. Today, the Myers’s St. Onge, South Dakota, ranch is home to the finest bloodlines in the Western and racing industries, combining to produce quiet, talented prospects aimed for the competitive arena. Careful guidance and sheer determination made a good barrel racing horse into a great stallion, and began a more than 20-year legacy of breeding fast, cowy horses.
Following the Bloodline
Bill and Deb Myers both grew up near Fort Pierre, South Dakota, but had different backgrounds. Bill grew up working on a ranch north of town, while Deb’s family lived in the town. The common thread that brought them together was rodeo horses, and today those horses continue to drive the duo.
“We are versatile, like our horses,” Deb says. “Bill roped and rode bareback horses, and I ran barrels in high school and amateur rodeos. When we got together, we started training horses at the racetrack in Fort Pierre.”
Using the racetrack as home base in the mid-1970s, the two started colts and trained a variety of horses for clients. However, when the races began the Myers’s lease called for them to vacate the barns.
“Out of necessity, we had to start training racehorses,” Bill explains. “To keep the barn and keep training, we had to take racehorse clients. We built up a pretty good clientele and trained for eight years. In the off-season we went back to riding colts, running barrels and roping.”
The time spent learning race-bred bloodlines paid off sooner than expected. Through a friendship with breeder Francis Loiseau of Egan, South Dakota, Bill bought a young stallion named Lord Alamitos with the understanding the Myerses would pay for the horse when they could.
“Lord Alamitos was out of Frenchmans Guy’s dam, Frenchman’s Lady,” Deb says. “We ran Lord Alamitos as a 2-year-old on the track and he won the South Dakota-Bred Futurity. When he won $6,000 on the racetrack, we were able to pay them back for the horse. Bill showed him in the National Snaffle Bit Association show at age 3, and he won the novice classes there. Then, he went from snaffle bit to cutting as a 4-year-old, where he won two novice divisions in the state.
“When he was 5, we sent him to the barrel futurities with Gail Beebee, and he won five out of six futurities up here. That horse did anything we wanted him to do, and he did it well. He was a great athlete.”
Bill says that Lord Alamitos’s ability was what turned them on to the bloodlines of Frenchman’s Lady. The mare was by Laughing Boy, a AA-rated running stallion by Lightning Bar, and she was out of Casey’s Ladylove. Casey’s Ladylove produced AAA-rated running horses, and National Finals Rodeo barrel racing qualifiers. Casey’s Ladylove was the dam of Caseys Charm, who would produce French Flash Hawk and PC Frenchmans Hayday, two horses that would impact the barrel racing industry. With such a royal bloodline, the Myerses were on the path to success.
They credit Loiseau with helping them to get their start buying, training and selling talented horses.
“We bought Lord Alamitos on a handshake,” says Deb. “And we sold him to [leading barrel racer] Martha Josey in the 1980s.”
With a record of winning with those horses, the Myerses continued to buy the colts out of Frenchman’s Lady for several years. The last colt they bought out of the mare was a weanling stallion by Sun Frost named Frenchmans Guy.
“We bought him as a baby colt in 1987, and had already bought three of his siblings,” Bill says. “We paid $2,500 for the last colt by Sun Frost.”
Sun Frost had been owned by Pat Cowan, a South Dakota rancher, stock contractor and rodeo champion, and it was common to see many of Sun Frost’s offspring go into the rodeo arena. The Myerses hoped the colt they called “Guy” had the same trainability as Lord Alamitos. The plan was to geld the stallion and then train him before offering him for sale. However, fate stepped in.
The Myerses ran a “mom and pop” operation that enlisted the help of their sons Chad, Billy, Brandon, and Brady for daily barn chores. Their oldest son, Chad, was only in his early teens at the time, but was an old hand working with horses.
What happened next almost spelled disaster for the financially fragile family.
“Guy was a spooky little horse, and he went to jump the wheelbarrow when our oldest son was cleaning his stall,” Bill explains. “Our son put the fork up to stop him, Guy jumped into the fork. He lost his right eye.”
With so much hope riding on the weanling for the family’s future, Chad could have been chastised for years. However, the Myerses pulled together and moved on the best they could.
“That was a lot of money to us then, and we didn’t know what to do,” says Bill. “We were so discouraged over that we turned him out for two years on a friend’s big pasture south of Rapid City.”
When Bill and Deb brought the then 2-year-old in to evaluate, they realized that Guy was an extremely smart colt. Once they gained his trust, Guy was very trainable, just as they had hoped when they purchased the weanling.
“After he lost that eye, we thought we would try and make him into a good riding horse and keep him a stallion,” Bill says. “It wound up being a blessing because we probably would have sold him as a high-priced gelding if he had not lost that right eye.”
Experienced Hands Take Over
A one-eyed horse can be a challenge to train, from being spooky on the blind side to carrying its head in an odd position—but not Guy.
“It was amazing how easy it was to train him,” explains Bill. “It was really impressive how he responded to us, and he carried his head real straight. He was light-sided and very responsive. Once he knew we wouldn’t hurt him, it was simple.”
Bill trained Guy for barrels, and then ran him in barrel futurities during his 5-year-old year year. After that, Deb ran Guy at amateur and pro rodeos, where the duo excelled.
“Bill always told me I had to protect him on that [blind] side because he was depending on us, and I tried to do it right every time for him,” Deb says. “When you sat and said ‘whoa,’ you had better be where you wanted to be for that turn. I think he had such a great first barrel because he wanted to get it over with so he could see the others!”
The Myers family was still training outside horses and scraping together a living while they started the stallion. In 1991, his 4-year-old year, they bred Guy to outside mares for a $300 fee, resulting in seven American Quarter Horse Association-registered foals.
“He was running good, but we were also hand-breeding him. It got to where we would breed him in the morning, load him up and go to a rodeo, and then come home and breed him again that night,” says Deb. “It was a little too wearing on him.”
Bill continues, “We were so broke we didn’t have a choice to be choosy, with the mares or with accepting [breeding] fees. The great thing about him is that even on so-so mares he had a couple of great babies from his first crop.”
For the next three years, the Myerses limited Guy’s breedings to no more than 10 breedings a year and continued to run him in barrel races. It was during this time, when Deb was still running Guy, that Kristie Peterson saw the stallion.
Peterson was running French Flash Hawk, also known as “Bozo,” in PRCA and WPRA rodeos. The sorrel gelding was a three-quarter sibling to Guy, by Sun Frost but out of Caseys Charm, who is out of Casey’s Ladylove. Peterson and Bozo earned four PRCA/WPRA world championships in the 1990s, five AQHA-WPRA barrel horse of the year titles and more than $1.3 million.
“I had seen Guy when Bozo was only 5 or 6,” Peterson says. “Deb was running him at Newcastle, Wyoming, and I didn’t know who she was or who he was. I was in awe of him and how great he ran, especially with only one eye.”
That was not the last Peterson would hear of the palomino stallion. As the Myerses began to breed more horses, Bozo and Peterson began to climb the PRCA/WPRA chart.
“Bill contacted me to use Bozo’s name in his ads [for Frenchmans Guy], and for that he gave me a breeding every year,” says Peterson. “I thought, ‘Wow!’ That is really nice for someone to do that. Guy was related to Bozo, so how could I not take that offer?”
Peterson became a champion for Frenchmans Guy-bred horses, and through the years the families were linked through buying and selling barrel horses.
With the barrel horse industry on an upswing, the Myerses saw an opportunity to capitalize on their stallion.
“We can’t take a lot of credit, because some things just fell into place,” says Deb. “When we first started breeding him, the barrel industry wasn’t in place. There was no plan or pedigree known for great barrel horses. We happened to be lucky in that he was popular with the barrel racing world, so we started to breed him to race-bred mares.”
Master plan or not, the Myerses soon had a highly sought-after stallion on their hands and limited resources to promote him. Still training outside horses as their primary means of making a living, Bill and Deb used knowledge they had gained from years on the racetrack and from starting colts, as well as studying bloodlines nightly, to recognize the best mares to produce offspring that would boost Guy as a sire.
“We wanted to breed him to race mares that still had bone and conformation, so it was daughters of Easy Jet, Pie In The Sky, Streakin Six and Marthas Six Moons, those types,” Bill says. “They were old-fashioned bloodlines, but still running horses. We are huge on conformation, and good bone is part of that. Now we want modern pedigrees but also want the horses to have good conformation.”
Being particular about the mares wasn’t always an option for the Myerses, but in 1995, Frenchmans Guy sired 13 registered AQHA foals. In 1996, he more than doubled his foal crop, registering 32. There was no denying the stallion had taken off by 1997 and 1998, when 54 and 56 foals were registered, respectively. But in 1999, the stallion had 95 registered foals and solidified himself as more than a fad. Frenchmans Guy was making an impact.
“We never started out to have a breeding operation, it just happened,” Deb explains. “We always wanted to buy prospects, train and sell. There are a lot of losses and injuries in a breeding operation, so we just trained as long as we could. Then, Guy got popular and, before we knew it, we had a breeding business.
“We collected him ourselves and were lucky because he was so fertile. We probably should have let someone from America’s Funniest Home Videos film us! I had an incubator set up on our dining room table [for semen] and collected Guy on live mares. Someone was watching out for us because the things we did were amazing.”
The fact that the Myerses had limited resources early on, lending them to be less selective when breeding their young stallion continues to plague them today. Regardless of the arena records set by Guy’s offspring, they have had to live down the reputation of Frenchmans Guy’s first foal crops.
“That is one thing we tell young couples starting out with a stallion, not to breed to everything,” Deb says. “Guy got a reputation his babies weren’t fast enough early on because some mares weren’t right for him. Be more selective of your mares! It is a hard pill to swallow and tough to live down. But now we have better babies who make up for it.”
When the family could afford to start purchasing mares with good conformation and quality breeding in the late 1990s, they looked for the best they could find. Bill describes the ideal broodmare as a working type with a short back, big hips, and a deep, long shoulder. “
We really studied bloodlines in the industry, but trial and error has been our biggest teacher,” Bill says. “Crossing horses and then riding them to see what you have is the best way to judge a cross. Being able to ride them has helped us evaluate every year and get stronger. We try to be our biggest critics.”
Part of having better offspring to show off Guy’s talents is starting them the right way. As the Myerses built up a herd of their own horses, both mares and offspring, they realized that an annual production sale was needed to help move the horses.
Sire of Speed
Frenchmans Guy was only 10 years old when he reached popular status as a stallion. He began breeding more than 50 mares a year in 1996, and peaked at 134 registered AQHA foals in 2008. As the offspring began competing—and winning—demand increased for his foals.
“We couldn’t afford to save any [offspring] of Guy’s at the beginning; we sold them all,” Deb says. “Then, when we could save some we needed an outcross, and we bought Hot Colours.”
Hot Colours, a son of Special Effort and out of Little Vivvi Go, a mare with race earnings of more than $25,000, was a smart cross on Guy mares. Over the years, the Myerses have also bought World Speed, a son of Streakin Six and out of Dash For Speed, and Cowboy Cartel, who is by Corona Cartel and out of Dashing Folly. With four stallions to breed and their offspring to start, the Myerses stopped taking outside horses to train in 2000 and focused all their efforts on starting homebred horses.
“We had been training Guy babies and they were just like him, friendly and quick learners,” Bill says. “But then we started to train babies crossed on Guy mares and the running-bred stallions. They were the same kind of horse.
“We have always tried to control the destiny of his colts as much as we can. But, as many outside mares as we breed to him, we can’t control all of that.”
To balance the growing number of horses on their 200-acre ranch and to help the horses get the best start possible, the Myerses held their first production sale in 2000. The majority of the horses sold are started 2- and 3-year-olds, with an occasional weanling, yearling or broodmare.
Prior to holding a sale, the Myerses studied other colt sales to see why well-bred horses that sold as weanlings weren’t heard from again as competitors. The answer was clear. Instead, the Myerses would showcase the sale prospects in their best light, as started riding horses.
“Up here, there were colt sales, but not a lot of 2-year-old sales,” Bill explains. “Naturally, it is cheaper to sell a horse right off the mare. I think if you can start a horse well before it sells, there is a better chance for us to fit the horse to the rider. That will then give the horse and rider a better chance for success.
“The babies are smart and are athletic, so sometimes they can look like they have been ridden more or longer than they have, and that is Frenchmans Guy and his easy attitude coming out in them.” Because we have been successful trainers, we wanted to show people how responsive they are.
Building up a sale audience and bringing the sale figures up to a sustainable level took time. Bill says it started out well, and has only gotten better over the years.
“Once the horses got out there and people realized they bought a horse that was farther along than they thought, the value started going up,” he says.
It also helped that through the years Guy’s offspring have become money- and point-earners in the American Buckskin Registry, American Paint Horse Association, AQHA, International Buckskin Association, National Barrel Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association, Palomino Horse Breeders Association, PRCA and the WPRA.
Peterson, who garnered her Frenchmans Guy breeding because of her success with Bozo, continues to start her colts. She and daughter Jordon Briggs also purchase from the Myerses during the annual sale.
“One thing that I have seen from Frenchmans Guy, and I haven’t seen it with another stallion, is that he stamps 99 percent of his babies with his attitude and athleticism,” Peterson says. “I personally don’t own anything that is not a Frenchmans Guy. They are just so easy, and at my age , I want easy. Success, for me, is measured by the enjoyment of the horse. I am in love with [the Guys] and can’t say enough about them.”
Part of that love stems from watching her daughter compete successfully on Frenchmans Guy-bred horses. In youth and amateur rodeos, Briggs ran Classy French Paint, a 1998 Paint gelding purchased at the Myers sale. In 2009, she qualified for the National Finals Rodeo on Frenchmans Jester, her first qualification. She is currently running Shake It Frenchy, one of the first Guy mares she has campaigned in barrel racing.
“She is so gritty and does her job no matter what,” Briggs says of Shake It Frenchy. “No matter how many runs I make on her, she tries hard every time. The Guys will turn a barrel. They get low and really want to turn.”
Guy’s foals make their mark, and the breeding carries for generations. The 1997 palomino mare, SX Frenchmans Vanila, an earner of more than $230,000 and the first triple crown winner in the barrel horse industry having won the Speedhorse Derby, Speedhorse Silver Cup and Speedhorse Gold Cup, and Old Fort Smith Days Futurity in Arkansas, has now produced three money earners that have won more than $139,000.
Briggs competes on A Special Colour, by Hot Colours and out of a Frenchmans Guy mare. She says the cross still shows the same traits.
“Guy is pretty dominant in his breeding. I’ve ridden at least 30 Guy babies and it shows,” Briggs says. “You could breed him to a donkey and you would see more of Guy’s characteristics than anything.”
Deb says that breeders and buyers of Frenchmans Guy horses agree.
“When it boils down to it, Frenchmans Guy will cross on just about anything,” she says. “People will call and say they have a couple of mares and then ask what will cross best. My answer is always, ‘What do you want?’ Do you want a 14.3-hand horse, then go with the smaller mare. A 15.3-hand horse, then go with a bigger mare. He can shorten a back on a mare or clean up a head.
“I get calls from people talking about the babies coming up to them in the pasture, even though the mare is aloof. His babies are just friendly, and I think that has a big impact. His colts want to bond to somebody, and will do anything for you.”
With traits that carry through for generations, the Myerses knew that picking a successor to Frenchmans Guy was not going to be easy. For years, they were on the lookout for a colt that matched him in athleticism and disposition, but there was one other option to consider.
At age 25 , Frenchmans Guy continues to sire outstanding offspring. Yet, the Myerses have taken steps to continue Guy’s legacy, both by keeping a Guy son and by cloning the stud.
The choice to clone Frenchmans Guy was not a quick one. After several discussions with ViaGen, an Austin, Texas, gene banking and cloning facility, and Blake Russell, the ViaGen representative, the Myerses decided to attempt to get one clone from Guy. To insure a successful process, the company attempted three clones, and all were viable.
All three clones are palomino colts, and were born only eight days apart in 2011.
“As much benefit as he’s had for the industry, we thought it would be good to keep the genetics alive,” Bill says. “We didn’t think all three would take! But, these little guys are exciting to have around.”
Even with the clones as insurance for future generations of Guy-bred babies, the Myerses sought to find a son to help carry the program. Enter A Smooth Guy.
By Frenchmans Guy and out of Docs Movida, a daughter of Dry Doc out of a Jet Smooth mare, “Smoothie” was the perfect blend of cow and running horse bloodlines that the Myerses had looked for when they purchased Frenchmans Guy.
“I kept Smoothie because he was just a really good-looking colt, and I had always liked his mother’s breeding,” Bill says. “After I rode him, I liked him even more. We have always tried to raise a good stud by our horse instead of try to buy another great one, and that is another reason I wanted to keep him.”
Though Smoothie has won money in only team roping and not in the barrel arena like his famous sire, the Myerses believe the 2005 buckskin stallion will step into Guy’s shoes down the road.
“I think Smoothie reminds me more of Frenchmans Guy than any other stud we have had,” Deb says. “His mannerisms, his characteristics, they are so similar. He is a lot like Guy and that is where we are fortunate.”
Briggs agrees, saying she plans on buying a Smoothie baby this summer.
“My husband, Justin, is a team roper and ropes off a full sister to A Smooth Guy. They are bred for barrels, but we rope off all our horses,” she says. “There are not very many horses in the barrel horse world that can run, turn, rope and have a good mind like a Frenchmans Guy.”
The Myers family knows that without such a trainable, good-minded stallion, their success may not have been possible.
“Guy changed our world,” says Deb. “A big disaster became a blessing. People say he looks proud when he is out in the pasture. Well, he’s just looking around saying, ‘I bought that, I bought that.'”
Bill agrees, noting that the stallion was what made them, not any master plan on their part.
“We are real proud that we have always been in the horse business. We used to train for the public and I shod horses,” he says. “Deb would ride and clean stalls, and we didn’t have nothing. Frenchmans Guy’s revenue and selling his offspring has allowed us to buy this place, help our kids and help other people. He has been the nucleus in all things great that makes our lives easier.”
From barely paying the bills to owning an industry icon, the Myerses remember that it is all due to one exceptional horse.
“We have a passion for horses,” says Deb. “We have been blessed to do what we love all our lives and still pay the bills. People who excel in this business really have to have a passion for it.”
Bill agrees and sums up their program, saying, “Everything our program has gained has been a direct result of horses. We don’t have any other source of income to fall back on, just horses. And it would have been real hard without Guy.”
This article was originally published in September 2012 issue of Western Horseman.