WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #80
BOB AVILA'S WINNING INSIGHTS
THE "G" WORD
Hear why Bob usually cocks an eyebrow whenever he hears the word
"great" linked to "horse."
BY BOB AVILA, WITH SUE M. COPELAND
Call it the "great" debate. The G-word seems to be the adjective
of choice in the horse industry. Whether you're at a sale,
shopping private sellers, or have a horse in training, you're
likely to hear it used in such sentences as, "This is a great
one. He's out of a great mare, and by a great stallion." Or, "I
have a great 2-year-old you need to look at." And typical
trainerspeak includes, "You've got a great one here."
Such overuse dilutes the greatness of great. That's why I rarely
use it. It's such a big word in my vocabulary that I think it
should be mostly reserved for retired performers with records to
prove their greatness. Heck, most of the great ones I know are
So, when someone tells me they have a "great" 2-year-old I need
to see, I'm more than skeptical. In fact, I won't bother to go
look. I doubt I've ever seen a great 2-year-old; I certainly
don't know anyone who is horseman enough to predict greatness in
a horse so young.
THE CRYSTAL BALL ... NOT
First, it's common for a youngster to start out well in training,
then to plateau, or even go backward. It's like the "most likely
to succeed" high-school kid who grows up to be less than average.
It's a fact of life, especially when you're dealing with horses,
that things don't always turn out the way you think they will.
To me, a more realistic description of a nice young horse would
be a "good prospect." I think that's accurate, and doesn't build
someone's hopes up when there's no guarantee they'll be met. How
can you guarantee a living, breathing being's future performance?
Second, a lot of slow starters can turn into star performers.
Such horses may stand in the shadows of the young upstarts, only
to surpass them when the would-be superstars fade away. Plus,
I've had horses that were average at home, but kicked into
another gear in the show pen. There's no way of predicting that
WHAT MAKES GREAT?
The biggest ingredient in "great" is heart. All great athletes,
animal or human, have it. It's the push to always do well; the
drive to always give it their all. The great ones never quit
A horse is born with heart, or he's not. You can't train it into
one. I've had super-talented horses that lacked heart. They never
gave it their all. And they never earned the title of "great."
But, I've had less-talented horses who had so much heart they
could overcome any deficiencies with pure attitude.
Heart is what made Chics Magic Potion great. He might have been
light in some areas, but he always gave me his all. His
never-quit attitude made him special. Mist N Smoke was the same
way. That mare exemplified heart in a horse. In all the years she
showed, she'd always walk into the show pen and put her heart
Charlie Cole and Jason Martin, of Highpoint Performance Aorses in
Pilot Point, Texas, have a couple of older horses in their barn
who are still out there winning. They're on track to the G-word.
You never see them quit. One example is Harley D Zip, who's 15
this year and has a stellar, pages-long resume of wins,
high-point titles, and AQHA world championships. He still walks
into the show pen and gives whoever's riding him-pro, youth, or
amateur - everything he's got.
My wife's gelding, Brother White, is now 14. People see him show
and say, "Man, he's still so good!" This horse started showing in
futurities as a 3-year-old, and so has been going at it for 11
years. A lot of futurity horses are done at the age of 5 or 6 (if
they make it that far). But he still loves his job and excels at
A great horse is a great horse, regardless of what he does for a
living or what kind of saddle he wears. It doesn't always take a
world-level resume to earn the adjective. Any kids' horse that
shows year after year, and still goes into the, show pen with his
ears up and gives it his all, is heading for greatness in my
mind. Some great horses may never see the inside of a show pen,
but they do their jobs day in and day out with a winning
attitude. They may not be the most talented. But they have heart.
So, the next time you hear someone use the G-word to describe a
horse, think back on the points I've made here. And ask yourself
this: Is this person trying to sell me something? There are a lot
of good things in life - but very few great ones.
"Horse and Rider" - May 2010
Ah there is much truth in all what was said. SeaBiscuit was
perhaps the "greatest" race horse of all time, partly because
when given the correct life and training as a race horse he had
super heart. Going till he was 10 years old, coming back from
injury. When some, if not most, thought his days were over, he
came back to astound the world with his win in one of the USA
nation big races. No wonder at the end of the day when the sun
was setting one lone spectator stood at the race track with arms
held high and shouted, "Woopee for SeaBiscuit...Woopee for Sea-
Biscuit." It was all during the great depression of the 1930s
when a truly "Great" horse inspired the people to know you could
be down and out but rise up to victory.
In the Show Jumping world today the Canadian horse Hickstead is
on the way to being "great." Maybe the greatest show-jumping horse
In the past the original Trigger that Roy Rogers rode in all his
movies and TV episodes (except the movie "Son of Paleface" -
1952), was indeed "great" - never even pulling a muscle, as Roy
said, tough as old leather. He was fast as a bullet, could jump,
was a true "cowboy horse" - Roy roped from him in different
scenes in different movies, and could do many tricks, and you
could trick ride from him (which not many horses will allow -
takes a special horse to trick ride from, I know as I used to
trick ride in my youth).
Yes, the word "great" should be seldom used.
To be continued