College Horses: Part 2

A horse’s career doesn’t have to begin and end in the traditional AQHA show pen; donating a horse to a college is a practical option.

By Tara Matsler and Honi Roberts
The American Quarter Horse Journal
November 4, 2013

Lil Ruf McCue

Lil Ruf McCue is by the National Reining Horse Association’s $2 million sire Lil Ruf Peppy and out of Little Dots McCue by Bar Flit Fritz. (Journal photo)

What could be better than earning a degree and a national championship? Thanks to the Intercollegiate Horse Show and National Collegiate Equestrian associations and their partnerships with AQHA, more and more young horsemen are lining up for the chance to represent their alma mater in the show ring.

In many cases, though, the ratio of student-athletes to horses is skewed, with not enough horses to go around.

What many horse owners are starting to realize is that college equestrian programs are the perfect fit for them and their show horses. Lil Ruf McCue is a perfect example of that.

It was in 2008 when Lil Ruf McCue became a member of the Oklahoma State University equestrian team. And that was when “Mac” came into his own, quickly becoming a collegiate star and favorite ride of not just OSU riders but of competitors across the country.

In 2010, “Mac” as he’s affectionately known, was named the reining horse of the year at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships, just one of his many honors in the intercollegiate competition program now known as the National Collegiate Equestrian Association.

“We’d had nice horses before Mac, but he definitely took our program to the next level,” AQHA Professional Horseman and judge Larry Sanchez, the founder and coach of the OSU equestrian team, told the Journal. “We got real lucky when we got Mac.”

“He’s a little bay gelding with a very big heart,” says Jenna Blumer, an OSU senior and collegiate national champion. And Jenna is just one of Mac’s adoring fans.

Lil Ruf McCue was bred by Ed and Nancy Pickett of Aubrey, Texas, and is by the National Reining Horse Association’s $2 million sire Lil Ruf Peppy and out of Little Dots McCue by Bar Flit Fritz.

When Mac was 2, Roger Weibel of Longmont, Colorado, purchased Mac for himself and for his daughter, Leslie.

It was Colorado trainer Steve Schwartzenberger who started Mac as a 2-year-old.

“He was a little powerhouse,” Steve recalls. “Mac was a solid, steady-Eddie kind of guy but was real physical when you needed it. Just a very talented colt.”

And a colt who earned nearly $12,000 in open NRHA events through early 2008.

“But he was just a little more horse than I felt comfortable competing on,” Leslie says

So Steve contacted his longtime friend Larry Sanchez, and a combination sale/donation was arranged that sent Mac to college.

“When Steve called, we were overjoyed at the opportunity to get Mac into our program,” Larry says. “At the time, so many good horses were being sold to Europe, where reining had really caught their interest and the industry was booming. So to be able to get a horse of such high caliber as Mac was fantastic for our program. He was well-bred, well-trained. Everything that reining horses need to do at that high level just came naturally to Mac.”

When Mac arrived at OSU in 2008, he was a perfectly round peg that had found his perfectly round hole. Lucky Mac has found his niche in life. 

Donating a Horse to a College

While donating a horse to a college equestrian team can offer benefits to the horse owner in the form of a tax write-off, other options exist. Some collegiate equestrian programs have the means to purchase horses, or horse owners can even lease the horse to the equestrian program. In this case, the horse owner would retain ownership, and oftentimes the college equestrian team will take care of the horse’s expenses while he is in the program’s care.

To pursue donating, selling or leasing your American Quarter Horse to a college equestrian team, visit either www.ihsainc.com (IHSA) or www.collegiateequestrian.com (NCEA) for directories of college equestrian teams.

This week the Journal featured NCEA reining horse Lil Ruf McCue. Did you miss our tale about IHSA horsemanship horse Joker By Story? Read “Joker’s” now.