angle-left 50-Year Breeders: Arven P. and Sharon Holden

50-Year Breeders: Arven P. and Sharon Holden

The race fans aren't afraid of hard work.

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By Richard Chamberlain for The American Quarter Horse Journal

Arven Palmer Holden is an old-time horseman. He keeps it simple. His occupation? “Horse farmer.” Where does he raise them? “Holden Farm.”

That farm comprises 105 acres at Greenfield, Indiana, about 25 miles east of Indianapolis, where Arven and wife Sharon have pasture and stalls enough for more than a hundred American Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. Married in 1965, they moved to the Hoosier State a little more than 10 years ago, after 35 years racing in Colorado, and before that, from their home in Fargo, North Dakota.

In 1959, Arven bought his first American Quarter Horse, a filly.

“She really never did too much,” says Arven, who lived at Valley City at the time. “But the second one I bought, that actually turned out pretty good. Her name was Harry’s Lilstar, she was by Happy Harry and she produced two AAA racehorses, one was a stakes winner and the other was stakes placed. The stakes winner was Chickle Book, by Triple Chick.”

Chickle Book won the 1973 High River Futurity at High River, Alberta. The Canadians noticed Chickle Book’s worth as a sire, especially of his daughters.

“At one time, Chickle Book was the leading broodmare sire of barrel racing horses in Canada,” Arven says. “One daughter of Chickle Book produced ‘Chic’, the Docs Paradise mare who won the Calgary Stampede three years in row – the third year with Charmayne James riding her. And the following year, her full brother ‘Reiner’ won Calgary.”

While all that was going on, Harry’s Lilstar also produced Miss Otoe Gill, a granddaughter of Otoe who had points in western pleasure, and Books Alive, a Bugs Alive In 75 gelding who was a stakes-placed winner on the Colorado fair circuit.

“Books Alive was a pretty nice horse, and then he ended up being a bulldogging horse after that,” he says. “Horses I’ve raised are used for pleasure, roping, barrel racing, jumping, polo and just about everything else. I liked it when a Quarter Horse could do everything.”

Arven expanded his Quarter Horse operation with the mares Triple Jill by Triple Chick, Go Stella Go by Go Man Go, Stasha by Mito Paint out of Easy Secret, and Lena Tag by Leo Tag. He bred them to champion and All American Futurity winner Bugs Alive In 75, track record holder Quite A Handful, Wranglers Rockett and Wrangler Rockett’s stakes-winning son Arv, and Nose For Money (TB), who sired Destined For Money, an 870 horse and two-time reserve champion racehorse on the Rocky Mountain circuit.

Arven now focuses on Thoroughbreds, and stands major winners Colonial Colony and Victor’s Cry, and Dowsing, a son of the world’s leading Thoroughbred sire, Deep Impact.

 “I started out trying to show Quarter Horses, had a couple North Dakota state champion halter stallions, Otoe Gill and Pretty King Cody,” he says. “Then I switched to racing. The best-looking Quarter Horse I ever saw was Scooper Chick. When I was in the Army, I was stationed at Fort Ord and I got to see Three Bars (TB) when Sid Vail had him at Oakdale, California. When Sharon and I got married, we went to Oklahoma on our honeymoon, and we saw Leo, Sugar Bars, Diamond Charge, Rocket Bar (TB) and some other real nice horses.”

That was all new to Sharon.

 “No, my wife wasn’t a horse person, but she’s put up with me pretty good,” he says with a laugh. “She’s let me have a lot of horses and do my thing. Sharon was a teacher and librarian at a school for handicapped children for 30 years, and now she volunteers at rehabilitation homes for girls. She also started the Son Rise handicap ministry at the Cross of Grace Lutheran Church in New Palestine, Indiana.”

The Holdens raised two children, son Jay, who groomed horses for Russell Harris at Los Alamitos before hanging out his own shingle, and Jill, who works at the track.

“Jay is a racehorse trainer, and possibly the best bloodline man in the world, on both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds,” Arven says. “My son quits a horse when they get a pimple on them, so when he’s done with a horse, it’s a real saleable animal, a good jumping horse prospect or a good barrel racing prospect, something with some value.”

Value is worth working for. It’s simple.

“I’ve had a lifetime of involvement, and I still do my own work,” Arven says. “I’m not a quitter.”