The late Harold A. Howard grew up on a farm and spent long summer days driving teams of heavy horses across the fertile Michigan landscape. He also dreamed of the horse he’d own one day: an eye-catching horse that could do it all. By the time he tilled his own farm with his wife, Darlene, and their six children, machines had replaced broad-backed draft horses, but his dream remained. “Dad studied every Quarter Horse Journal,” Harold’s son, Dar Howard, says. “Then in 1966, he saw an ad for a production sale at B.F. Phillips’ ranch in Texas.” “There was a photo of a proud stallion standing with his band of broodmares,” daughter Mary Kay (Howard) Smith continues. “Dad said, ‘I’m going to buy that horse,’ got in his car and drove to Texas.”
Family legend has it that even Harold was a tad surprised to find himself top bidder for the splendid red stallion named Eternal Sun.
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“Truth was, he hadn’t brought enough money with him,” Dar says. “So he found B.F. and said, ‘I’m a farmer from Michigan, and I’m good for the amount.’ B.F. tore off a corner of the sale catalog, my father wrote an IOU on it, and they shook hands to seal the deal.” That was how 8-year-old Eternal Sun, AAA racehorse, AQHA Champion and halter-point earner with a performance Register of Merit, joined the Howard family on their strawberry farm in Remus, Macosta County, Michigan. “He was something! Big and tall, he shined like a new copper penny. Mom took charge of his feeding, and we kids cleaned his stall and presented him to visitors. We all owned a piece of him. He was full of life, but always kind,” says Dar, who was 15 at the time. The next year, the Howards were invited to show off Eternal Sun to Stallion Row at the inaugural All American Quarter Horse Congress.
“I had the privilege of showing him to a capacity audience in the coliseum,” Dar says. “It was quite a deal for this farm boy.” Back home, Eternal Sun, by Eternal War (TB) and out of Sierra Glitter by Silver King, brought a new-style Quarter Horse to Michigan. “Horses were a lot shorter and stockier,” Mary Kay says. “Eternal Sun had an elegant head and neck and an irresistible charisma. I’ll never forget his eyes: His foals always had his eyes.” Before he arrived in Michigan, Eternal Sun had already garnered rave reviews. Carol Harris of Bo-Bett Farm in Florida remembered seeing Matlock Rose show him. “Eternal Sun thought highly of himself,” Carol says. “At that huge show, he took home the grand. His pride and presence made me feel like he was a giant of his day, so I brought my wonderful champion mare, Judy Dell, to him. Their colt, Eternal Dell, made me a winner. He changed the style of the next generation, with his daddy’s long neck, classic head and tiny throatlatch. Later, I bought Majestic Dell (by Eternal Dell and out of Quo Vadis by Little Lloyd), whom I loved almost as much as Rugged Lark. “Harold Howard and I always kept in touch,” she says. “He was so genuine, an honorable man who truly loved his horses. His wonderful stallion was a very big part of my success.” For nearly 20 years, Eternal Sun lent his special magic to the Howard farm.
“Dad had a real connection with him and lived for the chance to show him at halter,” Mary Kay says. “In order to show more, Dad learned to pleasure drive. It wasn’t hard for him because he’d been raised plowing fields with a team of horses. We’d take a dozen horses to a show – it was a family affair.” Demand was high. Some years, the Howard children each rode three or four different Eternal Sun offspring, because their horses were sold out from under them almost as soon as they were trained. Then there were some horses, like Eternal Linda (out of Chuck’s Fiddle), who spent their entire lives with the Howards. “My sister and I both showed her, and my niece showed her in walk-trot,” Mary Kay says, smiling. Eternal Linda gave them plenty to smile about: three youth and open AQHA championships; three youth and open performance ROMs; and a Superior in both halter and western pleasure. The talented mare, a coppery sorrel like her daddy, also produced 11 foals. In time, there were 60 horses in the Howards’ pastures and a constant stream of visitors at their doors.
“I started the colts and spent five of the best years of my life on Eternal Pete,” Dar says. “He got his AQHA championship, then we won state reining two years in a row.” Eternal Sun sired 908 Quarter Horse foals: 343 performers and 59 race starters. His offspring earned 3,598 halter points; 5,612 performance points; 104 performance ROMs; and 34 AQHA championships.
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“At one time, he was a leading sire in six AQHA categories; his babies did it all,” Dar says. “Dad always said there weren’t many horses that paid their own way. ‘Eternal’ built his barn and helped buy the farm we have now. When people tell me he was a lucky horse, I tell them, ‘No, we were the lucky ones.’” “Eternal Sun was meant to be here,” Mary Kay says. “For Dad, he was a dream fulfilled, and we all feel blessed to have a horse like him.” When Eternal Sun died at 27, he was buried on the farm. Where he rests, a copper-colored statue stands with a plaque bearing Harold Howard’s heartfelt words: “Here lies the horse that changed my life.”