It’s not the size of the horse in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the horse that matters, and Smart Little Lena had plenty of fight in his heart with style on the ground to match it.
The stallion’s breeder, Hanes Chatham, had been breaking colts for Shorty Freeman, who owned Doc O’Lena at the time, and he knew how smart those colts were. At the same time, Chatham admired the horse Royal Santana for his low, smooth movement in the cutting pen.
“I got the idea that if I could find a full sister to Royal Santana and breed her to Doc O’Lena, and if those genes stacked up anywhere like the sire and the dam, I might get a triple crown-caliber horse. And that’s the way it played out.”
Chatham found Smart Peppy in Canada, the full sister to Royal Santana that he had been seeking, and bought her over the telephone. Smart Little Lena was foaled June 29, 1979.
Smart Little Lena’s low, flowing snaky cutting style won the 1982 NCHA Futurity. He followed that win with first-place finishes in the NCHA Super Stakes and Derby. After earning $577,652 in just eight shows, Smart Little Lena was retired to the breeding shed.
As a sire, Smart Little Lena was outstanding, with money-earning foals in every performance discipline. In AQHA competition, his offspring earned 9,744.5 points and 22 world championships, along with $216,387. In the National Reining Horse Association competition, his foals earned $686,470. In the National Reined Cow Horse Association, they earned $973,136.95
But Smart Little Lena’s foals were primarily destined for the cutting pen and NCHA, where they earned $34.9 million.
As a maternal grandsire, his grandget earned 14,979.5 points in AQHA competition and $567,224. In NRHA competition, they earned $1.8 million; in NRCHA competition, they earned $2.56 million; and in NCHA, they earned $50 million.
Smart Little Lena was euthanized in 2010, but that wasn’t the end.
At the 2014 NCHA Futurity, 23 of the 25 open finalists – including the winner – carried the fighting blood of Smart Little Lena with them into the pen for their own duels in the dirt. The tiny stallion’s fighting legacy lives on.
Smart Little Lena was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2015.
Biography updated as of March 2015.