The Doc Bar Influence
The Doc Bar Influence
It was an unlikely source for a legend: A failed racehorse, shown solely in halter classes, who became the fountainhead of one of the greatest performance horse dynasties in the history of the American Quarter Horse breed. His name is Doc Bar, and nearly three decades after the 36-year-old horse passed from this earth, his name remains relevant in the pedigrees of champion performance horses from the cutting pen to the rodeo arena.
Want proof? The 2019 National Cutting Horse Association Horse of the Year Crey Zee, 2019 NCHA Futurity winner Metallic Rey Mink, 2019 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity champion Here Comes The Boon, 2019 National Reining Horse Association Futurity winner Super Marioo and 2019 AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year Little Smart Leo all trace to Doc Bar.
A clue to Doc Bar's enduring influence can be found in a 1973 quote from Tom Finley, who served as AQHA president in 1967.
“We have always felt that a Quarter Horse should be an all-around athlete – the decathlon champion of horses – a horse bred to do everything. He must be an athlete with speed, muscle and the agility to perform in every type of event. We’ve never sacrificed conformation for speed – we possibly have at times sacrificed a little speed for conformation – but never the other way around,” said the Arizona horseman in an interview about his breeding philosophy.
Tom knew what he was doing. He bred 220 foals that, in the earliest decades of AQHA when purses were minuscule, earned $385,968 on the racetrack and earned more than 600 points in the arena. And he bred Doc Bar.
The tale of this legendary stallion begins when a daughter of Texas Dandy named Dandy Doll dropped a chestnut colt into the Arizona dust of Finley Ranches in 1956. The colt was the fourth of what would be 11 foals for the mare, who herself won or placed in 10 of 21 career starts and earned her Register of Merit on the racetrack. She carried not only the blood of her sire, who was a racehorse and a movie star, but on her bottom side, she also traced to the legendary sire Joe Reed.
Her breeder thought highly of her, as for her first three foals, he brought her to the court of arguably the most influential Thoroughbred stallion in American Quarter Horse history – Three Bars (TB). For this fourth foal, Tom tried something different by crossing her to Three Bars’ son, Lightning Bar, a champion on the racetrack but still an unproven stallion in only his second year standing as a sire when the breeding took place. It was the only time Dandy Doll would be crossed on him, but the resulting foal was one of the greatest success stories in the breed.
While Doc Bar was still nursing his mother, legendary California horseman Charley Araujo saw him and asked Tom for the opportunity to show the horse at halter if the colt didn’t make a runner. It took four tries on the racetrack, in which Doc Bar was defeated a cumulative 10 ½ lengths, to determine that the horse’s destiny was not to be found on the straightaway. Tom sent him to Charley. Charley fit him and led him into the halter arena at 15 AQHA shows. They came back out with 12 wins and 10 grand champion titles.
The first Doc Bar foals arrived in 1960, and they made enough of a stir that in 1962, Dr. Stephen and Jasmine Jensen dropped $30,000 – equivalent to $255,000 in today’s money – to purchase the young stallion and bring him home to their 680-acre ranch near Paicines, California. There, the Jensens, including their daughter, Stephanie, and her husband, Charlie Ward, created a dynasty that reshaped the Quarter Horse breed.
Over a 19-year career, Doc Bar sired 485 registered foals, which meant his book was always very limited, but they found the magic cross of Doc Bar on Poco Tivio and Poco Bueno mares early and used it to its fullest advantage.
“We never wanted to breed him to more than 75 mares or so a season. We didn’t want to flood the market. So we bred our own mares and just a few select outside mares,” Charlie said.
While he has found a great deal of success as a cutting horse sire, Doc Bar’s influence is felt across performance disciplines.
For more than 30 years, AQHA has recognized the accomplishments of American Quarter Horses used in the six Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association timed events – barrel racing, steer wrestling, steer roping, heading, heeling and tie-down roping – with the AQHA-PRCA Horse of the Year Award.
In that time, only eight horses have earned more than three of these titles, and fully half of that elite group are descendants of Doc Bar. They include the great French Flash Hawk, aka “Bozo,” who revolutionized barrel racing with Kristie Peterson; Randon Adams’ heel horse Baileys Copper Doc, aka “Diesel;” Boons Smooth Val, aka “Roany,” who partnered with Rich Skelton to earn four titles; and Travis and Clay Tryan’s legendary head horse Precious Speck, aka “Walt.” All four of these geldings share Doc Bar as a tail-male great-grandsire.
Bozo and Walt are by Sun Frost and Skid Frost, respectively, who are both sons of the Doc Bar stallion Doc’s Jack Frost. Diesel is by Docs Goldpiece, a son of the Doc Bar son Docs Superstud, and Roany is by Smooth Boon, a son of the Doc Bar son Boon Bar.
It is impossible to quantify all the great rodeo horses coming from the Doc Bar well, but just a few among them are Rich Skelton’s Pets Ten (“Chili Dog”), Brandon Beers’ Lucys Fast Jewel (“Jewel”), legendary barrel sires Frenchmans Guy and PC Frenchmans Hayday, Corey Petska’s Lady N Redwood (“Beth”) and MP Speed Rock (“Fancy”), Troy Tillard’s Weavers Diamond Bar (“Rowdy”), Monty Lewis’ IR Still Dry (“Ned”), Colter Todd’s PC Lonewood Ike (“Frisco”) and Hailey Kinsel’s DM Sissy Hayday (“Sister”).
Just as it’s impossible to count the number of Doc Bar-related rodeo stars, it’s also not even remotely possible to tabulate the amount of money they’ve earned – especially when you consider that top horses are often loaned or shared by the owner with his cowboy cohorts. Two-time tie-down horse of the year Little Smart Leo, a double-bred Doc Bar horse, is ridden to big paychecks not only by his owner, Tyler Milligan, but borrowed by other top ropers Cimmarron Boardman, Shane Hanchey, Cody McCartney, Haven Meged, Caleb Smidt and Marty Yates.
“The success when you look at those horses, they’re not flukes,” says rancher and breeder Jim Hunt of Faith, South Dakota. “They’re predictable. Almost all of them trace back to what I consider one of the magic crosses, Three Bars (TB) on Joe Reed, with an outcross to Hancock or some Driftwood breeding.”
Jim, an AQHA director and member of the AQHA Executive Committee, and his wife, Joni, operate the Open Box Rafter Ranch, where they have bred quality ranch and rodeo horses for decades and have spent considerable time studying these rodeo bloodlines, many of which got their start in South Dakota.
Doc Bar was a highlight of that magic Three Bars and Joe Reed cross, but another industry-shaping version was the cross between Sugar Bars (a son of Three Bars) and Leo daughters, Leo being a grandson of Joe Reed. This was the cross that gave the industry Jewels Leo Bars (sire of Colonel Freckles and Freckles Playboy), Zippo Pat Bars (sire of Zippo Pine Bar), Otoe and Flit Bar, among many others.
“You’ve got all of those well-known, historic, successful performance horses, and those horses were successful not only in the rodeo arena, they were successful everywhere – the tracks, the cutting pen, the rodeo pen,” Jim says. “What sticks in my mind is (the cross of) Three Bars and Joe Reed, and that’s what Doc Bar is.”
Doc Bar offered the bloodlines and athletic cross. When paired with the right mares, he and his lines have produced horses that have excelled as rodeo horses. Coincidentally, a lot of those horses came out of or are still in South Dakota.
“They’re sure great horses,” top breeder and South Dakota rancher Bill Meyers says of the Doc Bar lines. “We’ve done everything on them, and they’ve excelled at a real high level in the barrel racing world and the roping world. They’re just great athletes, great-minded horses, they move real good, they’re pretty, they’re good-structured horses as far as conformation; soundness-wise, they tend to stay sound pretty good because of their conformation.”
Bill and his family breed top-quality rodeo horses, most of which have Doc Bar in their pedigree, on their ranch at Saint Onge, South Dakota, which is just about 100 miles from Jim and Joni Hunt’s place at Faith. These ideal rodeo horses, Jim says, offer the magic combination of athleticism, a good mind, bone, substance and the drive to be the best.
“(The horses) are able to stand up and take not only jerking from the horn in the roping that it takes to be successful in those events, but they had grit,” Jim says. “Some of those horses weren’t the easiest to be around, sometimes, but in the rodeo arena, those can be the kinds of horses that excel. It’s not a necessity, but sometimes those rodeo horses have to have that little extra grit and feel to hold up and be able to take (the rigors of the rodeo road).”
Roping and Running
A large number of Doc Bar progeny have worked successfully in the pedigrees of the rodeo world. Many come from Doc Bar’s sons known elsewhere in the performance world, such as Dry Doc, Doc O’Lena, Doc O Dynamite, Doc’s Oak, Doc’s Hickory and Boon Bar.
One of Doc Bar’s best-known sons in the rodeo world is Doc’s Jack Frost, a 1968 stallion out of the mare Chantella, who herself was double-bred to Three Bars. Back in South Dakota, American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Stanley Johnston used the AQHA Champion to cross on Driftwood mares, usually through his stallion Orphan Drift, and produced Tiger Frost, Skid Frost and Sun Frost, with the latter being especially influential today.
Sun Frost was foaled in 1979 and was purchased as a yearling by horseman Pat Cowan, who ranched with his family near Highmore, South Dakota. The Cowans were already successfully riding two of the horse’s full-brother geldings at rodeos before Pat bought Sun Frost. The family showed Sun Frost at high school-level cuttings as a 2-year-old, but the stallion had a nonperformance-related injury in his 3-year-old year. He was retired to stud and lived on the ranch for his entire life. The stallion’s career was guided by Pat’s children. The Cowan Brothers LLC/T4 Quarter Horses operation is currently operated by son Tigh, his children and his wife, Jill, where they continue to breed good horses with an eye toward a versatile, good-minded athlete.
“I am biased, but he was just magnificent,” Jill says of Sun Frost. “He had an enormous amount of presence. Very well balanced, a little bit of character.”
While Sun Frost was already well known as a sire on a regional level, his 1987 foal known as Bozo would really spread Sun Frost’s fame to the world as he collected countless honors, including five barrel horse of the year titles, with Kristie Peterson.
“It only takes one to make a mark,” Jim says of how Bozo jumpstarted Sun Frost’s career on a national level.
The legendary barrel racing sires Frenchmans Guy and PC Frenchmans Hayday are among those that have ensured that legacy lives on. Both were bred through a partnership between the Cowans and James and Frances Loiseau of Flandreau, South Dakota. PC Frenchmans Hayday, owned by Mel and Wendy Potter, is a full brother to Bozo, while Frenchmans Guy is a three-quarter brother to them, being out of a different daughter of the great American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame mare Casey’s Ladylove.
The Meyerses acquired Frenchmans Guy in 1989, and the family developed his legendary career at their Meyers Performance Horses in South Dakota. Frenchmans Guy is one of the all-time leading sires of barrel horses, with progeny earnings of more than $14 million, according to numbers kept by his owners. He is the foundation stallion for the Meyerses’ program, which develops high-end horses with a cross of performance and race blood. Bill and wife Debbie sells prospects, mainly as 2-year-olds, at their annual production sale.
“They’re just real balanced horses that have good bone, and they’re pretty horses,” Bill says of the Doc Bar lines. “Good conformation, as we all know, leads to soundness and good movement. Just the all-around balance and conformation of those horses is what we feel like makes them successful.”
A lot changes in a half century, so when something stays the same, it’s noteworthy. The Doc Bar influence has stood the test of time, no matter what a rider wants to do with the horse, the Hunts say.
“There’s a lot of difference in your different Doc Bar lines,” Jim says. “It’s crossing the Doc Bar horses on the right type of mares that has created a lot of success. It just worked 50 years ago, and it’s working today. People are looking for winners, for predictable genetics, and (these bloodlines) are still extremely sought after today because people want to be the first across the finish line.”