November 22, 2013
By Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Oscar Thomison, son of legend Sonny Thomison, showed his 18-year-old roping stallion, OT Nik N Fool, to the aged stallions reserve world championship at the 2013 AQHA World Show. (Journal photo)
On a lark, Oscar Thomison of Kechi, Kansas, decided to bring his 18-year-old roping stallion, OT Nik N Fool, to the AQHA World Championship Show to show in halter.
“Nik” is kind of special to Oscar. A 1995 son of Doc’s Malbec and out of Nik Nak by Mr Goodnik, he was bred and raised by Oscar’s dad, legendary showman, breeder and trader Sonny Thomison. In fact, Nik is one of the last horses that Sonny raised that the family still owns. Oscar ropes on the stallion and has bred him to a few mares.
“In May, a bunch of us were going to show in Wichita, (Kansas),” Oscar said. “So I took him up there and showed him in aged stallions. Then we get this (invitational) letter in the mail saying we could bring him (to the World Show)!”
His fiancé, Katy McBeath, was already qualified for the amateur working cow horse and planning to come. So, Oscar said, “What the heck! We’ll take ‘Nik.’ ”
But when the grand old stallion with the “Thomison” exhibitor was announced in the Jim Norick Arena under the World Show lights, you could hear the buzz in the crowd – whispers of people remembering Sonny Thomison and his place in Quarter Horse history, and a nostalgia at seeing one of his homebreds in the pen once again.
So, The American Quarter Horse Journal rounded up Oscar after the class to get him to talk about his dad.
Sonny and his wife, Ollie, raised a family of five daughters and one son, Oscar, the youngest, on their place in Kechi, Kansas, where an iconic horse statue stood on top of their silo. The family lived and breathed American Quarter Horses, and Oscar grew up going with his father on horse buying trips.
“Horses are all we know,” Oscar said. “We’ve traveled all over, trading horses. It’s been an experience.
“(Dad’s) dad was a horse trader, and always traded. They had what they called a horse-and-mule barn in downtown Wichita. (Dad) and Dick Cole worked there for a long time. There was a bunch of them and they all traded together.”
Oscar continued: “(Dad) didn’t care if it was a halter horse or riding horse; he just liked a nice horse and was really good at picking one out.
“You’d go to a ranch and there’d be 50 to 100 of them running out there. He’d pick the best one, the one he wanted. It might not look the best that day, but when you brought it home, fed it, got it grown up and ready, it was generally the best one. He had an eye for horses most people don’t have.”
Oscar pointed out that a lot of people often just pick out one thing they like in a horse and they focus on that, but Sonny had an eye for the whole horse.
“He wanted a horse to be balanced,” Oscar said. “Depending on what you were going to do with the horse (he’d look at) certain things, like how they wanted the riding horse’s rear to look versus a halter horse’s; how the top of the croup comes down, their feet, their legs.
“He wanted to see a horse whose hocks fit on him the way they were supposed to. He didn’t want them out behind them. And he wanted that hip to come down and tie in.”
Sonny traveled all over the country looking for horses: “A lot of people raise them that nobody knows about. You need to go look (when you hear about a prospect). You never know.”
And people from all over came to their place in Kechi to see what Sonny had.
“People would come to him and say this is what I want to do,” Oscar said. “He’d take them by the hand and help them find a horse to do it.”
He recalls his dad showing Luke Castle some horses when the transmission went out on Sonny’s truck, so the older horseman just drove through the pastures backwards, looking at horses.
People as varied as legendary cow horse trainer Don Murphy, multiple trail world champion Cynthia Cantleberry and performance horsewoman and breeder Carol Rose have told Oscar stories of horses they found through Sonny.
“(Carol Rose) went to telling a story about dad, how she bought this mare from him, traded the mare off and that’s how she got Bald N Shiney. That meant something to her. It’s cool to hear those stories.
“It doesn’t matter where I am in the United States,” he said. “(People will tell me that) they’ve either heard of Dad or, ‘Oh, yeah, I bought my first horse off of him.’
“There are so many stories (about my dad) it’s unbelievable.”
He continued, “We never went overseas, but we shipped a lot of horses overseas, and a lot of foreigners would come to the house to look at horses and buy them. We would take horses to the ports and ship them; a lot to Venezuela, Brazil, Germany, Australia.
“The cool thing about it was, if you didn’t like the horse, (Dad would say to) bring him back and get a different one,” Oscar remembered. “That was his biggest deal. If you bought a horse and didn’t get along with it, bring it back. He would trade you another one so everybody stayed happy. He wanted everybody to be successful.”
Of course, the World Show in Oklahoma City was an annual stop for Sonny, especially for the AQHA World Championship Show Sale and the halter.
The list of horses that Sonny either raised or showed or had a hand in sound like a Who Who’s in American Quarter Horse history.
He bred and raised Tardy’s Bar Maid 1. She was the 1974 world champion in junior western pleasure and was 1974 world champion 2-year-old mare; she won the junior pleasure again in 1975.
One of Sonny’s proudest World Show moments was in 1995 and 1996. He bred Kechi Cowboy (Obvious Conclusion-Cowboys Riva Tardy by Tardy’s Cowboy Too) – 1995 reserve world champion 2-year-old stallion and 1996 reserve world champion 3-year-old stallion. And he bred Perpetualism (Kid Clu-Miss Superiority by Zip To Impress) – 1995 world champion 2-year-old stallion and 1996 world champion 3-year-old stallion.
“They were first and second under all five judges,” Oscar recalled.
Sonny died in October 1998 from lung cancer. The family held a horse sale to dissolve partnerships “and get everything in order.” Oscar said his “whole family is still in the horse business,” and many are still on his parents’ place.
“(Trainer) Aaron Hall is married to my niece, Robin, and they train horses catty-corner (to my place),” he said. “The whole place is in the family; we split it up after Dad died.”
Aaron helped Oscar get Nik ready for this year’s World Show.
“I enjoyed (bringing Nik),” Oscar said. “I’d do it again. I’m really glad we did it now. I was pretty skeptical. Everybody else was like, ‘Oh yeah, you’ve got to do it.’ I kept telling them I didn’t want to do it. But Aaron told me, all you got to do is show up.
“Growing up, we always dreamed about coming and doing this. (Showing a horse) ‘off the wall,’ growing up that’s what my dad enjoyed.”
Oscar plans to be back.
“(Especially) if I get a good one! And I don’t sell it before I get here!” he added with a laugh. “What I really want to do is come back in the roping. I’ve got a nice horse we’ve been getting ready. We were going to do it this year but we were concentrating on (Katy in) the cow horse.”
He paused and added, “(Horses) were (Dad’s) love. He enjoyed it and it’s all he ever wanted to do.”