Dynamic Dam: Hickorys Holly Cee

Dynamic Dam: Hickorys Holly Cee

Those who know reiner and reined cow horse Hickorys Holly Cee or her offspring sing their praises. Great minds and exceptional talent define the family.

Hickory Holly Cee and Todd Crawford in the herd work at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity (

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Annie Lambert

Hickorys Holly Cee never made a bad impression with her owners, trainers or admirers. Her great-minded disposition and uncommon talent will forever be her legacy.

AQHA Professional Horseman Todd Crawford of Blanchard, Oklahoma, describes the now-26-year-old Hickorys Holly Cee with one word – exceptional.

“She was just an exceptional mare,” Todd says of the daughter of Doc’s Hickory who was out of Miss Cee Nita by Peponita, who went on to produce Kelby Phillips’s 2018 NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman mount, Hickory Holly Time. “She did all three cow horse events very good. She was exceptionally quiet, but also exceptionally quick and cowy, which is a hard combination to get. I wish I could find about 10 more like her.

“Hickorys Holly Cee was very stout, a very strong mare, especially for a ‘Hickory,’ ” he adds. “A lot of them had a little slighter build, but she had a whole lot of hip and hind leg. She also had a very strong barrel/belly that helped her be such a strong stopper.”

Hickorys Holly Cee’s pure disposition and athletic prowess garnered her lifetime earnings of $161,422 between 1997 and 2001. The now-retired broodmare has produced 16 money-earners from 24 foals, with average earnings of $30,629.

A Cal-Bred From Texas

Hickorys Holly Cee’s breeder, Ken Hill, was a good friend of the late legend Matlock Rose. The two friends often took turns “working horses just for fun” between Ken’s Hacienda Colima in Placerville, California, and the Rose Ranch in Gainesville, Texas.

“Matlock told me I needed to buy this Peponita mare (Miss Cee Nita),” Ken recalls. “He bred (Miss Cee Nita) and said she had a good baby on the ground and was in foal to Doc’s Hickory.”

Enter Hickorys Holly Cee. At the time, Ken had two trainers working at his ranch, Chris Bates and Jason Clark, who started the bay filly. Her quiet disposition was front and center from the beginning.

“I started her,” Chris laughs, “I wish I could steal all the thunder, but I can’t.

“It was Jason Clark who really rode her. From Day 1, she was just a natural horse, a very good horse. She was easy, like a lot of those great horses are.”

Trainer Sandy Collier came to look at the green 2-year-old Hickorys Holly Cee. But Ken, now retired and out of the horse business, raised many good horses and she ultimately decided on a colt. Todd did not hem nor haw when he sat on the filly shortly after.

“Todd rode the filly around in a circle twice and said, ‘I’ll take her,’ ” Ken remembers. “He knew she was a good one and just took her; it only took him five minutes to make his decision. The rest is history. You know what she did.”

Don’t Fall Down

Hickorys Holly Cee did not disappoint her new owners, Mary and Greg Whalen, who now reside in Scottsdale, Arizona, nor Todd, who showed the mare her entire career.

Well, maybe once – by no fault of her own – the mare and Todd did experience the agony of defeat. After placing third in her first show, the Santa Ynez Reined Cow Horse Futurity, earning $8,400, she headed toward a larger prize: the 1997 National Reined Cow Horse Futurity at Selland Arena in Fresno, California.

Todd and Hickorys Holly Cee topped the preliminary rounds heading into the finals. Their fence run was exceptional to the last fraction of a second and the championship only a heartbeat away. When the judges’ whistle blew, Hickorys Holly Cee had fallen – not hard, just a slow-motion slip. She ultimately finished in a humbling 23rd place.

The game bay had only begun her winning career on a down note; she was soon to prove herself a versatile show horse machine. Todd broke her out again at the National Reining Horse Association Futurity, just weeks after her untimely fall, finishing in a tie for 7/9 and adding $22,776 to her earnings.

Showing her prowess and versatility, Hickorys Holly Cee and Todd Crawford split 7/9 place at the 1997 NRHA Futurity, just weeks after a mishap at the cow horse futurity.


In 1998, Hickorys Holly Cee was the AQHA junior working cow horse world champion and junior reining reserve world champion. She picked up a number of derby wins in both reining and reined cow horse, adding to her lifetime earnings.

In June 1999, Hickorys Holly Cee was sold to Arcese Enterprise of Weatherford, Texas, and Todd continued training her.

“She won everything for us,” Mary says of the decision to sell. “Arcese was here from Italy looking for horses and asked Todd if we’d sell her; Greg made the decision to sell. She really was a great individual. When we had her home, Ryan, our grandson, rode her and she was really good-natured.”

One of Todd’s favorite victories on Hickorys Holly Cee came in 1999 when the pair garnered the championship purse of $50,000 at the River Front NRCHA Derby in Medford, Oregon. They also split 5/7 in the NRHA Derby for an additional $7,991.

However, Hickorys Holly Cee and Todd were far from done filling their satchels. Another of the trainer’s standout wins came in the 2000 United States Equestrian Team reining finals, earning $26,889. That same year, they won the Hollywood Charity Reining USET Classic.

In her final year of showing (2001 as a 7-year-old), Todd and Hickorys Holly Cee won the AQHA senior reining world championship and placed third in AQHA senior working cow horse. They also won open bridle titles at the NRCHA Hackamore Classic.

Also in 2001, Hickorys Holly Cee was Todd’s mount in the NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman contest. The multitalented mare placed in preliminary herd, reining and steer stopping go-rounds before finishing fifth overall.

Hickorys Holly Cee showed her versatility at the 1998 AQHA World Show when she and Todd Crawford won the junior working cow horse and was reserve in the junior reining on back-to-back nights.

Mama Mia

The Whalens enjoyed Hickorys Holly Cee’s successes and even bred their champion to Lean With Me during her showing years in 1999, via embryo transfer, which produced a 2000 bay stallion that was sold at the NRHA Futurity Sale. While Cee Me Lean was not a money-earner, Hickorys Holly Cee has still proved to be quite the producer.

Hickorys Holly Cee resides comfortably at Jeff Oswood’s Stallion Station in Weatherford, Texas, where Jeff manages Arcese’s equines. At 25, she enjoys a full retirement. Her final foal, Gunna See Red, is a 2015 chestnut stallion by Gunnatrashya.

“We have not bred her for two years,” Jeff says. “We tried to do a bunch of stuff, but she just isn’t developing any viable follicles anymore. She is very healthy, very sound, very fat and very happy. She is a babysitter for the babies.”

The only relation to Hickorys Holly Cee now residing at Oswood’s is her 2009 Shining Spark daughter, ARC Cee N Sparks. The buckskin mare, bred and still owned by Arcese, collected reined cow horse earnings of $19,870.

Hickorys Holly Cee at Oswood Stallion Station with her 2013 filly, ARC Who Do You Cee, by Walla Walla Whiz. Her final foal came in 2015, but she still has a job babysitting weanlings. Credit: Courtesy of Oswood Stallion Station.

Like Mother, Like Son

Hickorys Holly Cee’s top money-earning offspring have been outstanding show horses, very much reminiscent of their dam. Her mellow soul and athletic aptitude has already carried through several generations.

Hickory Holly Time is the highest-earning offspring of Hickorys Holly Cee. The 2010 red roan stallion,by One Time Pepto (Peptoboonsmal-One Time Soon by Smart Little Lena) has earnings of $231,025. Bred by Arcese Quarter Horses USA, the 9-year-old has had four owners of record.

Jeffrey and Sheri Matthews’ Matthews Cutting Horses LLC, owner of One Time Pepto with ranch bases in North Carolina and Weatherford, Texas, assumed ownership the day following Hickory Holly Time’s birth. As an August yearling in 2011, the colt dubbed “Oliver” was transferred to popular trainer Hayden Upton, who specializes in starting cutting horse colts in Weatherford.

“I put together a deal for Jeffrey Matthews to sell One Time Royalty (2007 stallion by One Time Pepto-Royal Serena Belle by Shorty Lena, NCHA LTE $442,674) to a lady in Australia,” Hayden recalls of his acquisition. “It was a really nice gesture from Jeffrey and Shari as part of a commission and a thank you.”

Like his mother, Hickory Holly Time was super-easy and athletic. He was, however, not quite like most of the cutting horses Hayden was used to starting, and he decided to sell his big colt. The horse never did anything wrong, the Australian explains, but he didn’t feel like Hickory Holly Time was going to make a big time 2-year-old, not one that would mature early enough to wow the NCHA sales crowd.

“When I got him, he had a big head and was like a gangly pup,” Hayden says. “As far as a cutting horse prospect, he worked the flag and a cow well, but was always a little in slow-motion. He loped really well and always showed that he was going to be a big stopper. I could sure tell that he was going to do the reined work very well.”

“There is still not a brace in his body,” Hayden says. “As a 2-year-old, it gave him that big Gumby noodle feel. What made him feel less efficient as a young horse, made him special as he matured.”

Figuring the colt would make a cow horse down the road, Hayden sent a video of Hickory Holly Time to trainer Kelby Phillips, who was then working for Garth and Amanda Gardiner in Ashland, Kansas. Kelby liked what he saw, especially that big stop.

“I didn’t even go try him,” Kelby acknowledges. “Every time Hayden picked up on him, he drug his butt. He looked like he could move his front end plenty good, was cowy and loped pretty. Stopping was his biggest thing.”

The Gardiners, who raise Black Angus cattle and Quarter Horses on their ranch, breed horses for market as well as showing. After buying Hickory Holly Time in July of his 2-year-old year, the ranchers enjoyed watching their big roan and Kelby in the show pen.

Oliver wasted no time in establishing his reputation as a champion. At 3, the colt collected checks at the Southwest Reined Cow Horse Association Fall Futurity, winning the open, limited open and intermediate open championships – a trifecta.

During the 2013 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, Hickory Holly Time and Kelby won the intermediate open championship, the limited open reserve championship and finished 10th in the open futurity. When including preliminary round income, they pocketed a total of $52,629.

The following year, Kelby rode the then-4-year-old Oliver to numerous finals appearances and preliminary monies. Their major event win was the NRCHA Derby open championship.

In 2015, Hickory Holly Time was the NRCHA open hackamore world champion, NRCHA Stallion Stakes open reserve champion and finished fourth in junior working cow horse at the AQHA World Championship Show.

Kelby departed Gardiner Ranch amicably in 2015 and went to work at Dean and Leslie Tuftin’s DT Horses, located in Oregon at the time. (DT Horses has since relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona.) Fortunately, Hickory Holly Time remained in Kelby’s care. Dean kept watching the big, strong horse training at his ranch and the more he saw, the more he hoped to own the Gardiners’ stallion.

“He stuck out like a sore thumb,” Dean laughs while explaining his infatuation with Hickory Holly Time. “He is such a special horse, we didn’t pursue buying him at first because we didn’t think Gardiners would sell such a once-in-a-lifetime-type stud. Then Garth offered me some colts he was selling and I jokingly told him I wasn’t interested, but I’d sure buy the stud. We got him bought, and the rest is a fast blur.”

Garth and Amanda thought hard before selling Hickory Holly Time. He was pretty special to them, too. But in the end, they were breeding horses as a business. Watching the stallion’s continued success was similar to being proud of your kids doing well, Garth says.

“Dean kept coming back, offering me more money until I couldn’t turn it down,” Garth adds with a laugh. “It was a bittersweet moment; it made economic sense to go ahead and sell him to Dean and Leslie. The timing was perfect and the people were perfect.

“It was tough because we loved that horse and, obviously, we love Kelby,” he says. “The fact that Kelby worked for Dean made it easier. When he won the (2018 NRCHA) World’s Greatest Horseman, I was overwhelmed with a lot of different emotions. Even though we didn’t own him, we still felt a part of that win.”

As a 2-year-old, Hickory Holly Time was not as quick and catty as some cutting prospects, but as he matured, the 2018 NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman champion – pictured here with professional Kelby Phillips – became stellar in the cutting pen.


The Gardiners had bred Hickory Holly Time to a very small group of mares in 2014 and 2015. Following his World’s Greatest Horseman’s win, Dean sent him to stand at Jeff Oswood’s Stallion Station in Weatherford. To date, the stallion has 165 AQHA foals, including one impressive money earner from that very small first crop of performance-age offspring.

Jule Of A Time, the first foal by Hickory Holly Time to present in a show ring, made an impressive debut. The 2015 red roan filly was bred by the Gardiners and is out of their wonderful producer, Soula Jule Forever by Soula Jule Star.

Shown by Ken Wold for owner Daniel Perez, Jule Of A Time won the Reno Snaffle Bit Reined Cow Horse Futurity intermediate open and placed fourth in that event’s open division. Her total earnings added up to $26,000. Not bad for a stallion’s first performer.

Ken says Daniel purchased Jule Of A Time from the Gardiners as a yearling and that she was nice from Day 1. The owner plans to campaign her through the aged events and eventually have a nice broodmare.

Performers and Producers

While Hickorys Holly Cee has bragging rights to Hickory Holly Time, she also produced ARC Catmando, her second highest earner. The 2006 gelded son of High Brow Cat has lifetime earnings of $103,770 – all collected in the cutting pen.

ARC Catmando earned his nickname of “Deets” with his “always willing” personality similar to the Lonesome Dove character of the same moniker. Deets was bred by Arcese Quarter Horses USA and was purchased by Phil and Mary Ann Rapp of Weatherford, Texas, in August of his 3-year-old year.

In addition to being a consistent finalist in both open and non-pro cuttings, Mary Ann and ARC Catmando were the 2009 Brazos Bash Futurity non-pro champions and reserve champions in the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Non-Pro Gelding Stakes. In 2010, the pair was the NCHA Super Stakes non-pro co-champions.

Ora and Frank Diehl of Ruskin, Florida, took over 11 months later, before selling him to his current owner, Barney McCain Smith, at the end of 2012.

ARC Catmando was Barney’s first cutting horse, a sport he became infatuated with when just out of high school.

“I hauled him to win the NCHA $50,000 amateur world championship (in 2015),” says Barney of Whitt, Texas. “I won $50,000 to $60,000 on him in just a year or two. He’s been turned out the past year and a half, but I’m about to get him back out and give him a job. I buy, sell and trade horses, but Deets is not for sale. He is that one horse.”

Jo Anne Carollo of Atascadero, California, received numerous NRCHA and NCHA accolades as a non-pro before recently turning professional. When Jo Anne sold homebred Hick Chicaroo (Doc’s Hickory-Roosters Chicaroo by Gallo Del Cielo) in 2005, she found herself afoot, needing a cow horse futurity mount. She bought ARC Hollys Chicadee by Chic Please from Arcese, then trained and showed her to be the third highest earner out of Hickorys Holly Cee ($65,263).

“I couldn’t stand to miss the futurity,” Jo Anne admitts with a laugh. “With (ARC Hollys Chicadee’s) mom and dad being two of my favorite horses at the time, I struck a deal for her. She was a very sweet mare.”

And like her family tree, ARC Hollys Chicadee was also very talented in the show pen. Jo Anne and her bay mare won the herd work preliminaries and finished sixth in the 2005 NRCHA Non-Pro Futurity ($9,600). The mare was spectacular and nearly undefeated as a 4-year-old, with major wins that include the  NRCHA Non-Pro Derby and Stallion Stakes, Circle Y Ranch Non-Pro Derby, as well as the NRCHA Hackamore Classic Non-Pro.

The next year, during the NRCHA Hackamore Classic, Jo Anne and ARC Hollys Chicadee had a horrific wreck going down the fence.

“That was in the 2007 Hackamore Classic,” Jo Anne recalls. “I had a concussion, screws and a plate in my ankle, double vision and a patch on my eye.

“I was battling all the side effects from my wreck and couldn’t ride, so Todd Crawford showed my mare at the (NRCHA) Derby,” Jo Anne adds. “Todd had never been on her, just catch-rode her, made the finals and finished eighth.”

While Jo Anne was recuperating, ARC Hollys Chickadee was bred to One Time Pepto, which produced the 2008 mare One Times Chic. Jo Anne made the 2011 NCHA Futurity $50,000 amateur finals on her and placed fourth in the PCCHA Winter/Spring Derby $200,000 Non-Pro.

All in all, Hickorys Holly Cee did everything right – as a show horse and a producer. Trainers, owners and breeders can agree they wish there were more horses like her.

“As a breeder, you spend a lot of nickels to earn a nickel,” says Garth. “So it is always good when you have a good one that is successful not only in the show pen, but also goes on and produces the great ones out there.”