Catching a Buzz

All Night Buzz is an all-around American Quarter Horse.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

You might be expecting this to be a story about a horse in his first career. Or second career. Or even a third career. You would be wrong. This is a story about a racehorse in his first, second AND third careers. In 2011, this now 5-year-old gelding won races on the track, sorted cattle in the arena and roped as a heading horse.

All Night Buzz is a flag bearer for the fastest and most versatile horse on earth.

“He’s a true Quarter Horse,” said Helen Vanek, the Canadian jockey and all-around horsewoman who broke “Buzz” to saddle, rode him in races, roped steers off him and worked the herd in team sorting. “Buzz handles himself with class and intelligence, likes his job and enjoys the work. He has got a lot of confidence, a good personality and good character. He’s wonderfully bred: He’s a grandson of Mr Jess Perry, he’s got Three Oh’s and Dash For Cash on top, he’s a double-bred Three Oh’s on bottom and goes back to Jet Deck. And he’s beautiful. Everybody who sees him really likes him.”

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Trained at the track by Erik Lehtinen, All Night Buzz was a homebred runner for Drs. Scott and Angela Rake, who are surgeons at Elko, Minnesota, where Scott is currently the treasurer of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association. The gelding is by the stakes-winning Mr Jess Perry stallion Boknaai ($177,575) and is out of the Acceptable Lover mare Acceptable Minx, who in 1995-96 Helen rode to win five of 14 races and earn $3,316 at Picov Downs.

Picov was the track near Toronto, Ontario, that today as Ajax Downs boasts some of the highest daily purses in the industry. All Night Buzz earned more money breaking his maiden there on the Fourth of July than his mama did in her entire career.

But Acceptable Minx’s official money line doesn’t include the cash she earned running barrels when she was taken to Florida by Helen, who roped steers on her and, as a little girl of 4 and 5 years old, also rode the mare’s dam, Oh Starlight Jet, a winning granddaughter of All American Futurity winner Three Oh’s. The Rakes later bought Acceptable Minx and took her home to Minnesota, where they rode her in field trials for dogs.

“The Rakes are real good people, and I was lucky to get hooked up with them,” Helen said. “Oh Starlight Jet ran barrels after her 3-year old season at the track and just missed qualifying for a barrel futurity at Quarterama. ‘Minx’ is a real calm, easy-dispositioned mare. She was my fun time, playing, trail riding, whatever, just to get away from the racing, something nice to do with my friends. I ran barrels and learned to rope on her – she took to that beautifully.”

The gelding earned his name from his habits as a baby.

“The owners have a farm in Minnesota, and they’d sit out on their deck in the evening and watch the horses when the sun was going down,” Helen said. “The little guy was turned out with another yearling, and he’d just fly around the paddock, have a good time and buzz around all night.”

Back to the Future

Buzz did not have a good time at the track, not at first. The Rakes had him at home until he was a late yearling, when Helen took him to Oklahoma for breaking and early training.

“He was very cocky, but very immature,” she said. “He was kind of a problem child. He always had his quirks, wouldn’t really settle and didn’t like being at the track. He was always spooky there – he was bad in the gate, he didn’t like the mirror on the finish line. He wasn’t mean or anything, not at all. But he wasn’t happy. It was hard for him to focus, especially on racing. He’d snoop around, look at everything, duck and dive all around the track. He was always highly intelligent, but he didn’t use it the right way.”

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Buzz’s people were not happy, either. Frustrated, they were almost ready to quit on him.

“Scott and Erik and I were ready to find him a new job and get him focused on a new career so we could sell him,” Helen said. “Scott told me to play with him and do whatever I wanted. So I took him to the farm, and a month later, I could throw a rope off of him and actually catch a steer and dally off.”

The farm is Lil Bit Ranch at Ridgeway, Ontario, where Buzz was turned out almost every day.

“After the first month, he was a different horse,” she said. “He was calm, quiet. And the more steers we chased, the quieter he got. He pays attention to the cattle. He loves to dive in behind them, and with the speed he’s got, it really isn’t work for him. He’s playing. All of a sudden, he had a purpose. He went from being spooky and silly to absolutely focused and motivated.”

So, what the heck, thought his connections. They decided to give Buzz one more try at racing because his attitude was so good.

“Buzz went back to the track, stood quiet in the gate, galloped easy, wasn’t spooking at things, nothing bothered him,” Helen said. “We’d put him in the gate, and he’d just stand like a cow horse. He wasn’t afraid of anything. Just when everybody had about given up on him, we put him in the race at Fort Erie, and he was absolutely wonderful. (He) ran with confidence, ran with aggression, and he won. He learned how to handle himself. All the fear and the anger he had before was completely gone, and he was a horse who enjoyed racing, enjoyed the competition.”

He continued racing in 2011, while still doing roping on Wednesdays and Saturdays and team sorting on Fridays.

Now a Ranch Pony

Since his retirement from the racetrack, Buzz has been turned out to make his transition to the ranch easier.

He now lives in the hilly area of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, with owner Jamee Coupe.  "It took Buzz a long time to figure out how to climb the hills." Jamee says, "I guess he'd been on the track and in little paddocks so long, it took him awhile to learn how to just be a horse again.

He is used for ranch work, moving and checking cattle. Jamee and her family hope to begin using Buzz for team roping and barrel racing soon.

He is well-suited to his new lifestyle.

"We love him. We laugh because he was a racehorse, and he's so laid-back. He's the quietest horse we've ever had," Jamee says.

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