Age Is Just a Number

Meet some seniors still making a splash in the show pen.

Reining, cutting and cow horse events, they say, are for the young. The futurity and derby horses might attract the most attention, but there are many horses stirring it up well into their teens and 20s.

Here are their stories:

Exquisite Doc
1980 red roan gelding
By Doc’s Sug and out of Bullhide Cowgirl by Zaino King

Exquisite Doc – “Ed” to his friends – this year reached the venerable age of 30. Most horses his age are nothing more than pasture potatoes, but Ed loves his job as a team penner and family mascot too much to quit. Given reign over his owner’s farm at Berwick, Illinois, the son of Doc’s Sug keeps himself busy overseeing the other horses, and, if the possibility exists of his being left behind, he sneaks onto the horse trailer so he can go to a team penning.

Shellie Lorenzen purchased Ed in 2001 for her young daughter, Kaila, to learn on.

“Ed’s 30 this year, and he still thinks he’s 3,” Shellie says. “He’s fat, sassy and still chases cows. If the truck and trailer are hooked up and the back door on the trailer is open, he’ll walk right out, load himself and stand there. He’s ready to go.”

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Ed has been competing in AQHA events since 1995, and he has accumulated 46.5 points, amateur and open performance Registers of Merit, and in 2008 – at a sprightly 28 – carried Kaila to 10th place in the team penning at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

“I knew a long time ago it wasn’t going to do any good to bark orders at my kids, so I decided I was going to get them horses that would teach them to ride,” Shellie says. “I’ll tell you, there’s not an open rider out there who wouldn’t half-beg to ride with this kid on this horse. He just baby-sat her, took care of her and taught her how to ride. He’ll flat-out cut a cow, and he’s just automatic. We’ve always said that if he could learn to read the numbers, we’d just turn him loose and call ’er good.”

Last year, Ed and Kaila qualified for the Ford Youth World in team penning and ranch sorting, but his owners decided a trailer ride to Oklahoma City would be too hard on Ed.

In his spare time, Ed has given many lessons, participated in career days, cheered up residents of local nursing homes, attended parades and taken his owners on trail rides.

Until Kaila left for college, Ed was ridden every day. He spends nights in the indoor arena and roams the farm during the day. Ed eats senior feed with canola oil and a general health and joint supplement. Shellie attributes his longevity to good shoeing, his personality and careful management of his mental and physical health.

“He’s been a phenomenal horse to own,” Shellie says, “I’ve owned a lot of them over the years, and he’s definitely one of the top dogs.”

Hot Tana
1984 sorrel mare
By Montana Doc and out of Hotrodders Hannah by Doc’s Hotrodder

Back in 2008, at the age of 24, Hot Tana and owner Klarissa Neff qualified for the Ford Youth World in cutting. Now 26, the Montana Doc mare continues to compete as a reliable show horse and has earned has earned $5,282 in National Cutting Horse Association competition.

“Tana” is ridden by sisters Klarissa, 12, and Grace, 8.

“We bought her for the kids,” Kathy Neff says. “They wanted to start doing cutting, and (Tana’s owners) wanted her to go to good home. She has been a really good mare for us.”

Tana, Kathy notes, is a master at adjusting herself to her rider. With an older rider, the mare really gets after her cow. But when Tana gets a little rider – Grace’s leg barely reach down the mare’s shoulders – she holds back a bit.

“She’s just really decent with the kids and knows when there’s a little one on her,” Kathy says. “She’s really gentle and never offered to kick or bite, pin her ears back or anything. She’s just a really sweet horse. She enjoys going on rides, and she has a little prance to her. When we go on trail rides around here in the fields, she can’t walk, and she can’t be behind – she’s got to be first, and she’s got to be prancing.”

Tana is kept barefoot and is fed high-quality clover-grass hay free-choice and a 12 percent protein pellet. If she is feeling stiff, she’s given bute, but otherwise is medication-free.

Kathy attributes Tana’s longevity to the quality of care the mare has gotten through the years and the fact that she has never served as a broodmare. During the day in good weather, Tana is turned out with two other older cutting mares, and at night, she beds in a sandy indoor round pen.

“She gets put in by herself, and she gets to eat at her own speed, her own time,” Kathy says. “Nobody’s pushing her away. Plus, she is able to move around all year and is just kinda babied.”

She is ridden every day by her young owners, and the girls will be showing the mare at AQHA and NCHA events in youth and ranch classes (where the rider is allowed to use the reins).

“She just tries her hardest,” Kathy says of the mare. “She is real quiet – the kids hop on and practice here at home bareback. But she’s a totally different horse when she gets to the shows – she sees the cows, and her head goes up: She is rarin’ and ready to go.”

Smoker Doc
1986 chestnut gelding
By Doc Gunsmoke and out of Montadocs Lady by Montana Doc

Smoker Doc is described by those that know him best as “tough.” When he was first being trained, that meant uncooperative to the point of having to be roped to be saddled. But as he matured and learned the business of being a show horse, it meant he stayed sound and solid through a busy career as a reining and working cow horse. Today, at the age of 24, it means he is still just as willing and able to step up and do a job as he was a decade ago.

The son of Doc Gunsmoke is owned by June Coghlan of Portales, New Mexico. She purchased him in the fall from Natalie Brown-Baca of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who bought him when he was 11.

“Smoker” has earned 202.5 AQHA points; performance ROMs in open, amateur and youth; and his Superior in reining. He has qualified for the AQHA World Championship Show six times in reining and working cow horse events, and earned $2,853 in National Reining Horse Association competition.

June, who knew the horse when Natalie was showing him, needed a been-there-done-that partner, and asked whether Natalie would be willing to sell him. Because the home fit, Natalie reluctantly parted with him.

“He’s the best example, I think, of what our true Quarter Horses were,” June says. To illustrate, she points out that two weeks after buying him, he carried her through a competitive trail ride. A few months later, they attended the Denver Stock Show, where the horse scored solid 70s to place in the top 15 of his classes, and a few weeks later, Smoker attended a local show and did well in all-around classes from showmanship to hunter under saddle.

“He’s just happiest when he’s doing something,” June says. “He has really been a blessing to me. When you hook up the trailer, if he’s not in it, he’s at the gate whinnying, saying, ‘Put me in!’ ”

Smoker has a stall with an attached run where he can go in and out. Sound, he eats senior feed and is given a joint supplement and Adequan IM injections to maintain his joint health. He is ridden three to four times a week to keep him maintained and in shape.

“He has got fabulous legs and bone and feet,” Natalie says. “I think some of it is starting him relatively late, and being very strong-willed and tough mentally. I think that mental toughness has given him a framework to always be there. You can’t get in a situation where he stresses out. And I’d say he has got the greatest work ethic I’ve ever seen. Just put him at anything, and he’ll do his darndest, no matter how big or how small.”

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The most memorable moment she had with Smoker, she says, was at the New Mexico State Fair. The pair was heading down the alley into a rundown pattern. Eyes up and focused, Natalie never saw the little boy who had escaped his parents and ran right into the path of the galloping horse.

“Smoker had been shown so much he knew exactly what a rundown was, and we were running,” Natalie says. “I honestly never saw the little boy, but Smoker stopped in midstride before he hit the boy; he just shut it down. Then he broke out in a sweat from head to tail – just lathered instantly from the adrenaline of stopping. He just knew.”

Unhurt, the boy was returned to his parents, and Natalie and Smoker did their run.

“For years, people would remember that,” she says. “They’d never seen a horse in a rundown flat-out make that decision himself. That’s the kind of smarts that old horses that’ve been around the block have. That’s pretty much characteristic of Smoker.”

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