Inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2016
Van Decka was bred to be a sprinter, but destiny took him to the show pen.
Racehorse owner Johnny Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri, bred his Top Deck stallion Decka Center to his Vandy daughter, Vanessa Dee, to produce the 1967 bay colt Van Decka.
After Van Decka was injured on the racetrack, Johnny decided his horse-loving daughter Cheryl needed a show horse.
In 1972, Van Decka earned open and youth AQHA Champion titles. By 1973, he was in the top 10 at the youth world in western riding, horsemanship and hunter under saddle. Cheryl and Van Decka also finished the year third in year-end youth all-around standings and earned a youth performance Champion title.
The tough gelding thrived on showing, and the family decided to haul for the 1974 year-end title.
That year, Cheryl and Van Decka were youth world champions in showmanship, with top 10 finishes in aged geldings, trail and horsemanship. By the end of the year, they were high-point winners in four classes – showmanship, horsemanship, hunter under saddle and trail – with top-five finishes in western riding and western pleasure. They were also the all-around youth winners.
In 1975, they were again the year-end winners with high-point wins in showmanship and western pleasure.
Cheryl’s sister Kim also earned youth Champion and performance Champion titles on Van Decka. He was the year-end high-point winner in youth western pleasure and horsemanship, and they were the 1977 youth reserve all-around high-point winners.
His last rider was Cheryl’s daughter, Tara, who put 30 points on him and placed first at the 1987 Congress in horsemanship.
He died in his sleep February 16, 1988.
Van Decka finished his show career with 4,270 youth points. He may have been bred to race, but it was in the show pen that Van Decka earned more youth points than any horse in AQHA history.