The Bold and Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse
The Bold and the Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse” was a previous exhibit that featured twelve women who made a tremendous impact on the American Quarter Horse – as an association and a breed. Some were breeders, some were owners and competitors, and others were chroniclers and artists who recorded not only history but life at the time. All were leaders and visionaries, and each left their mark on the American Quarter Horse. Their efforts opened the doors to others and made it possible for the lifestyle to exist in the industry.
The women included in the exhibit were by no means the only trailblazers. There are many unsung heroes whose dreams and sacrifices created the American Quarter Horse of today. Sharon Ralls Lemon, an American author, said:
“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.”
Her quote defines the focus of “The Bold and the Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse” exhibit. These visionary women embody the elements of grace, beauty, spirit and fire.
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Growing up with brothers made Helen Michaelis tough and able to hold her own. These traits would come in handy later in life.
Michaelis grew up with horses and supported herself through college by owning a riding stable. She was introduced to quarter-type horses in the early 1930s and a few years later, she started doing research on the breed’s origins.
She visited with different ranchers about their horses and recorded the information. Michaelis went to match races and kept records of the placings and other information. She started writing articles concerning everything she had learned.
After reading an article Robert Denhardt had written on the “Billy” horses in South Texas, Michaelis wrote him a letter concerning Ott Adams’ horse, Little Joe. Denhardt was impressed by her knowledge of Quarter Horse bloodlines and the two became friends.
When AQHA was established in 1940, Michaelis was elected as a director and took over as secretary in 1942 when Denhardt stepped down. She ran AQHA from her ranch in Eagle Pass, Texas.
As secretary and authority on bloodlines, Michaelis could spot fabricated pedigrees. More than one rancher’s horse or horses passed inspection, but did not pass Michaelis on bloodlines.
She organized her information on horses and bloodlines into dozens of three-ring notebooks. In the notebooks, each horse’s page listed the pertinent information for that horse.
Michaelis stepped down in 1946 and handed the reins to John Burns. Her influence on AQHA extended beyond her knowledge of bloodlines, as she had an effect on the role of women in AQHA and the Quarter Horse industry.
She died in 1965, and was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1985. She was the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame.