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☛ Executing and Mastering Lead Changes 11-16-14




By Rick Dennis
Nov. 17, 2014



Rick and Dualin Dude, 2005 AQHA chestnut gelding by Dualin Oak out of Stella Peaches (a Blondys Dude granddaughter), the 4-Year-Old  Reining Champions and money
earners at the MSRHA/NRHA Reining, Forrest, Miss.

At this point in your training and if you’ve been training inline with the preceding training segments, you and your horse should negotiate the following round-pen maneuvers with ease:


  •     Walk, trot, canter and stop in each direction.


  •      Back ups and rollbacks on the wall with ease.


Move the colt’s shoulders and front end out of the way with each rollback and direction change, The most important lesson to learn from these training segments is, “There is no substitute for learning proper horsemanship,” in an equine training environment! Therefore, the next phase of training is to build on the success of the above training exercises and learn to control the colt’s body from the tip of its nose to its hindquarters as well as all locations in between.


Before attempting this training segment, the colt should have been on a progressive training schedule with each successful phase of training being the building platform for the next one. In this article, it’s the lead departure and the lead change that some students find very hard to learn and almost impossible to execute. However, the correct and effective lead change can be a very rewarding experience once the training exercise is learned and the execution is properly performed.


Step 1 – Disengaging the front shoulders and hindquarters.


Begin the next training exercise by facing the wall of the round pen and decide whether you want to move the horse’s hindquarters to the left or right. For this lesson, let’s decide to move the horse’s hindquarters to the right. To accomplish this maneuver, pick up the right rein and lay it on the right neck of the horse while using the off hand and rein to keep the shoulders in place and prevent any movement to the right when the hindquarters are disengaged and moved.


To move the colt’s hindquarters to the right, simply put your left leg toward the rear of the horse’s ribcage, but not in the flank area, and apply leg pressure to disengage the hindquarters and move them to the right. Be careful not to let the horse’s front end, move in unison with the hindquarters.  Once the hindquarters are disengaged and moved out of the way, move your left leg to the left girth area, apply enough leg pressure and left neck-rein pressure to move the colt’s front end to meet the hindquarters.


Complete this training exercise in three repetition stages and then walk off and make a few turns around the round pen in the same direction you just moved the horse in to allow the colt to relax. The main point to remember is only use enough leg and spur pressure to move the colt’s front end over and disengage the hindquarters to move them in the desired direction, with the direction being determined at the discretion of the rider.


If you use too much pressure, you could hurt the colt or make the training exercise unpleasant. The colt will stiffen up and the maneuver will become more and more difficult to perform. The object is to gain complete control of your horse’s body movements with hand and leg cues that will allow a controlled, fluid and correct movement later on both the lead departure and the lead change.


Once the horse is fully relaxed, face the round-pen wall and execute the training exercise in the opposite direction or in this case to the left.  The main point to remember is to gradually increase the amount of training exercise routines until the colt’s body can be moved in each direction with ease by applying the correct leg pressure and rein cues. If the colt makes a big fuss over the exercise, just get the horse to perform one, then relax the colt and execute another one and so on.


Another point to remember is to gradually decrease the amount of leg pressure with the spur over time until the maneuver can be accomplished with light calf and foot pressure (only). Bear in mind that once you and your horse become proficient in this training exercise, teaching the horse to side pass would be the next logical step in training. Eventually, the rider should be able to disengage the colt’s hindquarters and move the colt in a 360-degree circle by disengaging and moving its hindquarters.


Step 2 – Performing Figure 8′s At An Extended Long Trot.


Once you’re able to move the colt’s body with subtle leg and hand cues, including moving the ribs in and out on each side, I like to reinforce my hand and leg cues by performing figure 8s in an open arena at an extended long trot. In order to complete this training exercise, move to the middle of the arena, pick a direction and move off at a walk while maintaining a proper head collection, with the colt’s body framed up, and perform a complete figure 8. The initial direction should be determined at the rider’s discretion. Once accomplished, hold a little back pressure to maintain a proper head collection while using both legs simultaneously to apply proper leg pressure to encourage a forward propulsion and proper speed to enter an extended long trot, without the colt’s headset coming out of collection.


While in the extended long trot, negotiate the figure 8 using proper rein-hand and leg placement to maintain a complete circle until you reach the diagonal or center of the arena entry point. Upon entering the diagonal, slow the colt down and use proper rein-hand position on both sides of the colt’s neck while simultaneously applying leg pressure with both legs to move the colt’s ribs in, effectively framing the horse up while coming through the diagonal. Once you are through the diagonal, resume the correct speed to regain the extended long trot. This framed-up position and speed transition through the diagonal will be used later to negotiate a successful lead change. So practice for proficiency and with as light a cue pressure as possible. Maintaining a proper head collection is essential to a successful maneuver.


Step 3 – Performing High-Speed Figure 8 Lead Changes.


When I have the colt proficient in the figure 8, I simply walk off, negotiate a lead departure, either on a right or left lead, and begin building speed with each complete turn in the circle. At this point, if you’re on a right lead, most of your weight should be on the inside legs of the colt (the legs in the inside of the circle), leaving the outside legs with less weight. Your horse’s nose should be tipped to the inside and your inside leg should be applying a little pressure as a direction and bending of the rib cage cue, with your outside leg laid on the colt to keep the horse from drifting out of the circle. If you’ve ever watched a group of horses playing in a pasture, they execute lead changes at will with each direction change, which is a natural movement for the horse.


In order to capitalize and build on this natural movement, I simply have the horse moving as fast as possible in the right circle, without a speed transition in the diagonal. Before reaching the end of the diagonal, I shift my weight to the left, tip the horse’s nose to the left, release my inside or left-leg pressure and apply outside or right-rein and leg pressure while turning the colt in the opposite direction, or to the left, to produce a natural lead change transition.  If for some reason the colt misses the lead change, just allow the horse to travel around the circle on the wrong lead for a few turns and then slow the horse down, execute the lead change to the left and continue through a 360-degree circle while traveling and building speed all the time.


When you’re ready to execute the lead change to the right, just repeat the process. Eventually, and with enough practice, the colt will learn these high-speed, flying lead changes with the aid of proper weight distribution, hand and leg cues and the proper pressure. At the conclusion, you should be able to complete a 360-degree circle, come through the diagonal, frame up, and swap directions on the proper lead change and complete the figure 8. The main point to remember in this exercise is not to become frustrated when and if the colt misses a lead change. Simply make the proper correction until you and the colt become proficient in the maneuver and the colt learns what you’re asking him to do.


Step 4 – Inline Lead Departures and Lead Changes.


To clean up the lead departure and the lead change, I next incorporate inline lead departures and lead changes in a straight line. I like to conduct this training exercise on a racetrack or in a long field if the arena I’m working in isn’t long enough. If you choose to use the latter method, make sure the field is mowed properly and walk the field to make sure it doesn’t contain any holes, obstacles or trash that could cause an injury or harm to you and your horse. The main point to remember is that you’re working on grass and use precaution to prevent slipping during the maneuver.


I start this training exercise by walking the colt forward a few steps, pick up the desired direction hand as a cue by moving the colt’s jaw, move the horses hip and front shoulder in the direction I want to depart in and lope off in the correct lead. After I’m in the desired lead departure and traveling in a straight line, I frame the colt up and make sure proper head collection is incorporated in the maneuver before attempting the next phase of training, which is stopping the colt and repeating the entire exercise to depart on the opposite lead. I usually allow the colt about 15 to 20 full strides before I stop him to negotiate the next maneuver, which allows the horse to relax.


When I’m ready I stop the colt, allow the horse to further relax and repeat the exercise on the opposite lead. Always allow the colt to relax and think about what’s happening before you initiate the maneuver again. I’ll execute this maneuver in repetition until I reach the end of the arena, the field or my starting point if I’m working on a racetrack. The main point to remember with this training exercise is that you’re working on a lot of maneuvers in one exercise: lead departures, framing the colt, disengaging the hindquarters, head collection, leg cues, rein cues, stops and traveling in a straight line.


When and only when I have the colt performing this training exercise with ease, do I move onto the next phase: performing simple inline lead changes. The main point to remember is to not exhaust your colt during this training exercise. I’ve found a good starting point is to perform three or four stops and starts in each direction and build endurance accordingly.


Click for right lead>>


Click for left lead>>


Step 5 – Simple Lead Changes


This next phase of training is quite simple if Step No. 4 is an accomplished training exercise executed by horse and rider. To begin the exercise, begin at a starting point, walk the colt off, execute a lead departure in your direction of choice, frame the colt up and after 15 or 20 full strides, break the colt down to a trot instead of a stop, all the while keeping the horse properly framed and properly collected. While trotting a few times, pick up the rein and cue the colt in the lead you wish to pick up by moving its nose in that direction, just as if you were executing a lead departure.


Next release the leg pressure in the direction on the lead you wish to change to and use the opposite leg to apply pressure to facilitate the lead change.  This is not a hard exercise to execute! All that’s happening is that you’re executing a lead departure from a trot instead of a walk; however, this will accustom the colt to listening to your hand and leg cues and will prepare the colt for the next phase of training – the flying lead change. After about 15 to 20 full strides, break the colt down to a trot and repeat the training exercise for the opposite lead change.


A few main points to remember are to keep the colt traveling in a straight line at all times, framed up and with a proper head collection.  If for any reason this can’t be accomplished, return to stopping and starting the colt until the situation can be remedied. Another main point to remember is to become proficient in one phase before moving on to another phase of training.


Step 6 – Flying Lead Changes


To execute this maneuver of flying lead changes, I decrease the amount of trots I allow the colt to make before I move through the diagonal, pick up the colt’s nose in the direction I want to change to and ask for the lead change while at a trot.  A main point to remember is not to wear your horse out in practice. A tired horse will be non-responsive and tough to deal with. Always practice on a well-conditioned and fresh horse. The training will wear the colt out soon enough!


I only ask for the flying lead change after I can proficiently negotiate a lead change from one trot only. To accomplish this, I break the horse to one trot and immediately make the proper rein-hand and leg cues to execute the proper lead change. Remember, if the colt misses the lead change, don’t panic or become frustrated. Simply stop the colt and start the entire process over but in the direction he missed the lead change. This will teach him he missed the proper execution.


When the colt is proficient in the one trot pick up, I eliminate the trot, make the exact hand and leg cues and ask for the lead change at a lope. What works best for me is disengaging the hindquarters first and immediately moving my leg forward to move the front end over and into the proper lead.  If for some reason the colt refuses to give you the flying lead change, break the colt down to a stop and repeat the entire walk-trot-lope lead change process until the colt performs a flying lead change on request with sufficient rein-hand and leg pressure cues.


Rick and Dualin Dude, MSRHA/NRHA Jr. Reining Champions and money earners starting a left spin.

To eliminate the possibility of the colt anticipating the lead change while executing the figure 8 training regimen, I only practice the flying lead change maneuver in the inline training exercise. I perform more figure 8s at an extended long trot and save the lead change on the diagonal right before a show. The extended long trot will provide you with a training exercise that is actually better for getting the colt in working condition than any other exercise you may use to leg your horse up and maintain him or her in top physical condition.



As with all training, proficiency comes with proper understanding, horsemanship training, execution, practice, repetition and commitment.  With the proper training, the lead departure and lead change can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time by any committed equestrian enthusiast.



“Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridles!


Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Managing Member
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
Web Site:
Wind River Security, Consultation, & Risk Analysis
Wind River Drug, Alcohol, & DNA Testing
Wind River Ranch – Reined Cow Horse Breeding, Training, Exhibition, & Sales


The above training article, Executing and Mastering the Lead Changes, is part of series of articles regarding 2-Year-Old Colt Breaking 101, Art of the Round Pen, Saddling, Riding and Training and Mastering The Turnaround or Spin.










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☛ NRCHA’s two new $1 million sires 11-13-14

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in BREAKING NEWS, COW HORSE NEWS, CUTTING NEWS, WHO, WHAT & WHERE | 0 comments




Press release from NRCHA
Nov. 13, 2014

Foals by Nic It In The Bud and Dual Rey have broken the seven-figure earnings mark in the reined cow horse arena, making them the 13th and 14th horses to achieve NRCHA Million-Dollar Sire status.



Nic It In The Bud
Photo by Cam Essick

Nic It In The Bud (Reminic x Genuine Redbud x Genuine Doc), a 1997 stallion owned by NRCHA Breeder Sponsor Silver Spurs Equine LLC, Scottsdale, Ariz., is a versatile performer with accolades in both reined cow horse and reining. Trained and shown by NRCHA Million-Dollar Rider Todd Bergen, Nic It In The Bud made his futurity

debut in Reno, qualifying for the Open finals in 2000. Less than three months later, he traveled to the National Reining Horse Association Futurity in Oklahoma City, again earning a berth in the Open finals.


In 2001, as a 4-year-old, Nic It In The Bud added to his NRCHA resume by winning both the Stakes and Derby Open Championships under Bergen’s saddle. He also was an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)  World Championship finalist in Junior Reining that year.


When he advanced to bridle horse age in 2003, Nic It In The Bud proved he could  to go the distance, earning the World’s Greatest Horseman Reserve Championship with Bergen aboard, and making the Top 10 at the AQHA World Show in Senior Working Cow Horse. He retired with lifetime earnings right at the $149,000 mark.


As a sire, Nic It In The Bud quickly established his credentials, becoming a NRCHA top 12 and NRHA top 30 Leading Sire in 2009. He climbed still higher in both associations’rankings in in 2011, becoming a top 10 reined cow horse and reining sire.


Nic It In The Bud’s reined cow horse performers have earned a combined $1,001,722. His top five NRCHA money-earning foals are:


$116,124    Nics Black Diamond (x Shinersdiamondjackie x Shining Spark)
$ 77,525     Nic It Smartly (x Shining Smartly x Shining Spark)
$ 73,641     Peppy Nicolena (x Chelsea Lean x Tejons Peppy Doc)
$ 69,826     Lenas Buddy Nic (x Dual Lena x Lethal Lena)
$ 49,627     Kickback Nic (x Desire A Chic x Smart Chic Olena)


For more information, go to their web site at:




Dual Rey
Photo by Cam Essick

Dual Rey, has been firmly established in the cutting horse industry for more than a decade. Since 2005, he has been ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 sire in the NCHA, and his foals have earned in excess of $26 million in the cutting arena.


Now, with total NRCHA offspring earnings of $1,001,696, Dual Rey (Dual Pep x Nurse Rey x Wyoming Doc), owned by Linda Holmes, leaves no doubt about his versatility as a sire.


The 1994 stallion began his performance career at the NCHA Futurity,

where he tied for 6th place. Some of his cutting accomplishments beyond his 3-year-old year included the NCHA Super Stakes, where he split 5th place, and he won the Memphis 4-Year-Old Open Futurity Championship. Dual Rey retired from the competitive arena with $105,038 in earnings.


His sparkling sire career has countless highlights. In 2009, a Dual Rey foal won both the NRCHA Futurity Open and the NCHA Futurity Open Championships. The NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion was Reymanator, out of the Doc’s Hickory daughter, Savannah Hickory, shown by Zane Davis for owner John Semanik. On the cutting horse side, Rocking W (Dual Rey x Boon San Kitty x High Brow Cat), shown by Tony Piggott for breeder/owner Alice Walton, won the coveted NCHA Championship in 2009.


Dual Rey’s top five NRCHA money-earning foals are:


$175,549    Reymanator (x Savannah Hickory x Doc’s Hickory)
$143,529    Dom Dualuise (x Smart Little XX x Smart Little Lena)
$  62,653    Reygans Smart Lena (x Smart Fancy Lena x Smart  Little Lena)
$  56,973    Desire Rey (x Playguns Desire x Playgun)
$  52,105    Play Dual Rey (x Hiccup N Play x Doc’s Hickory)


For more information go to the web site:




Shining Spark $3,721,400.43
Smart Chic Olena $2,860,981.13
One Time Pepto $1,511,567.70
Grays Starlight $1,462,123.10
Peptoboonsmal $1,454,454.73
Reminic $1,408,638.16
Very Smart Remedy $1,330,595.37
Mister Dual Pep $1,242,255.81
Nu Cash $1,233,649.85
Chic Please $1,124,583.05
Smart Little Lena $1,120,707.66
Smart Little Pepinic $1,090,732.45
Nic It In The Bud $1,001,721.69
Dual Rey $1,001,695.94
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☛ Selective prosecution by equine nonprofits 11-11-14






By Glory Ann Kurtz
Nov. 11, 2014


There is one issue that I would like to bring to the forefront of my readers’ attention and that is the way I have seen disciplinary action imposed over the years by the nonprofit horse organizations for those violating rules published in their rule books which, in my opinion, is nothing more than selective prosecution for the rule violator.


Past experience has taught me that the political game of “who knows who” and what an individual contributes to an organization seems to play heavily on how the rule violator is dealt with as well as the type of punishment handed out versus the individual who violates the same rule and is of ordinary stature and with no political clout or advantage. Clear examples of this type of selective prosecution can be seen not only in individual cases but also in the punishments and suspensions assigned on an individual basis and published in their publications.


Case In Point

Examples of this type of selective prosecution or discrimination from member to member can be found in the following examples:


1.         Rule violator “A” has a horse exhibiting in the AQHA World Show that fails a drug test. Instead of being suspended, which would be the appropriate punishment for the rule violation, this individual is simply allowed to turn in judges’ cards and write a two-page article in the nonprofit’s membership publication blaming the entire incident on “Terrorist Activity,” which, in my opinion, constitutes an insult to the members of that particular association.


2.         Rule violator “B”, a professional horse trainer, is observed beating a horse with a set of bridle reins in the warm-up pen at an association-approved event. When word of the “animal abuse” gets out to the rank and file of the association, including those who could do something about it, nothing seems to happen even though this association has specific rules in their rulebook on the welfare of the horse. Their rule book contends that they have a “Zero Tolerance Policy” specifically stating, “Slapping or hitting a horse on the head or any other part of the body one time or more than one time in any manner, either with the rider’s hands, reins or any other object,” or if you don’t like that one, try this one: “Abuse includes excessive jerking, cueing, whipping, slapping use of lip wire or similar device, or any other act intended to cause trauma or injury to a horse. Any act of abuse, or intent to abuse a horse, in the show arena or on the show grounds, which could also potentially endanger the safety of other persons or animals will be dealt with in the strongest possible manner as provided by sub-section g. of this Standing Rule.”


Another mitigating factor in this scenario is that I was told this individual threatened and bullied members at the scene with a law suit if they reported the case of “animal abuse” to the nonprofit association for appropriate disciplinary action under the terms and conditions outlined in the association’s rule book.


One important fact to be considered in this scenario that I would like to point out is that an individual has the right to file a law suit and the defendant has the right to also file a counter law suit or a counter claim for damages under Texas law which places the rule violator and a bully in a very precarious legal position. Rule violators should not receive preferential treatment no matter who they are, what they threaten or whom they threaten.


3.         Rule violator “C” is cited by a law enforcement agency for animal cruelty pertaining to 10 horses dying in a pasture due to an absence of water. Since this well-documented incident has been well publicized by the news media, I can find no reference of this individual being suspended for animal cruelty by this equine nonprofit association.


However, I have found out this individual is a member of this nonprofit’s professional trainer organization and runs a large remuda of horses, which includes approximately 300 animals on a large ranch, yet this nonprofit’s publication or web site make no mention, of any type of disciplinary action whatsoever that I can find pertaining to this matter or this particular individual.  Again, is this a case of selective prosecution because of who you are, what you are, what you have and who you know?


4.              Rule violator “D” is a complaint lodged by an association’s Executive Committee member against an individual for being loud and unruly at a show. Even though the person had a medical condition, he was suspended without a hearing for several years and later was put on the probation list for even more years, even though he was qualified under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the association could have suffered legal consequences by the federal government if they would have been turned in.


5.         Rule violator “E” isn’t even a member of the association. The non-member brought a dog into the coliseum during an event, even though they were unaware there was a rule against animals in the coliseum. That offender argued that there was a member in the coliseum with a dog so they thought it was okay. Found guilty by the association, the non-member was fined.


A rule in the rule book of the NCHA says, “Any member may be disciplined, fined, placed on probation or suspended from the Association and any member or non-member may be denied all privileges of the Association by the Executive Committee or Hearing Committee or Grievance Committee whenever it shall have been established by a preponderance of the evidence that such member or non-member has violated any rule of the Association.” By fining the non-member, they didn’t even follow the rule, as the rule doesn’t say a non-member can be fined.



However, what I did find, during my research, is that just about every organization I researched has a specific phrase describing their manner of dealing with rule violators which more or less says the same and that is; “This organization reserves the right to address rule violators on a case-by-case basis,” which in my opinion effectively says you may or may not be suspended because of who you are, what you are, what you have and who you know.


Bear in mind that the rules of a nonprofit are like the laws that govern our society. Each and everyone in our society is subject to equal and fair treatment under the law. So it should be with a nonprofit. Each member should be treated equally under the rule as well as the assigned disciplinary action no matter who he or she may or may not be. In other words, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.



Essentially, what happens among the members is that preferential treatment, no matter how large or small, is identified as discriminatory action among the rank and file. This can turn into resentment and resentment evolves into dissension. Also this perception usually is a contributing factor in an individual or individuals leaving an organization. After all, each member wants to be treated fairly without regard to whom they are or what they are on the social ladder of the organization.


With members “jumping ship” from within most equine associations, I feel it is also important for nonprofits to continually change the members of the Executive Committee, who basically run the association. Some associations have members of their Executive Committee who have been on for 15-20 years. My take on this is “why would one stay on the Executive Committee for double-digit years, since, according to their IRS 990, there is no pay for Executive committee members. There have to be some mighty big perks to keep them there, which makes their motives suspect.


Also, I feel that Executive Committee members should be selected by the members rather than being hand picked by other existing members of the Board of Directors or Executive Committee. Hand picking Executive Committee members only adds more friends and supportive members of the “Good Ole Boy Club.”  My question is, “Why do the associations go through such a huge process of having all the members vote for board members, when they only get to ratify what the Executive committee has already done?”


This relinquishment of control would establish an Executive Committee that is fair to the membership, as well as removing any stigma of favoritism when it comes to addressing a rule violator.


As this year comes to a close, I have witnessed a lot of changes in the horse industry, including a supposedly restructuring process among some nonprofits. However, I have seen others that were handed evidence of misdeeds and they did nothing about it. That’s very discouraging.


Changes within the associations could also bring change in selecting the governing bodies of these nonprofits, which could cause a trickle-down effect and be perceived by the members as a positive change for both the association and the members. I believe this would be a sound business model to help slow the steady decline in membership among various nonprofits as well as bring more integrity and hopefully transparency to the association.


Hopefully it won’t take a bolt of lightning to make these equine nonprofits see what they are currently doing is losing members.


The above article is an opinion piece of Glory Ann Kurtz, editor and owner of To respond to the above article, type your response in the Comments box following this article or e-mail it to me at


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☛ Voters approve new Will Rogers arena 8-8-14






By Glory Ann Kurtz
Nov. 8, 2014

Fort Worth’s proposed multipurpose arena

With close to 80 percent of voters saying “yes,” the city of Fort Worth has the go-ahead to build the proposed $450 million multipurpose arena as an addition to the Will Rogers Complex where the NCHA Triple Crown events are held as well as many other national equine competitions. While the owners and contestants nationwide will receive the benefits of the new facility, they were not allowed to vote on it – only the local taxpayers were.


While a non-profit chaired by Ed Bass has raised most of the money for improvements at Will Rogers for years, has pledged to raise half the arena’s cost and are capping the city’s potential liability at $225 million, voters had to vote on three propositions that would pay for 15 percent of the cost: Proposition 1 was allowing a tax of up to 10 percent of the admission to events with 79% for and 21% against; Proposition 2, allowing a tax on livestock stalls and pens, 77% for, 23% against and Proposition 3, allowing a tax of up to $5 on parking, 72% for, 28% against.


According to an article in the Fort Worth Business Journal, Bass said to reporters, “The voters are saying three things: They like the project, they want the project and we’re supposed to build the project.”


The article said that an additional 34 percent of the project cost would come from incremental growth in hotel occupancy, hotel sales and mixed beverage taxes in a three-mile radius around Will Rogers. The state is already setting aside its portion of those taxes – 18 percentage points – for Fort Worth’s use. The City council is expected to vote soon on allocating its portion of those taxes – 14 percentage points – to the arena. The arena will also be used to hold concerts with their 14,000-seat capacity. Less than that would be used for events using floor space, such as equine events. That leaves only 3 percentage points that will come from undetermined sources, but city officials have said they believe stronger-than-expected growth in the hospitality taxes could cover the growth.


The first step is to begin work on the design and construction of the arena and negotiate with the Arlington Heights neighborhood on how to mitigate traffic from events at the arena. The arena is projected to open in 2019.





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☛ Olan Hightower passes at 79 11-4-14






By Glory Ann Kurtz
Nov. 4, 2014

Olan Hightower, Chappell Hill, Texas, was best known as the rider of the 1976 NCHA Futurity Champion Colonel Freckles, owned by Bob McLeod; however, those who knew him loved him as a great friend and helper, family man and horse trainer, training horses for all disciplines – not just cutting. In fact, in his later years, Hightower even helped some high-dollar barrel racers with their horses! And it was a blow to the horse industry when Hightower lost his battle with lung cancer on Sunday evening, Nov. 2, when he reportedly slipped away while he was sleeping.


Immediately Facebook became full of Olan Hightower stories, and I can understand that, as I never met a person in the horse industry who didn’t love and respect him.


According to an article by Sally Harrison, Olan grew up loving horses and started training cutting horses in 1959 at the age of 24. He later gave it up and owned a landscaping business but was “lured” back into cutting by Bob McLeod, who was in the real estate business and had purchased Colonel Freckles from Marion Flynt for $8,500. According to an article in the AQHA Journal, Olan said, “If Mr. Flynt didn’t like you, there was no amount of money that could persuade him to sell his horse to you. Bob went to Mr. Flynt with $8,500 in his pocket to spend and came home with the colt.”


He described Colonel Freckles, the horse that he rode to win the 1976 NCHA Open Futurity, as a little guy – 14.1 with brand-new shoes on and weighing about 850 pounds as a 2-year-old when he got him to ride.  “He looked like a Shetland,“ said Olan, “but worse than that, when I put him on a cow, he dang near ate it alive.”


Olan trained Colonel Freckles, a son of Jewel’s Leo Bars (nicknamed Freckles) by Sugar Bars and out of Christy Jay by Rey Jay, by roping cattle and working goats, besides cutting cattle.


“I did just about anything to make it interesting and get his attention and he slowly started to focus. He was real quick off his hocks and could run. Frankly, he would’ve made a great barrel horse!”


He was entered in the 1976 NCHA Futurity Open Division, considered by many horsemen to be one of the toughest events in the history of the Futurity, that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. The field included such greats as Freckles Playboy, Doc’s Oak, Doc’s Remedy, Doc Athena Montana Doc and Doc’s Becky.  However, with a 223 score, Olan and Colonel Freckles took the 1976 Open Futurity and by the end of the event, Marion Flynt had bred and raised the top three finishers, including Freckles Playboy, who finished second; and Doc’s Becky, finishing third.


“When we came home after winning, the phone rung off the wall,” Olan remembered. “People who wanted to buy him and people who wanted to breed their mares to him. A few years later, he sold for $1.5 million.”


In December 1981, the stallion sold to Winmunn Quarter Horses, Inc., Houston, Texas, and in December 1983, he sold to Mr. and Mrs. Louis A. Waters, Utopia, Texas, where he lived until his death in 1986 at the age of 13. He was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2004 and by 1981, 36 of his offspring entered the NCHA Futurity with four making the Finals, including Colonel Lil, ridden by Joe Heim to the Open Futurity Championship. He sired many greats and was a leading sire of sires in several disciplines, including being the sire of Nu Cash, winner of the 1987 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, and who, in turn, sired three NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity champions and was most recently inducted into the NRCHA Hall of Fame and Colonels Smokingun, aka “Gunner,” the 1996 NRHA Futurity Open Reserve Champion among other titles and is the sire of many reining champions.


Hightower and his wife, Peggy, were the parents of five children: Faron, Dan, Melissa, Margaret and Tina Marie, all involved with rodeo and horse shows as youth, but it was Faron who became a great cutting horse trainer and was inducted into the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame. Olan had earned close to $420,000 in his lifetime, which in those days was a lot of money; however, Faron has earnings of over $3.1 million.


His grandson, Hunter Hightower, at 16, was taking up the family ‘s love of cutting, capturing the Texas High School Rodeo Associations Boys Cutting finals in 2012. He is the son of Faron and Jody Hightower and currently has $10,625 in earnings and 393 youth points. His half-sister Hilary has over $10,700 in lifetime earnings and 291 youth points.


Facebook was filled with accolades from horsemen and women who had known him, worked with him, ridden horses he had trained, or had been helped by him. Joe Heim called him a “true horseman,” saying one of his fondest memories involved Colonel Freckles’ daughter Colonel Lil and his 1981 Futurity Championship. He confided in Joe that the mare was really pretty green. However, when the pair won, Olan was standing by the gate so he could be the first person to congratulate him. “That’s the kind of man he was and his kind gesture still means the world to me today. Olan had a deeper appreciation and respect for me than anyone else could have had that night because he knew all the hard work that had gone into getting the mare trained and ready for the Futurity in such a short time. I will never forget him standing there smiling with his hand out as I rode up.


“Yes, we’ve lost a great man and a fine horseman but we can count our blessings for having known him and the things he taught us!” continued Joe.


“There is a void in our world today but Olan has run his race and is sitting in the winner’s circle today in a far better place,” said a neighbor Joe Vara, Jr., who went on to say Olan was a ‘Godsend’ and his adopted dad. “I respected and loved him as such, well as most people did once they met him and his family.”


“Olan, you never ceased to amaze and always brought a smile along with your knowledge, skill, love of life, etc. Heaven received a heck of a cowboy, said Teri Lynne Waggoner-Rutherford.


Lisa Bankston, who ran the cutting pen at a lot of cutting events said, “I really enjoyed his company and friendship. He and Ms Peggy shared something special. My heart breaks for his family but I know Olan is rejoicing in heaven. I will always cherish this sweet man and his wonderful family.”


“Olan Hightower was a ‘throwback’ before there was such a thing as ‘throwbacks,” said NCHA Non-Pro World Champion Wayland Long. “I do not think I ever showed a cutting horse south of I-20 that, if he and Peggy were there, Olan did not turn back for me. Even past his prime, he could get more out of a horse and not lose that horse’s trust, than any person I have ever seen. A lot of us could get horses to “fire” back in the day Olan could do it better and have them more hooked to a cow when it happened. His horses had “reach” and lived outside a cow and stayed sound. Olan and Faron’s style is one of the reasons I do not cut today. Today just ain’t the same.
“Olan did not agree with some of what is happening in the horse business today and you could not argue with his logic. In the 80s, I was blessed beyond measure getting to know the family through my relationship with Faron. I have slept in their home, ate chicken-fried steak at their table and learned from a man that did not care about money, fame or fortune. He cared about people. God needed a horse trainer this past weekend and he got him one. Dox Tronalena pinned his ears when Olan crossed over. Olan will have him ‘fixed’ in an hour or two. God Speed Olan.”


I could go on and on telling Olan stories, but I would appreciate it if you would tell your Olan story in the comments section on this site. I’m sure there are many unheard ones out there.


A celebration of Olan Hightower will be held Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014 at 11 a.m. at the Waller county Fairgrounds in Hempstead, Texas. You can your condolences to his family at 3851 FM 1155 Chappell Hill, TX 77426 or call 979-836-1389.

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☛ Opinion piece on Dual Peppy Saga 11-1-14




A Personal Opinion Piece


By Rick Dennis
Oct. 31, 2014

Dual Peppy in his early years when he was standing at stud.

By now, I’m quite sure just about everybody who reads this news magazine or frequents the social media network is familiar with the continuous news broadcasts concerning Dual Peppy and the horse abuse case in Black Forrest, Colo. This particular incident is not just another case of alleged animal abuse but a highly publicized allegation of animal abuse reaching national and international proportions of support, with the audience demanding “Justice For Dual Peppy” as well as the other horses in the mix owned by Colorado Springs, Colo., residents Rick and Sherri Brunzell.


To summarize, this case is quite simple. Rick and Sherri Brunzell own the horses involved in this case and rent the barn where the horses were being kept. Sherri Brunzell was charged with animal cruelty by the El Paso County Sheriffs Office pursuant to a complaint of animal abuse being reported by a neighbor and a search warrant execution resulting in the discovery of fourteen dead and decomposed horses, including full skeletal remains, ten live but emaciated and starving horses and four lamas. All animals, dead and alive, were found residing in the same barn amid a mountain of dried manure.


Pursuant to the discovery and seizure of the living animals, portions of the skeletal remains, (i.e.) bones of the deceased horses, were collected by veterinarian Dr. Randy Parker, and forwarded to Colorado State University for clinical analysis to determine the age of the deceased and the cause of death with an emphasis being placed on the fat content of the bone marrow to determine whether or not malnutrition was a mitigating factor at the time of death.


Since I am a criminal investigator, experience has taught me that an individual can’t serve two masters. It has been reported that Dr. Parker, the veterinarian attending to the onsite forensic portion of the criminal investigation, worked not only for the Brunzells at one time but also for the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Division. My first thought to this association is that a defense attorney may identify or infer this relationship as a “Conflict of Interest,” especially in a criminal trial. In my opinion, it would have been better for Dr. Parker to recuse himself to exclude any and/or all hints of impropriety – whether any exists or not.  In law enforcement, criminal investigators refer to this as, “Does It Pass The Stink Test?


Since the discovery, the news media, as well as social media, has inundated the public with continuous news reports concerning these horses and lamas as well as the road to recovery for the live ones. Equally, there has been a lot of speculation concerning individual actions in this matter as well as what I challenge, in some instances, as legitimate claims of authenticity.  Actually, I have enjoyed the news releases and the heightened awareness these dedicated journalists have brought to the forefront of animal abuse.  Each and every one should be commended for their hard work and dedication to the cause!


For certain, one lingering rumor and fact that should be cleared up is, “Who contacted The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) concerning this matter. Well that ladies and gentleman is non-other than myself! I learned of the dire situation concerning these horses on Saturday and contacted the AQHA and the NCHA on Monday, requesting an immediate response and investigation into this matter. Mr. Ward Stutz, the AQHA Senior Director of Integrity and Education, and Mr. Jim Bret Campbell, Executive Director of the NCHA both deserve a standing ovation and round of applause for their immediate response.


The AQHA denied any and all privileges including registration-related transactions and participation in AQHA events. They also denied Brunzell access or presence on show grounds of AQHA-approved shows.



Am I familiar with Dual Peppy?  You bet!  I met Dual Peppy along with the other two Dual Pep brothers, Mister Dual Pep and Dually Pep, while learning the art of training and showing the reined cow horse at the legendary Ward Ranch, Tulare, Calif.  Do I know the Brunzells?  You bet.  I’m not only familiar with the sale of Dual Peppy to the Brunzells, but the horse’s breeding and showing career. To describe Dual Peppy in the cutting pen is akin to watching a bolt of lightning gliding across the arena on coiled muscles ready to catapult horse and rider to the next position but with the effortless grace of a ballerina. Above all, he’s an NCHA World Champion and a world class sire!


Dual Peppy is a kind and gentle horse with an eye as big as a golf ball and a heart as big as they come. Just like the other Dual Pep brothers, he was bred, raised, trained and shown by the legendary Hall of Fame reined cow horse “Master” and breeder Greg Ward. In fact, I had the prestigious honor of owning and showing Dual Train, the first foal out Dual Peppy. She is one of the last two horses trained by Greg Ward (the other is Reminics Pep). Both horses’ impressive show records are in the record books. I also had another horse in my training barn sired by this great stallion that I trained. Her name is Peppysvegashowgirl.


True to form, this horse also became a superstar, earning a fifth place in the National Standings of the AQHA in limited rider cow horse as a 4-year-old with Lucy Tetlow, her 65-year-old, first-time competitor aboard. This mare went on to be a money earner at the Stock Shows in reining, cutting and cow horse as well as a buckle earner with the National Stock Horse Association in California. All in all, Dual Peppy is a great horse and not deserving of the horrific blow he’s been dealt, as well as the other horses and the lamas entwined in this horrid event, or any abused animal for that matter.


Oct. 29 Hearing:

Today I was contacted by an individual in the area and was advised that a court hearing was conducted on the subject matter on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 that this individual attended whereby the following two relevant facts were brought out at the hearing:


No. (1) - Brunzell’s attorney filed a motion for a “Change of Venue”.


In simple terms this means an individual awaiting trial feels he or she cannot receive a fair trial due to the publicity of the case. I was told this motion was denied by the judge, and


No. (2) - Brunzell’s attorney requested a “Gag Order” to prevent the dissemination of information concerning the case, that was split down the middle by the Judge. He granted a “Gag Order,” or a non-release of information by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office but declined to institute a gag order on the news media.


As a former Drug Enforcement Special Agent with 16 years of criminal background experience as well as assisting in the successful prosecution of enumerable individuals, I didn’t find the first legal maneuver a big surprise.  However, I do find the second legal maneuver – the “Gag Order” – incredulous from one position in particular: “On one hand the defendant, by choice or other undisclosed circumstance, seemingly ignores one law – animal cruelty – by allowing animals in her ownership, custody, care and control to die or become emaciated and in the conditions they were found, but on the other hand, the defendant appeals to the law for self preservation.”


Ironies and Strange Twists:

Another irony in this case that hasn’t been revealed is why Rick Brunzell announces to the news media and the world that the horses in question belong to his wife and not him, yet his name is on the AQHA records of Dual Peppy Partners as a co-owner. To date, and to my knowledge, no criminal charge has been filed against him, even though he stated in the same news release that he helps his wife take care of the horses and resides with her on a daily basis.


The other strange twist to this case is that news reports have offered a variety of reasons for the condition the animals were found in. One of the reasons was the lack of availability of funds. However, on the other hand this individual can post a bond, hire a lawyer (unless appointed by the court) and pay the $5,400 per month for the care of the animals at the rehabilitation center while this matter is being adjudicated, which is required to win the animals back.


It seems to me the availability of funds may be looked at as a matter of convenience at this time in this case!  Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to use the funds for the care of these unfortunate animals in the first place?  My question is, “If a lack of funds were the case, why didn’t the Brunzells reach out to the 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in the area for feed assistance since this organization openly admits donating approximately 300 tons of hay to residents of Colorado to aid in the feeding of horses due to reasons of this type?”  Or better yet, instead of allowing horses to become emaciated, why didn’t the Brunzells find another viable solution of resolve, such as selling or donating the horses they supposedly couldn’t afford to feed or take care of!


Another excuse offered up dealt with both Brunzells being in poor health during this time period. Certainly medical records can substantiate or disprove this claim along with an affidavit from a physician. One of the best ones that I find the hardest to swallow is the one stating all of the horses died of colic. Since Brunzell has previously stated they self medicate, medical records to confirm or disprove this assertion should be nonexistent.


However, being a Professional Horseman as well as a criminal investigator, my experience tells me there are other ways to approach the subject, (i.e.) where are the receipts for the medical supplies used to treat the colic, such as Banamine, Rompun, mineral oil as well as the hose, bucket and pump to administer the oil directly into the gut to relieve the colic or impaction.  Further, where are the receipts for the syringes and medication to provide inoculations to prevent disease? Where are the receipts and equipment to draw and analyze blood for a Coggin’s test? These are all realistic examples of necessities for proper horse care and should be included on their IRS tax filings.


Another pertinent fact to be explored in this case pertains to the deplorable condition the horses’ hooves were found in. Certainly, if the Brunzells self medicate then perhaps they do their own farrier work as well, so my next question is, “Where are the receipts for the purchase of farrier equipment or the actual implements which are required to perform the necessary farrier work such as: stands, hoof knives, files and nippers?”  As horse owners, we all know a healthy hoof goes along with a healthy horse and as the old adage says, “No Hoof, No Horse.” Certainly a proper trimming is considered a vital aspect of proper horse care and ownership with the Brunzells! Again, these receipts should be included on their tax filings!


As a criminal investigator, my most important question as well as the required documentation to substantiate the next question is: “Where are the medical certifications or classes attended to provide the Brunzells with the medical knowledge and expertise to properly care for horses without using a qualified medical person or a qualified farrier. After all, most of us in the horse industry aren’t smart enough or qualified enough to perform these functions without the aid or assistance of a veterinarian or a farrier. That’s why responsible horse owners call them and use them, myself included.  For the record, these two individuals are not green horns to the industry but, by self admission, competent horseman ready to state their vast qualifications and professional knowledge to anyone who will listen and ask. Certainly, these two individuals with such knowledge would know how to properly care for a horse!


Final Analysis and Personal Opinions:

My final analysis and personal opinions of this case deals with the manner in which the El Paso Sheriff’s Office has dealt with this ordeal. On Monday morning following the discovery on the previous Friday, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman released a news response stating their mounted division decided the horses were not in immediate danger of dying, even though the photo plastered all over the internet revealed an emaciated Dual Peppy with his ribs and hip bones protruding through his skin which I would have scored about a 1.5 at best, so they were left in the care, custody and control of the Brunzells.


That same day, during the afternoon another news release came out informing the public that a search warrant had been executed, a veterinarian had been summoned and as a result of his findings the animals were being seized and transported to a rehabilitation center. If the proper definition of this type of behavior was sought in the dictionary would, “A Chinese Fire Drill,” be the appropriate choice?


My final question in this personal opinion piece is: “What transpired from morning to afternoon to create such a turn of events? Did public pressure sway their opinion or was it pressure from the right source?” Perhaps one day that question will be answered.


My final opinion in this matter is: “A mounted division law enforcement officer doesn’t have the qualifications to make such an astute decision unless that officer is a licensed and qualified medical practitioner aka veterinarian.” This irrational decision caused a three-day delay for those animals living in this “Hell Hole.” The proper decision would have been to summon a veterinarian on the same day of discovery!  However, the actions of the Sheriff’s Office might be rationalized since the Sheriff is reportedly being investigated by the FBI for allegations of impropriety and is MIA in Alaska!


I am told that it was announced at the Oct. 29 hearing that there would be an additional hearing on Dec. 17, 2014, to “adjust court sentencing.”


Dual Peppy when he was found among starving and dead horses.

In all of my years as a law enforcement officer and a drug enforcement special agent, I have seen a lot of cases that defy logic and I’ll just chalk this up as another one of them. For the life of me, I just can’t rationalize or justify this case or the manner in which the horses and lamas were found. However, it seems the right District Attorney is overseeing this one and hopefully “Justice For Dual Peppy” will be the final outcome in this matter, one way or another!


“Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridles!”

Richard E. “Rick” Dennis

Managing Member

Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500


Web Site:

Wind River Security, Consultation, & Risk Analysis

Wind River Drug, Alcohol, & DNA Testing

Wind River Ranch – Reined Cow Horse Breeding, Training, Exhibition, & Sales



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