Animal Advocacy Horse Athletics Past Articles

Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission

Oklahoma-Breeding Development Program


What is the Oklahoma Breeding and Development Fund Special Account?

The OBDFSA is an incentive fund which increases income for Oklahoma horse racing and breeding enterprises. Purse supplements, stallion and broodmare awards are paid to owners and breeders of qualifying accredited Oklahoma-Bred horses through a system of restricted and open company races at Oklahoma racetracks. The OBDFSA is funded by unclaimed tickets, breakage and a percentage of the exotic handle. Payouts are based on the handle at each track and vary slightly according to the track and the racing breed. The Program was established by the Legislature in 1983 and, as is required by law, administered by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.


What is an accredited Oklahoma-Bred horse?


An accredited Oklahoma-Bred horse is one that is foaled in Oklahoma, is out of a permanently domiciled, accredited Oklahoma-Bred broodmare and is sired by an accredited Oklahoma-Bred stallion. Additionally, in alternating years, foals by non-accredited stallions may be registered as accredited Oklahoma-Bred, providing all other requirements are met (refer to Chapter 75, Oklahoma-Bred Rules). More than 100,000 horses have been registered as accredited Oklahoma-Bred racing stock, broodmares, and stallions through December 31, 2017. Please refer to Chapter 75, Oklahoma-Bred Program, in the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission Rules of Racing or contact the OHRC home office at (405) 943-6472.


What opportunities are there to earn Oklahoma-Bred money?


Each Commission-licensed racetrack in Oklahoma is required to offer as race conditions no less than two Oklahoma-Bred restricted races per day. In addition, tracks offer Oklahoma-Bred money in open company races on an “if eligible” basis when funds allow, and each track offers at least two stakes races restricted to accredited Oklahoma-Bred horses. Some open stakes races offer Oklahoma-Bred purse supplements if eligible. Each time an accredited Oklahoma-Bred earns a purse supplement, the breeder and stallion owner earn Oklahoma-Bred awards.


How much can an accredited Oklahoma-Bred earn?

As much as $7 million has been paid in one year to owners, breeders and stallion owners of accredited Oklahoma-Bred horses. Oklahoma state law provides for the incentive funds and prescribes the purposes for which the money will be paid out by the Commission. For complete information regarding Program rules and requirements please refer to Chapter 75, Oklahoma-Bred Program, in the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission Rules of Racing or contact the OHRC home office at (405) 943-6472.


DID YOU KNOW?

That beginning in July 1999 by statute all registration fees collected from accredited Oklahoma-Bred horses is deposited to the Oklahoma Breeding Development Fund Special Account instead of to the State of Oklahoma General Revenue Fund. That on November 16, 2000 the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission approved the transfer of funds from registration fees collected to be used as additional Oklahoma-Bred purse supplements at all Commission licensed racetracks.

Oklahoma Bred Program Registration Fee Schedule


QUARTER HORSE, PAINT, OR APPALOOSA
Stallion
By February 1 of breeding year$100
After February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year (not retroactive)$200
Reaccreditation by February 1 of breeding year$100
Reaccreditation after February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year$200
Hardship reaccreditation$200 + Application Fee
Broodmare
By December 31 of year prior to foaling$35
After December 31 but prior to foaling$70
Hardship (mares registered as racing stock but not transferred to broodmare)$200 + Application Fee
Reaccreditation by December 31 of year prior to foaling$35
Reaccreditation after December 31 but prior to foaling$70
Hardship reaccreditation by December 31 of year prior to foaling$200 + Application Fee
Hardship reaccreditation after December 31 but prior to foaling$200 + Application Fee
Racing Stock
By December 31 in year of birth$25
By June 1 of yearling year$50
After June 1 of yearling year through December 31 of three-year-old year$500
After December 31 of three-year-old year$1,000
Any Ownership Transfer $25
DUAL BREED
Stallion
By February 1 of breeding year$150
After February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year (not retroactive)$300
Reaccreditation by February 1 of breeding year$150
Reaccreditation after February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year$300
Broodmare
By December 31 of year prior to foaling$60
After December 31 but prior to foaling$120
Hardship (mares registered as racing stock but not transferred to broodmare)$200 + Application Fee
Reaccreditation by December 31 of year prior to foaling$60
Reaccreditation after December 31 but prior to foaling$120
Racing Stock
By December 31 in year of birth$40
By June 1 of yearling year$80
After June 1 of yearling year through December 31 of three-year-old year$750
After December 31 of three-year-old year$1,500
Any Ownership Transfer $25
THOROUGHBRED
Stallion
By February 1 of breeding year$225
After February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year (not retroactive)$400
Reaccreditation by February 1 of breeding year$225
Reaccreditation after February 1 and by June 30 of breeding year (not retroactive)$400
Recertification by February 1 of breeding year$25
Recertification after February 1 but before June 30 of breeding year$50
Recertification after June 30 but before December 31 of breeding year$250
Hardship reaccreditation$200 + Application Fee
Hardship recertification prior to the stallions foals becoming a yearling$500
Hardship recertification prior to the foals two-year-old year$1,000
Broodmare
By December 31 of year prior to foaling$75
After December 31 but prior to foaling$150
Hardship (mares registered as racing stock but not transferred to broodmare)$200 + Application Fee
Reaccreditation by December 31 of year prior to foaling$75
Reaccreditation after December 31 but prior to foaling$150
Hardship reaccreditation by December 31 of year prior to foaling$200 + Application Fee
Hardship reaccreditation after December 31 but prior to foaling$200 + Application Fee
Racing Stock
By December 31 in year of birth$50
By December 31 in yearling year$150
By December 31 of two-year-old year$450
By December 31 of three-year-old year$750
After December 31 of three-year-old year$1,000
Any Ownership Transfer $25

For more information or application forms please contact:

Visit our Forms section


For more information please contact:

Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission
Oklahoma-Bred Program Registering Agency
2800 N Lincoln Blvd Suite 220
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK 73105
PHONE: (405) 943-6472
FAX: (405) 943-6474

OR

Racing Secretary
Remington Park
One Remington Place
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73111
(405) 424-1000

OHRC HOME PAGELICENSINGOK-BRED PROGRAM
RACE TRACKSINFORMATIONORGANIZATIONS
FORMSRULES OF RACING and RACETRACK GAMINGOS TITLE 3A
CONTACT USRACE DATESMEETING NOTICE
PUBLIC DATANECROPSY ANNUAL REPORTSCURRENT AGENDA
COMMISSION MEETING MINUTESHorsemen’s Directives
Horse Athletics Past Articles

Signed! Tulsa Girl to Equestrian Team

You might remember the inspiring story of Lily Rhodes who was featured with her horse Charlie in our July/August 2018 issue. A dressage rider, 14-year-old Lily lost her right arm in an ATV accident. While in the emergency room, she commented that she would now have to ride Western since she only had one hand. As fate would have it, the surgeon, also a dressage rider, said, “Over my dead body.”

          The article detailed how Charlie helped her recover from the accident, and the pair has been winning ribbons and awards ever since.

          Fast forward to 2019: Lily graduated from Bishop Kelley this month and is headed to the University of Lynchburg in Virginia where she has been signed to the equestrian team. For now, Charlie is staying in Tulsa.

          Congratulations, Lily! You are truly an inspiration.

Horse Athletics

WDAA World Championships

Western Dressage Association of America

World Championships

By Doris Degner-Foster

Where else but Oklahoma can you be awarded a silver belt buckle for winning a dressage class? But you don’t have to be in Oklahoma to win a belt buckle in the fast growing sport of Western Dressage.

            “The atmosphere at our show is like no other,” said Western Dressage Association of America President Cindy Butler of Caseyville, Illinois. “Riders do their best but cheer for their competition. They come with positive attitudes and great stories about their journeys to the World Show.”

            And many of the over 200 competitors indeed made a journey to get to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. They came from 32 different states, from as far as west as Washington and as far east as Vermont, with two coming from Canada. Forty different breeds and even a mule competed in 870 rides over the four days of Sept. 27-30, 2018. Live simulcasts were available via the Total Horse Channel during the four days of classes in four rings, which ranged from Equitation and Suitability to the higher level of Western Dressage Level 4.

            Of the unique equines that competed, many of them are in their 20s and have retired from their first careers, finding success and longevity in Western Dressage. Some have been rescued from kill pens, and there were even previously wild Mustangs competing. Riders, too, have come from all riding disciplines to Western Dressage.

            Trainer Laurie Hedlund from Tulsa, Oklahoma, studied Classical Dressage and is a bronze and silver medalist with the United States Dressage Federation. She is a USDF 4th Level Certified Trainer/ Instructor and an L-rated judge with distinction in the United States Dressage Federation. Laurie is also a Western Dressage Association of America Train the Trainer Graduate, but she was at first hesitant about jumping right into Western Dressage. “Initially, I stood back and watched how it all evolved,” Laurie said. “When I saw they were striving to base things on the USDF training scale and were also working to train their judges according to USDF standards, that is when I got involved.” 

            Laurie explained that some of her Western Dressage clients are older students who can’t quite sit the big warmblood trot anymore that is necessary in classical dressage and feel more comfortable in a Western saddle. “It has become a second career for a lot of horses and people,” Laurie said. “Many have hit a wall in their careers with other disciplines such as barrel racing or reining, and they don’t want to do that anymore. But they still want to show and get more educated.”

            The Musical Freestyle classes were popular with spectators on Friday and Saturday evening, where riders wore various costumes. Laurie rode to the music of Patsy Cline while wearing a copy of one of the singer’s costumes, and her student Robert Hayes rode a musical ride to the rousing music of the movie “Stripes,” wearing military camouflage with his horse wearing a camouflage sheet and large “dog tag” to complete the picture. 

            Holly Fisher, who is a newcomer to Western Dressage, rode her Quarter Horse gelding “Buck,” winning the Intro 4 class and placing 5th in equitation. She also served as an escort with a calming presence to “Lyka,” ridden by Laurie Hedlund, during the walk to the main arena from the distant stabling area. “The best way to watch Musical Freestyles is while mounted on your sweet horse,” Holly said. “Buck and I studied Lyka’s dancing intently, and Buck says he is ready to dance and he likes music with ‘Stringy Sounds.’ 

            “Western Dressage makes Classical Dressage more approachable and accessible for riders from many other disciplines,” Holly said. “People who have spent a lifetime riding in a certain way are now opening themselves to Horse First concepts as exemplified in Classical Dressage. What a great way to make the world a better place.”

            The rules of Western Dressage are relaxed and friendly to encourage all interested riders to give the new discipline a try. “Methodically moving through Western Dressage levels allows any horse and any rider to grow and subsequently become a better team,” said Butler. “One problem maneuver such as a missed lead doesn’t necessarily toss a competitor to the bottom of a class if the rest of the test goes well. Each maneuver is a new start.

            “Western Dressage is a refreshing new way to compete against your own best performance as you and your horse learn. You set your own pace, move forward a step at a time and accomplish what you never dreamed you could.”

Horse Athletics Past Articles

LG Legacy Project

The LG Legacy Project

‘Three competitive and experienced youth, three young race horses, three successful race horse ranches, three mentors who are renowned trainers in their field and seven months to retrain a young race horse in its future career as a barrel racing futurity competitor.’

By Misti Quiring

Some may be content with their legacy defining them as a wealthy, great champion, while others understand there is more to life and more to their legacy than the championships and status quo they’ve earned. With 26 world championships under his belt, career earnings surpassing the $2 million mark and a name known synonymously with barrel racing worldwide, one might ask what’s next for Lance Graves. Through the LG Legacy Project, Lance has decided that his Legacy will lie somewhere amidst his determination to rekindle a dying partnership between two equine disciplines, educating and mentoring the next generation of champions and giving off-the-track racehorses a chance at a better life through a new career.

            When asked about his vision for the project, Lance replied: “My goal is to take young people who ride well and teach those children how to start from the ground up, not from an unbroken weanling but from an unstarted competition horse. Additionally, I have ridden off the track horses my entire career, and the industry has started to stray from that a little bit, riding cow-horses and such. So I thought what better way for me to try to bring race horses and the fight for second career animals into the limelight than to make them part of the program.”

            The concept of the project is rich but simple: three competitive and experienced youth, three young race horses, three successful race horse ranches, three mentors who are renowned trainers in their field and seven months to retrain a young race horse in its future career as a barrel racing futurity competitor.

            Creating a “Barrel Horse Training College” is no easy task, and much like any traditional schooling, there is often more than one instructor. So Lance enlisted the help of two successful industry veterans—cowgirl Liana Deweese of Claremore, Oklahoma, and Okemah, Oklahoma’s Mark Bugni— to be influential in creating a well-rounded program for the young trainers-to-be.

            “I’ve known Liana Deweese since I was little; she has had a lifetime of experience with horses, from cow horses to barrel horses, and has probably covered as many disciplines as any ranch-raised girl that you’ll meet. Liana comes from a big ranching family that was passed down maternally from the mothers to the daughters, which is unique.

            “She’s worked a lifetime alongside men as if there were no difference, and I have extreme respect for that and for what she’s accomplished. I appreciate the way she speaks to my girls and that she believes a building cannot be built on soft ground but must be built on a solid foundation. Those are the buildings that stand for a lifetime, and horses need to be trained in a similar manner if you expect them to compete for a lifetime,” said Graves about the multiple NIRA regional champion, Futurity Champion, WPRA money earner and Circuit Finalist.

            As with any process, there are oftentimes strategic steps to success. The other mentor, multiple barrel racing futurity champion, LG Pro Classic slot race champion and BFA Super Stakes Champion Mark Bugni, exemplifies how working hard and following those steps can take a competitor all the way to the top. “Mark worked diligently to become a horse trainer for a living and to reach his goals; he did it methodically, and it took him awhile to become the level of competitor that he now is. He did it step-by-step, which I respect, and I think that for young people, he is the perfect example of the ideation: if you focus and work hard, you can get where you want to go,” Graves said.  

            Three Oklahoma-based race horse ranches stepped up to the plate willingly and eagerly when Lance asked them to be a part of the program. “I didn’t have a list of ranches and people that I went through hoping somebody would pitch in. The first three people that I asked agreed immediately, which were three farms that I completely respect. I found that to be the most satisfying part of the whole process” said Graves. Pauls Valley, Oklahoma-based Diamond R Ranch supplied a 4-year-old bay gelding named Vixen’s Ivory Hero (Ivory James x Valiant Red Vixen (Valiant Hero)). Darling Farms of Lamont, Oklahoma, supplied a 3-year-old bay gelding: DF Coronas Got Cash (Corona Cartel x Chicks Got Cash (Feature Mr. Jess)). Reliance Ranches of Guthrie, Oklahoma, supplied a 4-year-old bay gelding named Closing Odds (Carters Cartel x A Regal Choice (First Down Dash)). All three prospects fit the criteria Lance had envisioned, and the program was off and running!

            With the mentors and horses selected and ready to go, the next step in the program was to select the youth trainers. “Being the first year, I chose three young people that I knew had the ethical background and the personal fortitude and desire to do what it takes for this particular process” said Graves. Twelve-year-old Sydney Hollingsworth competes in multiple events within rodeo and was the OKJHSRA Border Bash Champion, Barrel Bash open 1D Champion and was in the top three of the 1D at the BBR World Finals youth race. “Sydney comes from a very strong and ethical cowboy family but also from a family that understands business and hard work,” said Graves. Jaycie Johnson, also 12 years old, competes in multiple events within rodeo and has won money at the Sherry Cervi barrel race in California and at several junior rodeos. “Jaycie comes from a different kind of background; they’re ropers and cowboys. She breaks ponies, and that’s how she makes her extra money during the summer,” Graves said. Thirteen-year-old Macie Graves, daughter of Lance Graves, is an AQHA Red Bud Classic barrel racing champion, OJRA finals champion and reserve champion and is currently qualified for the senior barrels at the AQHA World Show. All of the girls are exemplary students at their schools and are highly involved in extracurricular activities as well.

            The girls were paired with their horses on July 3, 2018; Macie Graves with DF Coronas Got Cash, Sydney Hollingsworth with Vixens Ivory Hero, and Jaycie Johnson with Closing Odds. The girls have been working diligently with their revolving mentors to train and season their prospects. At the start of October, they all have built a foundation on their mounts and have started them on the pattern. The youth trainers will compete at the LG International Championship Barrel Race at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Feb. 13-17; after the competition, the horses will be entered into the auction. Proceeds from the horses at the auction will be split between the owner ranches and the youth trainers. The vision is for the youth trainers to utilize their portion of the proceeds toward a college education             The future of the LG Legacy Project is looking bright. Next year’s application process will be modified and press releases will go out on the Facebook page and website in December, explaining the changes and the new application process. “My vision is that Liana, Mark and myself will remain as the three main mentors in future years, but we will bring in guest mentors,” said Graves. When asked about broadcasting the LG Legacy Project on additional media outlets, Graves replied, “I’ve had a lot of interest from different media groups, and I am currently working on different television aspects of this project.” For updates, follow along on Facebook @LGLegacyProject

Horse Athletics Past Articles

Fox Hunting in Oklahoma

Fox Hunting in Oklahoma, Past and Present

By Doris Degner-Foster

On Sept. 29, I joined Jayne Detton, assistant director of the Marland Mansions, in delivering a presentation on fox hunting at Marland’s Grand Home in Ponca City. Jayne first spoke of E.W. Marland’s history and his hunt before I spoke about hunting in Oklahoma. As a charter member of Harvard Fox Hounds of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I was dressed in our hunt club’s formal hunting attire and brought my saddle and other accoutrements of the hunt for visual aids. The following is my presentation where I explained the history of the sport, which dates back to ancient Egyptian times, and the state of hunting today in the U.S. and England.

            When thinking of hunting with hounds in Oklahoma, it’s easy to picture hunting with Coon Hounds, like in the movie filmed in Oklahoma, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” but not necessarily English style fox hunting. Also, since foxes are not plentiful in the rocky plains of Osage County in Oklahoma, it doesn’t seem to be the likely site for a fox hunt.

            But former Oklahoma Governor and oilman Ernest Whitworth Marland changed all that and many other things when he came to Oklahoma in the early 1900s. He struck oil and became extremely wealthy and spread his wealth to his employees, providing higher wages than the norm and other benefits such as healthcare—unheard of in the 1920s—for his employees. The town of Ponca City, on the line of Osage and Kay Counties in Oklahoma, where his home and business was located, also flourished with his philanthropy.

            Among the things Marland sponsored were polo and fox hunting for his employees and neighbors in Ponca City. Marland bred and refined his hounds to be able to run faster after the agile foxes on the flatter Osage County plains. He even sent some of his hounds to Ft. Sill’s Artillery Hunt further south as Army officers there were putting together their own hunt in 1928. Fixture cards for the locations of Marland’s scheduled hunts indicated that all were welcome, and farmers on whose land the hunts crossed were very accommodating of the hunt club, placing wood panels over their barbed wire fences so the riders could jump across.

            To build his pack of hounds, Marland imported foxhounds from Kentucky and foxes from Pennsylvania, breeding the red foxes to provide quarry for the chase. Before each hunt, a fox was released for the hounds and group of riders to give chase, and the ones that got away have thrived in Ponca City. Residents delight in their sightings of various families of foxes to this day.

History and Controversy

The practice of using dogs with a keen sense of smell to track prey has been traced back to ancient Egypt and many Greek and Roman-influenced countries. However, it is believed that the custom for a fox to be tracked, chased and often killed by trained hunting hounds began from a farmer’s attempt to catch a fox using farm dogs in 1534.

            Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax in 1747 in England, has been credited with organizing a hunt for a group. Lord Fairfax’s family lived in the beautiful Leeds Castle, and participants were of the titled elite, setting a precedent for clashes between the classes in England.

            Today’s English horsemen consider hunting to be a part of rural culture and pest control as well as having a part in conservation, while opponents say that it is cruel and unnecessary. In February 2005, a law banning fox hunting in England and Wales came into effect, but many hunts are still active in England, using a scent trail dragged on the ground for the hounds to trail and chase.

            According to the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, Englishman and eventual Governor of Maryland Robert Brooke was the first to import hunting hounds to America, bringing his pack of foxhounds to Maryland in 1650 along with his horses. Also around this time, numbers of European red foxes were introduced into the Eastern seaboard of North America specifically for hunting. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both kept packs of fox hounds and hunted before and after the Revolutionary War.

Today’s Oklahoma Hunt

For Harvard Fox Hounds hunt club in Tulsa, chasing is a more accurate description of the activity, since we rarely catch foxes or coyotes on the Delaware County location where we hunt. Coyotes are plentiful on Oklahoma cattle ranches, and I have actually seen one at a large cattle ranch leave the cover of brush and trot up the hill to sit down and watch. When the hounds found his line of scent, he waited until the pack organized itself and came toward him before he casually ran to safety, leaving the pack in the dust.

            For 22 years, the Harvard Fox Hounds hunt club has held Opening Hunt—the first formal hunt of the year—where the traditional Blessing of the Hounds by a member of the clergy is performed. Prayers are offered for the riders, the hounds and the quarry, with thanks for the privilege of being among nature and God’s creatures.

            As a charter member of the hunt, I have attended every Opening Hunt, sometimes acting as Field Master where I led the group of riders in the chase. I remember riding my Thoroughbred who understood the hunting procedures so well that when the hounds would find the scent and bay, or “sing out,” he would listen with head up and nostrils flared. I could see the effects of his heart pounding with excitement as his mane moved with each heartbeat while he waited obediently for my signal to join the chase. The thrill of sailing over the jumps at full gallop and my whoop of joy piercing the cool, morning air is something I will always remember—even when I am 102 and driving ponies in my little cart.

            At each Opening Hunt the story of St. Hubert is told, and the story never grows old in the telling. St. Hubert was born about 656, the son of the Duke of Aquitaine, in France. In his grief after his wife died in childbirth, Hubert retreated to the outdoors and the hunt. On Good Friday, Hubert was hunting instead of attending church and had a vision of a cross in the horns of a stag. Hubert made a religious conversion and later became a bishop in the Catholic Church. Hubert also taught fair hunting practices and conservation. The legacy of Hubert’s philosophies are still taught and held in high regard in the extensive and rigorous German and Austrian hunter education courses.

            His philosophy has been adopted as the fox hunter’s: to be a good steward of the land and of the animals involved in the hunt, which are our horses and hounds as well as the quarry we chase.

            New members at Harvard Fox Hounds are presented with a St. Hubert’s medal—which we wear on the pins we use to hold our traditional neck wear called stock ties—as protection when hunting and riding, although some are initially concerned to see that the back side of the medal says: “Pray for Us,” like all saints’ medals. All of that trepidation is forgotten at the Hunt Breakfast after the hunt, when toasts are made and plates are piled high as we relive the excitement of the day.

Doris Degner-Foster rides with Harvard Fox Hounds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when she is not interviewing interesting individuals in the horse sport. Soon to be available is her middle-grade mystery series where teens ride horses and solve mysteries. She is also working on a murder mystery novel where a horse strangely appears in different people’s lives to help them through crises.

Horse Athletics Horse General Interest Past Articles

Beyond the Team

Beyond the OSU Football Team: What Goes Into Game Day

By Derinda Blakeney, APR

We all know there would be no football program at Oklahoma State University without OSU’s talented coaches and players who make up the OSU football team. However, there are many things beyond the team itself that help make each home game a special experience for attendees. There is the extremely gifted band performing in the stands and on the field during halftime. There are the dedicated cheerleaders and pep squads, the fans and our famous mascot, Pistol Pete. And there is one more thing—the thunder of hooves racing around the stadium as Bullet and a Spirit Rider celebrate each touchdown. 

                A Spirit Rider has been celebrating OSU Cowboy touchdowns at home football games since 1984. In 1988, OSU bought its own black horse, and the name Bullet was chosen. (See our September/October issue for a full feature article on Bullet and the Spirit Rider program.)

                Oklahoma State’s own Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has provided Bullet’s veterinary medical care for years. In 2005, OSU took that care to a new level when Dr. Lyndi Gilliam began accompanying Bullet to every home game.

                “It’s important to OSU to keep Bullet safe at all times,” explained Dr. Gilliam, equine medicine specialist at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital. “By being with Bullet at home games, I can attend to his needs should he get hurt. It takes a very special horse like Bullet to perform in a game day environment.  Things at a football game are never predictable, and it is easy to forget a horse is involved. Although he is an exceptional animal, one mistimed or wrong move and we could have an emergency on our hands.  I’m just there as a precaution, a safety net. I work closely with Ty and Jennifer Cunningham, Bullet’s caretakers, to make sure that Bullet is as happy and safe as possible.

                “In reality, Bullet is also an athlete.  He needs to be in top shape to perform at his best. At OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital, we make sure Bullet gets the proper wellness care to keep him healthy. He is on a routine vaccination and parasite control program and is fed top quality Purina© feed.  He receives a pre-season exam from head to tail by our board certified specialists to make sure he is sound for the upcoming season. From equine internal medicine and surgery to sports medicine and rehabilitation, we have specialists trained in the latest techniques to take care of Bullet should he have any health problems.”   

                One of those specialists is Dr. Mike Schoonover. He is a board certified equine surgeon and a board certified specialist in sports medicine and rehabilitation. In the same way orthopedic specialists look over the football players, Dr. Schoonover evaluates Bullet from an orthopedic standpoint.

                “If I ever have a concern about Bullet’s ability to perform on the field from a soundness standpoint, our surgery and sports medicine specialists will perform an in-depth evaluation,” said Gilliam. “These evaluations may include anything from lameness evaluation to diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs or ultrasound. The Veterinary Medical Hospital’s equine medicine and surgery service also provides regenerative therapies as well. We have the ability to utilize many preventative and treatment modalities to keep Bullet sound and comfortable.”

                “We’ve worked together for years,” stated Schoonover. “Having experts in multiple specialties is a wonderful asset that the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences offers horse owners in Oklahoma.” 

                “We always hope that Bullet won’t need our care during a football game, but it’s a comfort knowing we have such a highly specialized team right here on campus ready with the latest techniques and products in equine veterinary care should the need arise,” added Gilliam. “Game day would not be the same without Bullet, and we take great pride in ensuring that we do our job to make sure fans can hear ‘Heeere comes Bullet!’ at every home game.” 

                For more information on OSU’s equine veterinary care, call (405) 744-7000, ext. 2.

Horse Athletics

MR. EYE OPENER

THE LIFE OF A LEGEND: MR. EYE OPENER

By Misti R Quiring

“My favorite memory is simply the time Mr. Eye Opener gave us,” said Betty Raper. Although owned by the Dale and Billie Smith family of Tulsa, Oklahoma, MEO stood at Belle Mere Farm under the watchful eye of Dee and Betty Raper his entire stud career, stretching 24 wonderful years from 1994 to his passing in 2018.

Mr. Eye Opener was bred and raised by Joe Fulton and was purchased at the Ruidoso sale as a yearling by the AQHA Hall Of Fame trainer Jack Brooks, aka “Mr. All American,” for the Dale Smith family.

MEO went into training with Jack, and throughout his stellar 2-year-old year being rode to countless victories under AQHA Hall of Fame jockey, the late Jacky Martin, he was affectionately dubbed “Popeye.” On March 4, 1992, at Sunland Park, MEO broke his maiden in his first race. During his 2-year-old year, MEO was entered into 10 races, running in the money 100 percent of the time. He finished the season winning seven, running second in one and third in two, and setting a new track record in the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity, running 300 yards in 16.450 seconds. He had a good 3-year-old season as well, and, when it came to a close, he was retired from racing and came to stand at Belle Mere Farm.

In total, Mr. Eye Opener earned $202,978 in 15 total races, running in the money 14 out of 15 of those races. His racing legacy included winning the G1 West Texas Futurity and G1 Speed Horse Gold and Silver Cup Futurity, running second in the G1 Rainbow Futurity and running third in the G1 Kansas Futurity.  

Famous Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” Little did anyone know that the end of Mr. Eye Opener’s prominent racing career would open a whole, new kind of sovereignty in the breeding shed.     

The peak of his siring career was reached when one of his colts, named Eyesa Special (Mr. Eye Opener X Miss O Toole by Special Effort), won the coveted $1 Million Dollar All American Futurity. Eyesa Special didn’t just win the All American, he owned it, finishing two lengths ahead of the nearest competitor and setting a new world record for 2-year-olds, as well as a new stakes record at 440 yards in 21.097 seconds.

Betty spoke about how MEO’s siring prominence impacted their lives: “Financially speaking, Mr. Eye Opener made Belle Mere Farms what it is today. Him having sired an All American winner changed our whole lives. When Eyesa Special won the All American, we went from worrying about payroll to knowing we had more security. After the All American is run, everybody wants to breed to the sire of the winning horse because everyone in our industry’s goal in life is to win the All American.”

Mr. Eye Opener’s siring eminence didn’t end with producing an All American winner. MEO has consistently been ranked in the top 10 leading broodmare sires by money earned, his daughters producing 107 stakes winners. In 24 foal crops that have reached racing age, he has sired 941 winners, 222 stakes horses and four champions with earnings in excess of $28.1 million. Although producing race horses was MEO’s primary success, he has also made a huge impact as a producer of barrel, rope and steer wrestling horses, including two-time (2007 and 2009) AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year Rocks Eye Opener (aka Jessie), owned by Canadian cowboy Lee Graves!

When asked about any quirks MEO had, Betty replied that “he didn’t really have any, but you could almost set your clock by MEO’s routine. When we would turn him out and he was ready to come in, he would come to the gate and wait. If you didn’t pay attention to him, he would take his foot and paw at the gate to let you know he was ready.

“Recently, he started telling us his time was coming, just showing us small signs of his age. Normally, when we released him into the pasture, he would turn and head down to where the mares were. But lately, on cold days, he would just stay by the gate as if to say, ‘It’s too cold out here, put me back in my stall.’ We are not real big about turning horses out with blankets on, but if it was really cold, to make him more comfortable, we let him wear his during turnout and waited until a little later in the morning to turn him out.”

 On November 17,2018, in true Mr. Eye Opener fashion, in his own time and own place of choosing, he laid down in the stall he had happily occupied for 24 years and passed away peacefully.

It is rare and special to find a stallion that is (or was) a prolific performer and a versatile mega producer, but the Smiths and Rapers found just that in a young gray colt that became a legend, leaving his hoofprint and heartbeat on our industry for all eternity.

When asked what is the one trait you feel Mr. Eye Opener passes to his offspring most frequently, Betty says, “A big heart and a lot of willpower.” It was his heart and willpower that helped build the legacy of Belle Mere Farm that will forever go down in the history books. Belle Mere Farm will be inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in January 2019.

Thank you, Mr. Eye Opener, for all you’ve done for our industry; you will never be forgotten.