Valley horses shine in national spotlight |

Valley horses shine in national spotlight

Heidi Rice
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado – As soon as Rita Deer saw her new colt running around in the pasture shortly after he was born, she knew he was something special.

And as it turned out, she was right.

The colt was one of three horses born and raised in Carbondale who recently placed in national futurity competitions held in Oklahoma and Texas.

Rita and Mike Deer, who breed horses at their ranch in Carbondale, raised “Hollys Electric Spark” from their sire “Jacs Electric Spark” and dam “Dun It N Continental.”

“Hollys Electric Spark” – a 3-year-old quarterhorse stud – was selected out of more than 400 horses to compete in the National Reining Horse Futurity in Oklahoma in late November and early December 2010.

“He was then chosen as one of 30 to compete to the level one open,” Rita said proudly. “This horse made that cut – it was pretty awesome.”

Hollys Electric Spark went on to place 11th in the final round and won his owner and trainer $54,000.

Traditionally, the value of a horse is placed on the sire, but Rita said that way of thinking is changing and that mares are being given more credibility.

“It’s mare power,” Rita said with a laugh. “It’s not all about daddy anymore. We’re getting all kinds of calls [about Dun It N Continental] and we’re really happy about it.”

The Deers sold Hollys Electric Spark for the first time when she was almost two years old. She now has a second owner and is currently residing in Europe.

Reining is a western form of riding – and one of the fastest-growing disciplines in the world – and a showcase at the NRHA Futurity. The show is one of the most elite reining events in the world with 4,000 participants competing for more than $2 million in cash and prizes. In reining, the rider guides the horse through a precise pattern of circles, spins and stops. All work is done at a lope (a slow, relaxed gait). The horse is judged on its ability to perform a set pattern of movements and should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance.

“Reining is now becoming worldwide with the World Equestrian Games, which could be the precursor to participating in the Winter Olympic Games,” Rita said.

Five miles down the road from the Deers is the Skyline Ranch, which also had a horse in the finals at the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma.

Peeko Macho Del Cielo, sired by Gallo Del Cielo and mare Peek A Boot, was born and raised in Carbondale at the Skyline Ranch and placed 20th in the finals, according to Darlyne Woodward, owner of the Skyline Ranch. The horse is owned by Jennifer Deweese and won $20,000.

“It’s incredible the fact that we raise horses in Carbondale and they make the finals out of 600 horses,” Woodward said.

Not far away is the Iron Rose Ranch in Carbondale, Tom Bailey’s horse, “Smooth Peanutbutter,” took third in the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Open Division on Dec. 11 in Fort Worth, Texas and won $82,718.

Smooth Peanutbutter, a three-year-old filly, was bred by Dam “Justa Smart Peanut” – who was 2001 NCHA Horse of the Year and also owned by Iron Rose Ranch – and stallion “Smooth As A Cat” – owned by the Manion Ranch in Aubrey, Texas. The 1999 chestnut stallion was 2005 NCHA Horse of the year and is considered to be one of the top sires in the country, according to Quarter Horse News.

Smooth Peanutbutter was born at the Iron Rose Ranch in 2007.

“This is the largest cutting competition in the country,” said Angel Worthen, barn manager at Iron Rose Ranch. “Most three-year-olds go to training when they’re two and when they turn three, they focus on the cows and their talent really shows.”

In a cutting event, which is a western style of riding, the horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a cow away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time. The cow tries to return to the herd, but the rider loosens the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated. A contestant has 2.5 minutes to show the horse. Typically three cows are cut during a run, although working only two cows is acceptable.

According to Worthen, 95 percent of all cutting horse ranches are in Texas.

“There’s only a few around Colorado and the fact that we had a horse place third [in the finals] is huge,” she said. “It’s huge that these horses are from Carbondale and it’s huge that they were bred here. It puts us on the map in the quarterhorse industry.”

The Iron Rose Ranch breeds cutting specifically and once the foals reach two years old, they are sent to trainer Gary Gonsalves in Texas.

And with hundreds of horses competing for a place in these national competitions, it’s amazing that three of the finalists come right from Carbondale.

Rita Deer summed it all up.

“Don’t invest in the stock market – buy a horse in Carbondale.”

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