No Fences—Every Horse and Every Horseman has a Story
During their hunt for color, the Edneys found one of their greatest blessings.
By Mary Huddleston
Attending the Fort Worth Stock Show and taking in the Western lifestyle steeped into the worn brick roads of Cowtown leaves most visitors walking away with a few fond memories and a glimpse into a cowboy’s world. But for Kenneth and Sandra Edney of Gladewater, Texas, a trip to the Fort Worth Stock Show in 1991 changed their lives and the Paint Horse roping industry forever.
“[Pro Rodeo Cowboy] Neal Gay came riding out on a beautiful black-and-white Paint gelding,” Sandra recalled. “He was one of the prettiest horses we had seen. My husband and I decided then to start looking for a black-and-white Paint Horse to rope on.”
Months into a then–unsuccessful search for a magnificent black-and-white horse, the Edneys stumbled upon an ad in the Thrifty Nickel, a small paper featuring classified ads. No bigger than a postage stamp and without a picture included, the tiny blurb advertised their dreams: “For Sale – two registered black-and-white Paint yearlings.”
There in black-and-white newsprint, the ebony-and-ivory yearlings were calling the Edneys name, so the hopeful couple struck out for Omaha, Texas.
“We really liked both of the colts,” Kenneth said. “We asked the gentleman about their sire, and he showed him to us. When I saw him, I fell in love with him.”
The Edneys bought the two yearlings, but received a firm ‘no’ when they asked if they could also purchase the young, 3-year-old sire: Shots Flying Spark, a 1988 black tobiano stallion nicknamed “Sparky.” But Kenneth was not about to leave his dream horse behind.
“I haggled with that guy until 2 a.m.,” Kenneth said with a chuckle. “I just really wanted that horse.”
Love at first sight can make a man reach to unknown depths, but Kenneth’s long-winded negotiation skills made him and his wife the proud new owners of “Sparky.” The two yearlings were eventually sold and went on to earn accolades in the show pen, but Sparky never left. He was home.
Twenty-five years later, Kenneth and Sparky are household names in the roping community. Together, they even earned an APHA reserve world champion title in Amateur Breakaway Roping at the 1999 APHA World Championship show.
But it’s Sparky’s success as a sire that further exemplifies him as a once-in-a-lifetime horse for the Edneys. His progeny have achieved a whirlwind of buckles and other accomplishments throughout the country, including two APHA world championships and six APHA reserve world championships.
“I still have people calling me wanting to breed to him,” Kenneth said. “He is a homozygous tobiano; he has never sired a solid-colored foal.”
Throughout Sparky’s 25 years with the Edneys, he has been away from his owners a grand total of six months. As a youngster, he spent a few months in training with a close family friend, then a few more months at a barn where he was shown in APHA halter classes.
“He was at a halter facility in a town about 10 miles from us,” Sandra said. “We went over there every day to check on him. It broke our heart because whenever we went over there he was looking out the window. We decided then and there he would never go away from our place again.”
They stood true on their promise: Sparky never spent another night away from the Edneys watchful gaze in Gladewater, Texas.
Incredibly, Kenneth hauled his prized stallion 40 miles each-way to the vet clinic to be collected three times a week during breeding season. The hundreds of miles the two racked up was worth it to have Sparky in his stall by the time the sun went down. Treating his stallion like a teenage son with a strict curfew, Kenneth always made sure Sparky was home at night.
The couple had several opportunities to sell Sparky, but not even a six-figure check could replace their once-in-a-lifetime Paint roping champion.
“We really didn’t know at the time what his value was, but it came to the point where he was irreplaceable,” Sandra said. “As we continued to own him, he became family. You just don’t sell family, so he stayed with us.”
When Sparky became too valuable as a sire to continue to rope on, Kenneth made the tough decision to retire him to stud. To ease the loss of his longtime roping partner, he swung his leg over a favorite son of his stallion: Sparks Hired Wimpy. “Wimpy” won his share in the roping in pen and, in time, also won Kenneth’s heart.
One of Sandra’s fondest memories of Sparky is tinged with sadness. Three years ago, the Edneys had to make the tough decision to euthanize Wimpy, the gelding they bred and raised. Losing Wimpy all but crushed the family, but Sparky was there to carry some of the grief weighing them down.
“When we dropped Wimpy off at the vet hospital, we thought we’d be bringing him back home,” Sandra said. “Then we got the call he needed to be put down. My husband couldn’t stand to go down there, so I drove back to say goodbye to him. When I got back home, I went to the barn. Sparky had his head hanging over the stall gate, and he put his head on my shoulders. Wimpy stayed across from him; he knew.”
Kenneth and Sandra agree; acquiring the black-and-white tobiano 25 years ago has been one of the greatest blessings in their lives. Anyone from a small child to a professional can handle him, and he especially loves a scratch on the nostrils. Sparky was the real-deal in the roping pen and is a true gentleman on the ground, Sandra says.
Now, 29 years old, Sparky’s ebony coat still glistens in the morning sun when he is turned out, and he still plays and eats like the 3-year-old with whom Kenneth first fell in love. The Edneys always said they would never stand another stud when Sparky finished breeding, and they’ve held to that promise. Sparky is done now, so they are done as well.
“He was a rare jewel that we came across by way of the Thrifty Nickel,” Sandra said. “He has been more than good to us. God blessed us that day we went to Omaha, Texas.”
The Edneys stayed committed and kept their promises to Sparky giving the stallion a retirement worth celebrating, and like great horses do, Sparky returned the favor. He made their dream of owning a picturesque black-and-white Paint, like the gelding Neal Gay was riding in the Stockyards in 1991, come true.
“There will never be another one like him,” Kenneth said. “Owning him has been a gift from God.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.