2013 APHF Hall of Fame Inductees
1993 sorrel overo stallion | Colonelfourfreckle (QH) x Katie Gun (QH) | Bred by Eric Storey of Henagar, Alabama | Owned by McQuay Stables of Tioga, Texas
A diminutive splash overo stallion, Colonels Smokingun made a big impact on APHA and the world of reining. “Gunner” first made strides as a performance horse, winning the 1996 APHA World Show’s Reining Horse Futurity and named reserve champion at the National Reining Horse Association Futurity that same year. In addition to a 1997 Junior Reining world championship and several other NRHA accolades, Gunner won the reining championship at the 2001 United States Equestrian Team Festival of Champions. Cast as a Breyer model horse in 2001, he was inducted in the NRHA Hall of Fame in 2003.
But it was as a sire that Gunner truly left his mark. The sire of more than 700 Paints to date, Gunner’s foals have earned more than $5.8 million, primarily in reining, along with 23 APHA world and reserve world championships. His top performers include World Equestrian Games gold medalist Colonels Nite Special; WEG silver medalist Snow Gun; NRHA Futurity and Derby winner Gunnatrashya; NRHA Derby champion Tinker With Guns; and NRHA Futurity Champion Americasnextgunmodel, among a host of others. Last owned by McQuay Stables in Tioga, Texas, Gunner was euthanized in July 2013 due to complications from laminitis.
When it comes to racing industry impact, Walter Merrick is certainly at the top of the list. A former colt starter, rodeo competitor and ranch foreman, Walter decided to raise fast horses in 1936—it would prove to be a decision he wouldn’t regret. Walter’s influence spanned the Quarter Horse and Paint industries—an AQHA Hall of Fame Inductee, Walter’s stallions included Grey Badger II (QH), Three Bars (TB), Jet Smooth (QH) and Easy Jet (QH). In the 1950s, Walter began acquiring Paint mares, which would lay the foundation for his APHA impact.
Listed as the breeder of 84 Paints, Walter’s best-known stock include APHA Hall of Fame Inductee Indian Music; undefeated stakes winner Western Music; 1980 World Champion Running Horse Cherokee Indian; 1986 Champion Aged Horse Candy Caine; and 1983 Champion 2-Year-Old Easy Jet Too. Walter still ranks fifth on APHA’s lifetime breeders list for races won and is tied at No. 17 for number of winners by breeder. He received the inaugural Paul Harber Racing Distinguished Service award in 2005; Walter died in February 2006 at age 94.
1965 bay tobiano mare | Tonto Bars Hank (QH) x Soft Music | Bred and owned by Walter Merrick of Sayre, Oklahoma
A product of Walter Merrick’s legendary breeding program, it didn’t take long for Indian Music to prove she was a “blue hen” producer. Though she was bred to run, the well-muscled and well-conformed mare never hit the track. Instead, she founded a line of Paint runners whose names still echo in Paint pedigrees today.
The dam of 14—all but three of whom were by top Quarter Horse sire Easy Jet—Indian Music had nine foals race, and two more tried their luck in the show ring. The earners of a staggering $102,582 on the track, Indian Music’s most notable progeny include stakes winners Easy Rose, Easy Winner, Western Music and Jet Music; 1980 World Champion Running Horse Cherokee Indian; and 1983 Champion 2-Year-Old racehorse Easy Jet Too. The first Paint stallion to sire earners of more than $1 million, Easy Jet Too is still ranked fifth on APHA’s Lifetime Leading Sires of Money-Earners chart. Many of Indian Music’s foals contributed as top breeding horses as well. Indian Music died in the fall of 1987.
A dedicated cattleman, Virdin Royse found his true calling as a Paint Horse breeder. His wife, Renna, purchased the family’s first Paint, Sugarfoot R, in 1965. When Renna decided she wanted to breed horses too, Virdin agreed with one stipulation: they had to be race-bred Paints.
The savvy horseman purchased several horses from Walter Merrick to jumpstart his program, but it was a handshake deal with Walter for half-interest in Easy Jet Too that truly put Virdin on the map. Surpassing expectations in the track and in the breeding shed, Easy Jet Too was the 1983 Champion 2-Year-Old and was the first Paint to sire earners in excess of $1 million.
Through his Royse R Ranch, Virdin bred more than 450 Paints over 25 years; he received the Master Breeder Award from Oklahoma State University in 1989. Involved with APHA for more than four decades, Virdin served on the Racing Committee for 21 years and was a national director for 17. He also helped develop the Pot O’Gold Futurity program. In 1999, Virdin was honored with APHA’s Distinguished Service Award. He died in February 2007 at age 83.
1961 chestnut tobiano mare | Skychief Bar (QH) x Jody Bar | Bred by Ralph Gardiner of Ashland, Kansas | Owned by Paul Harber of Neosho, Missouri
A convergence of influential stock horse and racing genetics, Sky Bar did not disappoint in her ability to make an impact on the Paint Horse breed. The double-bred Three Bars (TB) mare was out of Jody Bar, whose own genetics went back to top tobiano racehorses of the day Babette and Painted Joe. Both Babette and Painted Joe—along with owner Paul Harber—are APHA Hall of Fame inductees as well.
The dam of 10, Sky Bar’s influence was as a producer. Her first four foals—all tobianos, born from 1965 to 1969—proved to be her most successful; Powder Charge, Sky Top Bar and Million Heir won seven stakes races between them, while By Jingo was an APHA Champion in the show ring. All told, her foals earned almost $10,000 in APHA races. In 1968, Paul Harber proved his broodmare had what it took beyond the track too—sons Sky Top Bar and By Jingo brought home the 1968 reserve national championship in the Produce of Dam class for Sky Bar.
Fort Worth, Texas
Passionate about youth, education and horses, Ed Roberts left a far-reaching impact on the equine and Paint Horse industries. A Colorado schoolteacher for 11 years, Ed was eventually drawn back to the horse industry. Appointed as the Appaloosa Horse Club Youth Program Secretary in 1964, Ed was also a 4-H club leader and became involved with the National Horse and Pony Youth Activities Council.
Through the latter, Ed met APHA Executive Secretary Sam Ed Spence. The acquaintance proved fruitful, and when Sam resigned in 1975, he handed the association’s reins to Ed.
Serving as APHA’s executive secretary for nearly 27 years, Ed helped the association make strides in a number of areas. Focusing on Youth and recreational riding initiatives, developing a member newsletter and multi-judged shows, and hiring a team of capable employees helped the association grow from 5,000 members in 1975 to nearly 100,000 in 2001. Under Ed’s guidance, APHA became the second-largest equine breed association in the world.
Though he retired in 2001, Ed remains dedicated to Paint Horses and the association; he lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Joy, and serves on the APHA Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Sky Top Bar
1967 bay tobiano stallion | Top Bracket (QH) x Sky Bar | Bred by Paul Harber of Neosho, Missouri | Owned by Ray Graves Jr. of Duncan, Oklahoma
There was just something special about the yearling bay tobiano. When Ray Graves drove up to Paul Harber’s barn to look at a pair of young stallion prospects, he knew Sky Top Bar was the one—and he wasn’t wrong about that.
Sky Top Bar’s steep $5,000 price tag proved money well spent; the royally bred colt was by the AAA-rated Top Bracket (QH) and out of Sky Bar, another APHA Hall of Famer. Following two second-place efforts in his maiden year, “Sky” racked up two victories in 1970, including a win in the Oklahoma Paint Horse Maturity.
But it was in the breeding shed that Sky truly made an impact. The sire of 189 foals, about half of Sky’s offspring hit the track or show ring with equal success. His foals earned $194,498 on the track—his top runners include Sky Jet, Sky Diver, Nordik Prince and Canadian Moon. In the show ring, Sky’s foals have also earned 11 national and world championship titles—one of his most notable progeny is Sky Bug Bingo, who earned Supreme Champion No. 27 in 1977. Sky was euthanized in December 1993 at age 26.
Ray Graves Jr.
As a teenager, Ray Graves decided he wanted to be a cowboy, and he never looked back. Though he first roped aboard Quarter Horses, it wasn’t long before Ray bought his first Paint Horse, a mare named Waheni for his wife, Delois. The duo found quick success, and Ray purchased his first stallion, Sky Top Bar, in 1968.
A longtime member of the APHA Board of Directors, Ray is well known for his Paint racing achievements. Founder of the Paint Stallion Breeders Association, Ray has served on the Racing Committee since 1968 years and was an Executive Committee member in 1979. With a training record of 144 wins, 129 seconds and 114 thirds, Ray ranks sixth on APHA’s Lifetime Leading Trainers list by races won and 24th by money earned; horses he’s trained include World Champion Running Horse Fair Look, Sky Top Bar and Last Date. Ray has also bred more than 100 Paints, including World Champion Running Horse Sky Jet and Champion titleholders Fever and Unchained. In 2011, Ray received the Paul Harber Racing Distinguished Service award. Ray remains active in APHA and still serves on the Racing Committee.
Though she had no direct background with horses, Wanda Williams certainly helped direct the course of APHA. Hired in 1963 as a part-time “pedigree painter” for the fledgling association, Wanda became a full-time employee in 1969. From registrations to rulebook revisions to correspondence with members, Wanda did just about every task APHA had to offer.
In 1975, Executive Secretary Ed Roberts handpicked Wanda as his administrative assistant, a position Wanda called her “dream job.” A self-described problem-solver, Wanda most enjoyed helping APHA members and she cultivated deep relationships with many of them.
In 1999, Wanda was named Honorary APHA Past President. Retiring from APHA in 2000, Wanda lives in Hurst, Texas, and is a member of the APHA Hall of Fame Selection Committee. She is pictured with her husband Tommy, who died in 2013.
Dixie’s War Drum
1969 bay tobiano stallion | Billy Bud x Dixie’s Doll | Bred by Atha M. Connely of Pahrump, Nevada | Owned by George Michael of Comus, Maryland.
When sisters Loretta and Norma Harl purchased a bay tobiano weanling colt in 1969, they had no idea they were setting into motion a line of top Paint pleasure performers.
Shown primarily in the fledgling West Coast Paint scene in the 1970s, Dixie’s War Drum earned five halter points and 37 performance points in six events, along with his Register of Merit in Western pleasure. But it was his reputation as a sire that helped “Drum” gain notoriety.
First bred as a 2-year-old, Drum soon proved his ability to sire winners: from that first crop came multiple national champion Chief’s Dexter; APHA Champion and Versatility titleholder Slick Chick Reed; and APHA Champion Drum’s Royal Arts. Known as a sire of Western pleasure performers, Drum also developed a reputation as a top sire of Youth and Amateur mounts.
From 107 to earn show records, Drum’s foals tallied 1,187 halter points, 9,894 performance points, 17 Champion titles, 11 Versatility awards, 14 national and reserve national championships, and one reserve world championship. Other notable performers include national champions Dirty Boogy, Dixie Valentine and Poco Sundance.