When Andrea Fappani won the 2020 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Open Level 4 Futurity on All Bettss Are Off (Gunner x Wimpys Little Chic), the historic $250,000 first place check catapulted legendary sire Gunner—registered as Colonels Smoking Gun—to the top spot of both the NRHA All-Time Leading Sire and 2020 NRHA Leading Sire lists. Seven years after his death, the NRHA Hall of Fame inductee’s move to over $12.6 million in sire earnings exemplifies total domination in the reining world.
It was twenty-four years ago when Gunner, then an unknown floppy-eared sorrel with a white tail, was guided into the Jim Norick Coliseum in Oklahoma City by NRHA Professional Clint Haverty to compete at the 1996 NRHA Futurity. By the time the go-rounds were over, he had grabbed everyone’s attention by claiming the Open L 4 Futurity Reserve title and the hearts of reining fans everywhere.
By Colonelfourfreckle and out of Katie Gun, Gunner’s excessive white spots kept him from registering with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). He was initially registered Colonels Smokingun with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). Bred by Eric Storey, Gunner was purchased by Pam and Paul Rohus, who took the colt to Haverty. With Haverty at the reins, he also won the Open Reining Futurity at the APHA World Championships. Gunner was then sold to Kim and Debra Sloan, and won another APHA World Championship, finished as Reserve Champion at the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), and won a gold medal for the United States Equestrian Team with the late Bryant Pace.
In a time before live-streamed video, it was easy to tell when Gunner was about to go. The stands would fill, a buzz would build, and the anticipation became palpable. The cheering started as he moved into sight–long before he ever reached the arena gate. Clint, in typical understated fashion, noted then, “They love Gunner, don’t they?”
He was right. Horsemen and horsewomen everywhere loved Gunner and they exalted in the charisma and excitement he brought to the show pen. All totaled, Gunner earned $173,000 and was immortalized as a Breyer model horse in the early 2000s, but that was only a small part of the legacy he was beginning to create.
His impact upon the APHA world was landmark, not only in his exemplary performance in APHA competition but in how he carried the Paint Horse name, presence and look to other venues and agendas.
“The APHA would not have had the high-quality reining horses we have today if not for Gunner. His impact and legacy are incalculable at this point because he is that once-in-a-lifetime individual that was not only able to produce great performers, but also to produce sons that throw great performers. That has created an exponential impact that literally changed the industry,” APHA Executive Director Billy Smith said.
Ultimately his footprint grew even larger. When the AQHA changed their registration requirements in 2004, Gunner began to rewrite the record books for yet another association.
Gunner was purchased by NRHA Hall of Famers Tim and Colleen McQuay in 2005, following the passing of their stallion NRHA Five Million Dollar Sire Hollywood Dun It. The McQuays had followed Gunner’s career and even hoped to buy him as a 3-year-old. Tim had ridden several Gunner colts, which cemented his decision to buy the horse.
“I loved him when he was showing, but what got me going was that we had some colts of his to ride, and I liked them a lot. Stopping was easy for them and they did it with style. They always let you train them, and then they got better and better and better,” Tim said.
Although Gunner was laid to rest in 2013, his legacy continues to grow. First becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Sire in 2007, he became a Two Million Dollar Sire just three years later. Since then, his offspring have earned a million dollars annually, subsequently moving Gunner to a new milestone each year. He crossed the $12 Million Dollar threshold in September of 2020 and his 959 foals now have average earnings of $13,183.
Gunner’s top-earning offspring include:
- Tinker With Guns (out of Tinker Nic): $344,000 NRHA LTE
- Gunners Tinseltown (out of Miss Tinseltown): $305,000 NRHA LTE
- Americasnextgunmodel (out of Cee Dun It Do It) $289,486 NRHA LTE
- All Betts Are Off (out of Wimpys Little Chic): $281,000 NRHA LTE
- NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Gunners Special Nite (out of Mifs Doll): $219,000 NRHA LTE
- NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Gunnatrashya (out of Natrasha): $218,000 NRHA LTE
- No Smoking Required (out of Icing Required): $185,000 NRHA LTE
NRHA incoming President Rick Clark has owned both sons and daughters of Gunner and is quick to credit his impact on the industry and to applaud the management of his breeding career by the McQuays.
“We may never have a sire like him come along again for many, many years. They guided his path so well. Losing him was a setback but we are all thankful they had the foresight to make it so that he’s still part of the industry. It’s amazing, really,” he said. “Gunner has made a lot of people happy. Everyone’s happy when they have a Gunner baby!”
[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA promotes, preserves and provides meaningful experiences with Paint Horses.