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APHA honors contributions of couple with hallway designation

Wonderlichs honored with first APHA hallway dedication

Recently the American Paint Horse Foundation (APHF), which preserves the heritage of the American Paint horse, announced their decision to designate a prominent hallway in the Association’s headquarters as the Wonderlich Hallway in honor of Doc and Butch Wonderlich. The Wonderlichs are true trailblazers and grassroots members of the American Paint Horse Association (APHA).

Lyle and Butch Wonderlich Hallway. Photo by
American Paint Horse Association
Hirez JPEG (1.64 mb)

The American Paint Horse Association had humble beginnings. It started with a horse that many thought of as a reject, by a woman whose husband doubted could make it happen. That woman, Rebecca Tyler, had a vision of the future and the determination to make it happen. She placed a tiny ad in Western Horseman magazine and Dr. Lyle Wonderlich answered the ad.

Dr. Wonderlich, known simply as “Doc” to most people, made the trip from Idaho to Gainesville, Texas, to meet with Tyler in 1962 and gathered with other horsemen at the Kirkwood Café to discuss the formation of the American Paint Stock Horse Association. The group elected C. C. Teague as its first President and Doc as the national director for Idaho. When Doc returned home, he and his wife Wilma June (better known as “Butch”) started building a top-notch Paint Horse program.

Along the way, they raised seven children, were charter members of numerous APHA Regional Clubs in the western U.S., and hauled many miles while taking care of their 157-acre Roseacre Farm. They also owned and showed many top horses including Nightwatcher, APHA’s first Supreme Champion gelding; Gallant Ghost a Supreme Champion and Superior All-Around Horse, and numerous APHA Champions.

Even after their kids became adults, the Wonderlichs stayed involved with APHA. They continued to breed top horses and supported the APHA Regional Clubs, serving as consultants, show secretaries, treasurers, futurity class organizers and board members.

Doc, who practiced anesthesiology in Twin Falls, Idaho, grew up riding horses and working on the family farm in Kansas. He met Butch in college. They married and started a family. They loved horses and became involved with forming APHA. They bought some Paint Horses and started breeding and showing. Their children showed too and while Doc practiced medicine and took care of the horses at home, Butch hauled the kids and horses all over the western half of the country to shows. They had many conversations while driving, which helped them form a close bond. While travelling they upgraded their Paint Horse stock when they saw the chance. Their stallions were highly sought after for breeding.

Recognizing the life lessons that their kids learned through horses, they became involved with the Youth Development Fund Scholarship and the Heritage Foundation. In 1980, Butch’s charisma and determination won her the title of the first female president of the Association. She was known as a fiery advocate for the breed and not afraid to speak up, even referred to as the “Rules Committee Queen” after serving on the committee for over 24 years.

In 1989, Doc was honored with the Distinguished Service Award—the highest honor for the Association’s members. Today their son Lyle Wonderlich Jr. works as an equine veterinarian, horse show judge, Paint Horse breeder and trainer in addition to serving as president of the Idaho Paint Horse Club.

Doc and Butch Wonderlich are the first honorees to receive a hallway dedication at APHA.

“Not many people will have the commitment and diligence to serve the way the Wonderlichs did for the Paint Horse breed and to touch as many lives as they have over the years,” explained Dr. John Hertner, President of the APHF. “The Association would not be where it is today without both of their contributions.”

The decision to dedicate the hallway was approved by the APHA Executive Committee at the December 2010 meeting. The hallway incorporates the APHF Heritage Tree and leads to the Heritage Center where the Distinguished Service Awards and other historical APHA artifacts are housed. APHA is pleased to honor this pioneering couple for more than 40 years of dedication and service to the breed.

An article will feature the Wonderlich Hallway designation in the Fall 2011 issue of the Paint Horse Connection.

More about APHA
The American Paint Horse Association (APHA), founded in 1962 and headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is the international breed registry for the American Paint Horse. In fulfillment of its mission to collect, record and preserve pedigrees of the breed, APHA recognizes and supports 111 regional and international clubs, produces championship shows, sponsors trail rides and creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.

APHA has registered almost a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded, and now serves approximately 64,000 active members around the world.