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APHA

The Art of Teaching

Educator, coach and venerated horsewoman Bobbie Skelton Walton has paid her educational legacy forward for 30 years, hoping to inspire the next generation of horsemen and -women.

By Alana Harrison

After the last traces of color had long since faded from the sky and a quiet darkness settled over the land, Bobbie Skelton Walton watched the moon slice a silver glow over the foaling barn at Carol Rose’s ranch in Gainesville, Texas. Except for the occasional snort or muffled crunch of hay, the night was almost entirely blanketed in silence as the 23-year-old Colorado State University student settled in for her turn on the foal-watch nightshift—a requirement of her school-sponsored internship.

When the morning shift arrived, Bobbie reported she’d helped deliver a Paint colt during the night. The staff looked at her, baffled. They hadn’t bred any Paint Horses. But the foal’s unique, chrome markings left little doubt—a bald face, white tail and four white legs with white almost up to his left hind stifle.

Returning to CSU after her internship, Bobbie didn’t closely follow the colt’s story. But a few years later at the 1996 National Reining Horse Association Futurity, she couldn’t take her eyes off a young, flashy Paint and his electrifying performance in the show pen.

When Bobbie’s friend Jeff Petska, a reining trainer who had also worked for Carol, asked if she remembered the surprise Paint colt, she instantly recognized the distinctive bonnet face, white legs and big, floppy ears. That special colt from many moons ago clinched the 1996 NRHA Futurity reserve championship title and went on to become legendary Paint reining phenom and NRHA $11 Million Sire “Gunner.”

A seemingly small, but significant, piece in the mosaic of her career, this experience solidified Bobbie’s lifelong pursuit of excellence in education and horsemanship—and, of course, her enduring passion for the colorful, chrome-splashed horses who have left indelible marks on her life.

Connecting with APHA

Roberta “Bobbie” Skelton was introduced to horses at a young age while growing up in Golden, Colorado, where her grandfather practiced law and owned a small band of Paints. After a brief love affair with her Shetland Pony “Crackers”—who Bobbie adored despite his daily pursuits of bucking her off—she received a more formal riding education with the Westernaires, an acclaimed youth drill organization based in Golden.

Like her grandfather, however, Bobbie felt a natural gravitation toward Paints—and in her early teens, she was elated to start showing in APHA events aboard her Paint mare Honky Tonkin Angel.

“That was my first connection with APHA, and I loved every minute of it,” Bobbie recalled. “Artist Veryl Goodnight even modeled a sculpture of my mare and a Paint foal my grandfather owned, and as a teenager I remember being so proud.”

Years later, Bobbie visited the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and was speechless when she discovered the sculpture on display in the museum’s garden. A smaller-scale, first-edition rendition of the 1985 piece is currently on display at APHA’s new headquarters in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2020 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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