By Allison Armstrong Rehnborg
When Pam Heier of Ione, California, reaches down from the saddle to pat the shining black neck of Sting Cat Sting, she’s not just showing her affection for the Paint Horse who’s carried her through countless cutting runs or taught her innumerable lessons over the years. She’s touching a living, breathing piece of her own history.
Foaled on Pam’s hobby ranch in 2006, the black solid gelding by WR This Cats Smart (QH) out of Stingers Sugar Bar was supposed to be Pam’s introduction into the world of cutting horses. But when circumstances changed and a heartbroken Pam had to sell “Smarty” to make ends meet, she assumed she’d never see the handsome black gelding again. Luckily, fate intervened.
In 1994, when Pam and Greg Callen decided to buy a two-acre ranch in Brentwood, California, Pam knew exactly what she wanted to do with their new five-stall barn.
“During our daily commute to San Francisco, Greg and I would always talk about how much we wanted a ranch,” Pam remembered. “When we bought the ranch, the first thing I wanted to do was fill the barn with horses.”
For the next 10 years, Pam enjoyed team penning and sorting with her horses. Although she loved working cattle, she wanted to find a sport where she could focus on developing a partnership with her horse. Then she learned about cutting.
“When I watched cutting for the first time, I thought it was this beautiful dance between the horse, the cow and the rider. I thought, ‘That’s what I want,’ ” Pam said.
In 2005, Pam decided to look for a broodmare in foal to WR This Cats Smart (QH), a handsome sorrel stallion who was taking the cutting horse world by storm.
“I went on the Internet and found this Paint mare down in Paso Robles named Stingers Sugar Bar who was in foal to ‘WR,’ ” Pam said. “I made an offer before I even saw ‘Barbie’ in person.”
Once the 1995 bay overo mare had taken her rightful place in Pam and Greg’s little barn, Pam started the long wait.
“I sang to Barbie’s tummy every day so the baby would know my voice,” Pam recalled. “On the night the foal was due, I went into the house to get a cup of coffee. When I came back out, there was this teeny, little dark thing waiting for me. He looked up at me with this big, white blaze on his face. I said, ‘Oh, my!’ and he knew my voice right away.”
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.