Legends unfolded at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum’s recent story-telling event.
The Legends of the Breed: Bloodlines of the American Quarter Horse exhibit opened several weeks ago (March 9, to be exact) at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo, but it was an event set for March 22 that gave the exhibit its big kickoff. An evening story-telling event in the Scharbauer Gallery, where the Bloodlines exhibit is on display, saw nearly 150 people in attendance, which was a standing-room-only crowd.
The exhibit displays the bloodlines of 11 of the foundation horses and shows their famous American Quarter Horses descendants. “Tales of the American Quarter Horse” was an evening of exploring the history and legendary tales of the highlighted foundation horses from renowned historians Larry Thornton and Frank Holmes, who were joined by moderator and longtime American Quarter Horse Journal Editor Jim Jennings.
The trio recited stories from the histories of some of the most prominent sires of the breed, including the story of Traveler being discovered while being used as a work horse and Dan Casement leading his stallion Ballymooney 900 miles from Kansas to Colorado from the window of his Model A Ford. Larry detailed the story of Steel Dust’s classic match race against Monmouth that almost resulted in bankrupting the town of McKinney, Texas.
The foundation horses on display include:
- Little Joe
- Lock’s Rondo
- Old Billy
- Old Cold Deck
- Old Fred
- Peter McCue
- Roan Dick
- Steel Dust
A fan favorite was the telling of Old Cold Deck’s story. Foaled at Carthage, Missouri, in 1868, Old Cold Deck was a son of Old Billy and out of Lady Wolf. Old Cold Deck was a dark, rich chestnut, and was a compact, heavily muscled horse of 1,175 pounds packed into a scant 15-hand frame. According to Coke Blake of Pryor, Oklahoma, Old Cold Deck had beauty, style, elegance and speed. After running the legs off of everything in Missouri and Arkansas, he proved himself the fastest horses of his time.
There are a couple of stories about how Old Cold Deck got his name. One story, from Coke Blake, was that the night that Lady Wolf foaled her colt, her owner made a killing at poker through the practice of manipulating a “cold deck” into the game.
When Blake, then 16 years old, first saw Cold Deck, the stallion was owned by Foster Barker of Van Buren, Arkansas. Over the door of his stable, Barker had hung a sign declaring “Cold Deck Against The World.”
That challenge stands pretty much in effect all these years later.
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