Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Becky Dart: Born to Run

Me and Becky Dart ca. 1969. The fence is cribbed so I had her a while.
Once upon a time I had a sorrel mare so fast at the quarter mile, no other horse could beat her. When Becky Dart ran, it was like riding the wind, or a barrel down the rapids. She exploded with energy so fierce, it was hard to stay mounted. Of course, I rode bareback, and had thighs of steel. I was addicted to speed and she was born to run.

The thrill of riding an animal faster than any other four-legged creature on earth, save the cheetah, or antelope—neither of which you can ride—was euphoric.

My five-year-old mare came from Olema Ranch and cost $500. In those days there wasn't much readily available information on the pedigrees of horses. Most pedigree stories were passed down by word of mouth while standing at the corral gate. My aunt's friend Chuck traced her pedigree chart, the long hard way. At first, he thought her pedigree was forged, then he said that she was valuable as a broodmare, as her bloodline was that of champions. Of course I had no idea.

Becky Dart carried the same ancestry as California Chrome—right back to the Darley Arabian—they were Drinkers of the Wind. I had the fastest horse in West Marin. I rode the wind. No one could beat that horse at the quarter-mile. But at the two-mile marker, on the old Lagunitas railroad bed in Samuel P. Taylor Park, I was always left eating crow. Or dust. My competitive mare wouldn't give up until she was thoroughly winded and sobbing for breath.

I pored over that pedigree chart, the size of a coffee table, and memorized the names of her ancestors all the way back to the thoroughbred foundation sires. Her pedigree was studded with Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes winners: she had Triple Crown winners on both sides of the family tree. She was related to Man o' War, (1917-47) one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of all time, through War Hug. And one jockey's name appeared again and again: the famous racing icon, Willie Shoemaker.

I remember watching Willie Shoemaker riding the legendary Candy Spots to victory at the 1963 televised Preakness. I was starstruck.

Becky Dart's great-grandfather was Three Bars (1940-1968.) Other than a wide blaze, she looked like him. Same tiny ears, dished face and teacup nose, reflecting Arabian ancestry. she even held her tail up like a flag when she ran. The mare was a bit slenderer, though. And she had scarred knees.

How the mare came to that ranch in Olema, her sire, Dart Bar, owned by Bill Cowan, was from McNeal, AZ), is a bit of a mystery. But her scarred knees suggest something went wrong and she was not racing track material. Retired from the track before she even began. But she carried the legendary names of Three Bars, and Dart Bar.

A cowboy at the Olema Ranch mentioned she wore braces as a foal, that's why her knees were bald. She was probably sold at auction to the knackers, or a claims race, and was rescued by those cowboys who ran the dude ranch. For a cripple, she sure could run. She had a palomino sister at the ranch too, also out of Dart Bar.

That spring, I put my mare in Mary Bianchi's pasture to graze on the lush grass. I checked on her after school and she was fine. But that evening, I had a hunch something was wrong and and I found her down and sweating.

Nothing should've gone wrong, but it did. She had colic, and though I walked her for 18 hours, she never got better, she'd twisted her colon—peritonitis had set in. No way to save her. She died in Edie Lehman's sand arena, where I worked as a exercise groom—after a long, and violent struggle.

I never got over watching her die like that, screaming, and rearing over backwards, to escape the pain. The vet ended it with a foot-long needle to the heart. I always meant to write about her, never quite managed to do a decent job of it. A snippet here and there. A horse like that leaves a deep sinkhole in the mind, and I had backfilled it with grief.

I worked for the Lehman's training stable, and showed their horses at gymkhanas, I collected armloads of blue and red ribbons, but I didn't want to own another horse, losing her was devastating. She was big and beautiful, there was so more of her to love. There was nothing much left of my childhood landscape. Sometimes I dream of my horses running free on the slopes of Mt. Barnabe, and wake up with an inconsolable sense of longing.

I had to wait decades for the internet cute animal memes to parade forth in order to find this page on Doc Bar...which led to this post.

My brother Guy, and a relation—who, I'm not sure.
SOME LINKS  (research for later) Q, was Doc Bar a direct lineage, or were they related via Dart Bar?  I need the pedigree chart in order to iron this out. Meanwhile some resources. She was definitely a Dart Bar filly (the name alone reflects that). meanwhile, I probably saw Doc Bar, and his get in the arena at the Grand National, I religiously attended every year until I was 19. In those days, rodeo champ Larry Mahan melted my butter. I had a brief moment with him in passing...appraising eyes in both directions. Startling blue eyes. But we both kept on going. Walk on.

Larry Mahan won the title of World All-Around Rodeo Champion for five consecutive years from 1966 to 1970, and a sixth time in 1973.

Here's how one horse changed an entire breed forever: The story of Doc Bar  the most famous Quarter Horse in American History. According to an article from Horse Channel, Doc Bar began life in 1956 to ranch owner, Tom Finley. The hope was that the chestnut foal would be groomed to be star racer. However, that dream was short-lived when Doc Bar earned less than $100 on the racetrack.

Doc Bar Doc Bar was foaled in 1956, and his sire was Lightning Bar, a son of Three Bars (TB). Doc Bar, a quarter horse foundation stallion, was born on Tom Finlay's ranch in Arizona. He was bred to run but he wasn't successful. Instead, he made an exceptional halter horse, and was best known for revolutionizing the cutting horse sport. 

Doc Bar - Build for Rodeo one of the most desirable rodeo sires in history is the infamous Doc Bar. Where Doc Bar may have failed as a racing legend, he is one of the most recognizable Quarter Horses in the world. Doc O'Lena, one of Doc bar's most famous progeny, revolutionized the world of cutting and reining with his agility and speed. Doc Bar is now the all-time leading cutting horse sire

Doc Bar Color: ch Height: 14.2 SIRE OF: 487 foals, 1960-1978. 323 performing foals, Top Ten World Show Offspring. AQHA Hall of Fame. Doc Bar was humanely put down on July 20, 1992. He was 36 yrs old.

Flashback: The Story Behind Doc Bar Anyone with even a remote interest in the Quarter Horse world will recognize the name Doc Bar, for never has there been such a prolific sire of cutting horses. Doc Bar lived on a ranch is in California, near the town of Paicines, 45 miles south of Hollister. The author makes a pitch that Doc Bar got his good looks form his dam, but I disagree, as Becky Dart was not related to her and they share the same refined looks.

DART BAR ch. H, QUARTER HORSE, 1953  Color: ch  Breeder: Sidney H. Vail, Douglas, AZ. Owner: Bill Cowan, McNeal, AZ. His sire was THREE BARS and his dam, War Hug, was great-granddaughter to MAN O WAR  
William R. Cowan

William R. Cowan
William Cowan obit. 1924-2006   Bill's remuda was grounded by the renowned sons of Three Bars, Kid Bars and Dart Bar, who sired Chocolate Dart, Tom Dooley, and Mr. Grayson.
Obit of Bill's wife Cordy Cowan 1924-2011. She became well-known for riding beautiful horses and infamous for streaking the bathing suit competition in a pair of red-and-white checkered cowboy boots.  Kid Bars, Dart Bar, Mandy Bar, Chocolate Dart, Mr. Grayson, Tom Dooley, Joker, Stitches, Sorgum were horses many folks will never forget.  cordy.cowan@gmail.com

More info on Dart Bar at stud here but I can't get to it as you need an account. Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 21. Sept. 19, 1963
He served on Governor Bruce King's Border Commission and was featured by radio commentator Paul Harvey. Known as a man of honesty and integrity, Bill and his family most cherish his reputation as "cowman's cowman" bestowed upon him by his peers in the livestock industry. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/tucson/obituary.aspx?n=william-r-cowan&pid=20265773#sthash.bUEp6zb6.dpuf
Bill's remuda was grounded by the renowned sons of Three Bars, Kid Bars and Dart Bar, who sired Chocolate Dart, Tom Dooley, and Mr. Grayson. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/tucson/obituary.aspx?n=william-r-cowan&pid=20265773#sthash.bUEp6zb6.dpuf

William R. Cowan

William R. Cowan
THREE BARS ch. H, THOROUGHBRED, 1940  Color: ch Height: 15.3 leading sire of racing Quarter Horses. American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame 1989. Died April 6, 1968.

Three Bars  In the 1950s, the stud was rustled, and during the episode, Three Bars was clubbed, which broke his nose. The horse was found, however, wandering around in a junkyard. Three Bars was at Vail's Dart Ranch at Douglas, Arizona, from 1947 to 1951. Three Bars, the most influential Thoroughbred in American Quarter Horse history, was foaled April 8, 1940 near Lexington.   Despite severe circulatory problems in a hind leg, The chestnut stallion possessed not only speed, but excellent conformation and disposition.   A legendary sire of almost transcendental genetics, Three Bars sired champions in all facets of the American Quarter Horse breed.

Bill Shoemaker August 19, 1931 – October 12, 2003) was an American jockey. For 29 years he held the world record for total professional jockey victories. Willie was born in Fabens, Texas., At 2.5 pounds, Shoemaker was so small at birth that he was not expected to survive the night. Put in a shoebox in the oven to stay warm, he survived, but remained small. His diminutive size proved an asset, as he went on to become a giant in thoroughbred horse racing despite being a high school dropout. His racing career began in his teenage years, 1949 at  Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California. After retiring in 1990, Shoemaker returned to the track as a trainer, where he had modest success, training for clients as Gulfstream magnate Allen Paulson and composer Burt Bacharach. After an accident that left him paralyzed, Shoemaker authored three murder mysteries, featuring jockey-sleuth Coley Killebrew.

I remember watching Willie Shoemaker riding the legendary Candy Spots to victory at the 1963 televised Preakness.

Becky Dart
I have lifted a few of my own sentences from  three previous post about Becky Dart. I need to synthesize and expand this and make it all about her—vs an envoi to another story. Maybe when I retrieve her pedigree chart from among my papers in storage, it will provide the fodder I need.

Here are the other posts where Becky Dart is mentioned:

Other horsey bits
Sitting Deep
Eating the Wind  2014
Horse Chestnuts  2012
While Reading Essays by Robert Hass The Hass essay dates back to 1987, but I suspect I did a bit of revision by the time it made it to this blog format in 2007. In those days, I wasn't posting original writing, or first drafts. Now I also try and post first drafts whenever possible.

Other horsey bits
Sitting Deep
The Little Shits
Helgar the Horrible
Eating the Wind  
Horse Chestnuts
There is so Much We Save from Childhood

Once upon a time I had a horse so fast at the quarter mile, no other horse could beat her. When Becky Dart ran, it was like riding the wind, or a barrel down the rapids. She exploded with energy so fierce, it was hard to stay on her. Of course, I rode bareback. I had thighs of steel. She came form Olema Ranch and cost $500. In those days there wasn't much information. Most was by word of mouth. A friend did her pedigree chart and said she was valuable. Her grand? father was Three Bars. I memorized the names all the way back to the foundation sire, Man o War. Kentucky Derby, Preakness, she had Triple Crown winners on both sides. And one name again and again: Willie Shoemaker. I had to wait decades for the internet cute animal memes in order to find this page on Doc Bar...


Unknown said...

Magical and sad, you are a great storyteller. Thank you.

Maureen Hurley said...

Thank you. I abandoned this post, sorry for the typos. I hope to get back to this piece some day. When I find that danged pedigree, that is. Poet Mike Tuggle, rest his soul, was the one who encouraged me to write stories, I am definitely afraid of prose, being dyslexic, I suppose. I never thought that I had anything important to say.