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FROM A REMARKABLE HISTORY COMES AN

UNMISTAKABLE FUTURE.

TULSA ‘13

Gordon Potts • cell 817-312-4017 • farm 817-447-0001 • info@thebrassringinc.com w w w

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A Closer Look At Gordon Potts by MARY KIRKMAN

He has been a familiar

sight in the Arabian show ring since the early 1980s, a perennially successful trainer with a low-key demeanor whose deft ability has netted him and his clients a boatload of ribbons.

2 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES


Gordon Potts is on anyone’s short list as one of the top trainers in the breed. While he is not old enough to be revered as one of the industry’s grand old men, he hails from the era when trainers were proficient with horses across the spectrum of competition, and today his base at The Brass Ring in Burleson, Tex., is home to horses and clients in a variety of disciplines. Even so, his in-depth background often flies under the radar for new Arabian enthusiasts. Back in the day, one clue might have been that he was a member of that luminous group of young trainers who came out of Lasma in the early 1980s. But that is just part of the story.

The Talent Behind The Reputation

Potts’ fascination with horses began at the age of 3, when he rode for the first time, hoisted up in the saddle in front of his father. Riding lessons with Texas instructor Susan Mayo shaped his introduction to proper horsemanship, and by the time he was a teenager, he was grooming for—and learning from—trainer David Gardner at Bentwood Farms, then the largest source of Egyptian Arabians in the country. That was when he realized what he wanted to do in life: train Arabian horses. In a 2010 interview he explained, “They intrigued me because you could do a lot of different kinds of riding on them.” After that, he worked with many of the most knowledgeable horsemen in the breed, some of whom would become his mentors, including Dorothy Dunn and Doug Thompson at Zodiac Farm, Kit Hall, Walter “Chappy” Chapman, and finally, at Lasma, Gene and Ray LaCroix. (Lasma, he said, was “a combination of graduate school and boot camp.”) The significance of all that? Among other things, that Potts’ vision of a horseman was formed by the icons of the breed, the “compleat horsemen” who were still actively involved when he was breaking in. Although most are gone now, their names come easily to his mind. “Bob Hart Sr., Red Beyer, Walter Chapman, Stan White Sr., Tom McNair, Jerry Smola (the one who was at Lasma in the beginning, who taught Gene)—those guys, and I’m sure there were others, came from a background where people used horses,” he said in the interview. “They provided a foundation for what we do as a breed.” And he made use of the knowledge. In 1981, while working with Ray LaCroix at Lasma, he was the primary trainer for the renowned western horse Quavado when the gelding won his first national championship, the Canadian award in amateur. Quavado would go on to five more national trophies and five reserves in the U.S. and Canada, with Potts up in 1988 for the U.S. National Championship in Western Pleasure. In time, Potts’ experience added up to the title of head trainer. After periods at Bassani Arabians in Canada,

Gordon and 16-time Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure National Champion AmericanBeautie +//.

the Texas facility La Verada, Morningstar Arabians, and Karho, he finally opened his own operation and called it The Brass Ring. He has not looked back since. The various steps in his career may have led one to another somewhat randomly, but Potts’ approach to horsemanship has not been haphazard. His technique, fundamentally, rests in his communication with the horse. “I think that the basics all interrelate and the horse has got to go forward, meet the bridle, and soften,” he says. “In that journey forward, he’s not going to leak left or leak right. He’s going to stay in between your legs and reins, and not get bound up or kinked up. In doing that, the horse will be cadenced; he’ll be soft and he’ll carry himself. We don’t have to hold them in a position; they learn to accept it. That really is the essence, to me, of horsemanship, whatever discipline you go in. It’s all about controlling the body and creating softness, that kind of thing. All of the things that you do with, say, a reiner, will work with a western horse or a hunter or an English horse—it all interrelates. So, that kind of philosophy or mindset allows you to cross over and do other disciplines, and do them with some degree of competitiveness.” Most people probably think he’s more of a western trainer, he concedes, but in reality, he has enjoyed more success in English. A glance at some of the headliners he has handled over the years corroborates that: Infra Red, New Fire, Salemm, The Volume 44, No. 4 | 3


Multi National Champion NW Awesome.

“A client wants a

trainer that is going to be honest with them, that has their best interests and their horse’s best interests close to them and dear to them.” - Gordon Potts

4 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES


Whiz Kid, Blazin Fire, JDM Rain Dance, Victim Of Love and Americanbeautie, for example, were all multi-national titlists in the English divisions, some with an embarrassing amount of U.S. and Canadian national championships. His western champions are equally famous—Quavado, Alerro and Exxpectation come to mind. But it just serves to underline his premise that ability should be across the board.

The Remarkable Key Of Client Loyalty

While skill with a horse is the foundation of any trainer’s success, Potts understands the reality of today’s horse world, which is that the business is increasingly amateur-driven, and training people as well as horses is critical. He has been able to count on the loyalty of his clients. Over the years, they have kept good horses with him, and many have made lasting commitments to honing their amateur skills. One of his earliest supporters was Joy Adams, who was with him for nearly 20 years. “She bought a horse from me named Blazin Fire,” he recalls. “I’d had a lot of national champions before, but that was my first repeat national champion. Blaze was the first horse I had that dominated for a period of time.” While Adams is no longer involved in Arabians, he still appreciates the contribution she made to his life. “This is a business,” he notes, “but it’s beyond that, it’s personal. A lot of times we become friends with our clients.” Over the years, he has developed a style to balance work with the personal relationships that develop in the shared pursuit of goals. “I tend to be a little bit aloof,” he says. “I value professionalism, and I think that other people do, too.” The fact is, there isn’t time to train everyone’s horses and go out to dinner with them too, he offers, so friendship sometimes develops simply as mutual trust. “A client wants a trainer that is going to be honest with them, that has their best interests and their horse’s best interests close to them and dear to them,” he says. “New people that are selecting you don’t often know that you’ve had clients for as long as you have, but if they do any kind of research, sometimes they do know, and that certainly gives you credibility.” Leslie Sommer and her sister, Carrie Fritz, have been with Potts since 1985, when Fritz was 15 and Sommer 11. He was one of two horsemen recommended to them when they were looking for a horse, and although they have maintained contenders with other trainers as well, Potts has been their unwavering mainstay for nearly three decades. “We were 20 steps below small time,” Sommer recalls of their initial introduction. “Our very first horse with him was Donseeta Jabask.” Currently, their show star is Americanbeautie, whose record includes 16 national championships and five reserves—anything but “small time.” “We consider her our

Gordon and Blazin Fire, 8-time National Champion Half-Arabian English Pleasure horse.

once-in-a-lifetime horse,” says Fritz. “Gordon found her for us. I remember when Beautie was a yearling and he put her in the bullpen and said, ‘We’ve got to keep an eye on this one because she’s going to be special.’” Why such a strong commitment? “What might be the most obvious reason is his talent,” she responds. “We think he’s the best, and we like how well-rounded he is and all he can do— hunt seat, English, western, no matter what you do, he’s a fit. That works for Leslie and me because I predominantly show English and she predominantly shows western. “He’s got a natural way of putting you at ease,” she adds. “He is super knowledgeable, and we’ve always felt that he’s super honest. His integrity is one of the things that my mom will say had us from the time we were teenagers. He tells you when maybe what you need to hear is not the easiest thing to hear.” “You’re not going to find a harder worker,” says Sommer, “and he works just as hard today as he did 30 years ago, if not harder. What I think is maybe Gordon’s number one best attribute is that he loves animals.” In terms of horse care, that is a priority for them. Their list of champions with Potts over the years is lengthy, but some of the better-known names are Starry Spumoni, a U.S. National Champion Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Junior Horse and multi-national reserve champion that both Potts and Sommer showed; Volume 44, No. 4 | 5


Gordon and 3-time Reserve National Champion, Alerro.

“I ’d watched Gordon

Potts at Nationals for years—watched him win, win, win. I admired his technique, the way he worked his horses and the way he worked with his riders.” - Charlie Cameron

6 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES


U.S. National Reserve Champion in Half-Arabian Pleasure Driving, Good Vibrationss; and Alibi EF, a national champion in both western and hunter. Fritz recalls that when one of the magazines at the time selected the top 10 most winning purebreds by division over a 10-year period, Alibi EF was the only one on both the western and hunter lists. The gelding, now 23, enjoys his retirement at The Brass Ring. Some of Potts’ talent may lie in his innate ability to observe. He is good at telling what a horse is suited for, and what works or doesn’t work with an individual. “I think that’s why he’s a great horse trainer,” Sommer nods. She adds that the ability is apparent in another aspect of his life as well: although Potts says he is aloof, it is clear that he isn’t always. He is known for his impersonations. His hilarious imitation of Stanley White Sr. at White’s 2013 induction into the Region 12 Hall of Fame had everyone present, including White’s wife Kitty, roaring with laughter. “Gordon’s a fun person to be around,” Fritz says. “He’s obviously great to share the good times with, too.” A glance at Potts’ roster of clients indicates that not all have been there forever. Charlie Cameron and his daughter, Meg Owings, have a long history in Arabians, but they came to The Brass Ring only a couple of years ago, when Owings decided that she wanted to show. “I started looking for somebody really good,” Cameron says. “I’d watched Gordon Potts at Nationals for years—watched him win, win, win. I admired his technique, the way he worked his horses and the way he worked with his riders.”

Gordon aboard Victim Of Love, U.S. National Half-Arabian English Pleasure Futurity Champion.

With the Exxpectation gelding Unzipped For Kixx, Owings scored this year’s Region 12 Championship and Region 9 Reserve Championship in Half-Arabian Western Pleasure Amateur, and now is setting her sights on a top ten at U.S. Nationals in the 36-54 division. “I’m going to really be working hard for it,” she says, “and Gordon is showing him in open. He found the horse for me, and it was a fit from day one.” Volume 44, No. 4 | 7


“The bottom line

is that you have to produce and move towards whatever goal your clients have, whether it’s winning, selling, just having fun, or learning.” - Gordon Potts

8 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES


Gordon and son, Wyatt Potts.

Halle Potts

It hasn’t just been the horse that has worked well. Learning from Potts has been easy too, she notes. “He’s never made me feel dumb. He’s always been positive— tells me I’m doing great, and if we need to work on something, we just work on it and go on.” Both report that being newcomers in a group of longtime clients has been a benefit. “Everybody’s just brought us in as family,” Owings says. “Not just clients, but grooms too.” “Feel like I’ve been there for years,” her father adds, and grins. “I’d do it all over again.” “The years go by before you know it,” Potts reflects, “and all of a sudden, there have been people who have been here since forever, and you’re still going strong.” He considers the people who have played such integral roles in his career—and his life. “That’s when I think it really hits home.”

A Balanced View On Life

An especially important part of Gordon Potts’ life has been that he never has stopped growing as a person. He freely admits that for most of his professional career, the horses have been his focal point—but now another influence helps temper that absorption. Since the advent of his children (Wyatt, 11; Grant, 8; and Halle, 8), his horizons have broadened and he enjoys a deeper stability within himself. “Helping them to grow and develop into their own personalities, and watching them find their own passions and interests has brought tremendous joy to his life,” one observer reports. He loves sharing the passion of horses with Halle, who at this year’s Youth Nationals nailed three reserve championships. Making it extra-special for Potts was that she was riding horses he had shown to national titles, old friends Spiryt, now 21; Exxpectation, 20; and Great Beaus Afire, 17.

Grant Potts

Potts also tries to maintain his perspective on the issue of training and amateur expectations, and friendship and camaraderie. He recalls an incident when he was still in college. “I was riding with some people and I finally won a championship, and I wanted to just celebrate it and feel like I had arrived,” he says. “They were certainly congratulatory, but then they went on about their business, because they had other horses to prepare. I realized then that not only does the show go on, it will go on, and while you have a special moment, you have to create more special moments.” Special moments, he knows, often mean winning. He smiles wryly. “Recently, when Gene LaCroix was here helping me, we had a lot of good conversations, but one of the things we talked about was that winning is 50 percent euphoria and 50 percent relief. We’re only as good as our last win. Whether it is something that we’re showing or an amateur horse doesn’t Volume 44, No. 4 | 9


APAHA Horsemen’s Western Trainer and AHT Readers’ Choice Horseman Of The Year.

move towards whatever goal your clients have, whether it’s winning, selling, just having fun, or learning.” For him, learning is the foundation of success. “That’s the journey,” he says. “The process is the learning.” Barbie Cook has been with Potts since 1991, ever since she purchased a horse named Amys Delight from him. Under his direction, she showed Nobleist to a U.S. National championship in 1997, and among others, also had Great Beaus Afire, with whom she went top ten every time she showed for years. “There’s not a single horse that we’ve ever had, or a single year or a single ride with Gordon that I haven’t learned something,” she maintains. “It’s been such a wealth of knowledge that I could take a lesson every day for the rest of my life and I’m sure he still would have something more to teach me.” really matter; we have to do it again and again. There’s a famous line from the movie ‘Patton’ that says it: ‘All glory is fleeting.’ The bottom line is that you have to produce and

10 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

“When you stop learning, you stop winning,” Potts says. “But more than that, learning is what makes it fun and keeps it fresh.” n


(A Noble Cause x PWA Tusea)

AEPA ARABIAN ENGLISH PLEASURE FUTURITY with Shawn Rooker

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AEPA ARABIAN ENGLISH PLEASURE FUTURITY with Gordon Potts

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(Afire Bey V x Primroza Afire)

Region 15 Champion Arabian English Pleasure Junior Horse Stud fee: $1,500 Owned by: Charles Amato Equine Interests LLC San Antonio, TX w w w

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16x

National Champion

&

5x

Reserve National Champion

A MERICANBEAUTIE

+//

(Afire Bey V x Kelly Le Brock)

HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR 36-54 with Carrie Fritz

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Koy Moody “Thank you, Shamrock Farms, for entrusting me with Americanbeautie and giving me a lifetime of memories!”

A MERICANBEAUTIE

+//

UNANIMOUS YOUTH NATIONAL CHAMPION

Half-Arabian Country Pleasure Driving JTD and Champion Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure JTR 14-18

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AIDOL MERICAN

CSP

+/

(DS Mick Jagger x Merlot CSP)

2012 UNANIMOUS NATIONAL CHAMPION Arabian Country English Pleasure Open 2013 SCOTTSDALE UNANIMOUS CHAMPION Country Pleasure 55 & Over

ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE with Gordon Potts

ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR 55 & OVER with Barbie Cook

Owned by: Stan & Barbie Cook, Collyville, TX w w w 16 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

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CP

T RIPLE SPEC

(SF Specs Shocwave x Beaujaleis)

ARABIAN COUNTRY PLEASURE AAOTR MATURITY with Leslie Sommer

ARABIAN COUNTRY PLEASURE DRIVING AOTD with Carrie Fritz

ARABIAN COUNTRY PLEASURE DRIVING OPEN with Silvio Domingues

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A LERRO

+//

(Magnum Psyche x Tuscany Bey)

ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE OPEN with Gordon Potts

ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE AAOTR 55 & OVER with Jerry Newman

STUD FEE: $2,500 - Contact Gordon Potts Owned by: Jerry Newman, Birmingham, AL w w w 18 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

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ATRADITION MAZING

WR

(Amazing Fame V x Mi Maria+//)

ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE SELECT AATR with Paige Whittecar

2007 U.S. National Champion Arabian Western Pleasure Futurity

From National Champion Bloodlines BREEDING BOOK IS NOW OPEN Contact Gordon Potts

Owned by: Brian & Paige Whittecar, Argyle, TX w w w

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U NZIPPED FOR KIXX

(Exxpectation x Lil Pine Blossom)

HALF-ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE OPEN with Gordon Potts

HALF-ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE AAOTR 36-54 with Meg Owings

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H OLLYWOOD SPIN DOCTOR

(Hollywood White x WBA Lucinda)

HALF-ARABIAN REINING OPEN with Gordon Potts

U.S. National Champion Half-Arabian Reining Intermediate Non-Pro U.S. Reserve National Champion Half-Arabian Reining Futurity Owned by: Cameron & Shannon Rohn, Ft. Worth, TX w w w

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M AGNITRON (VCP Magnifire x Topline)

HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE JUNIOR HORSE with Gordon Potts

HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR 19-35 AND HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR MATURITY with Megan Monette

Owned by: Linda & Michael Monette, McKinney, TX w w w 22 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

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A FIRES REIGN (Afire Bey V x Matoskette)

3x

Unanimous U.S. and Canadian National Champion Arabian English Pleasure AAOTR

ARABIAN ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR 40 & OVER with Katie Harvey

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W ILL I AM

PA

(Sundance Kid V x PA Agracie Girl)

ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE JUNIOR HORSE with Gordon Potts

ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE AAOTR MATURITY with Leslie Sommer

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V IVA LA VEGAZ

EF

(Vegaz x Mattatoska)

AEPA ARABIAN ENGLISH PLEASURE FUTURITY

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ROF EIGN FIRE

SA

(Afire Bey V x PF Lady Cameo)

HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE AAOTR 36-54 with Katie Harvey

HALF-ARABIAN COUNTRY ENGLISH PLEASURE OPEN with Gordon Potts

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O UT WEST (Lucky Sol Moon x WA Spit Fire)

HALF-ARABIAN WESTERN PLEASURE JUNIOR HORSE with Gordon Potts

OFFERED FOR SALE w w w

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ALL

ROADS LEAD TO THE BRASS RING

THE BRASS RING

10312 County Road 1020, Burleson, TX 76028 Gordon Potts • cell 817-312-4017 • farm 817-447-0001 info@thebrassringinc.com

w w w.Th www.TheBrassRingInc.com 28 | A R A BI A N HOR SE T I MES

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