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The Journey with Cedar Ridge includes not only the written story, but an amazing film proudly posted on www.ahtimes.com, as well. Together they tell the complete story of passion and success with the Arabian horse.
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Cedar Ridge by ANNE STRATTON
The Ames family, of Cedar Ridge Farm in Jordan, Minn., began their journey in Arabian horses nearly 50 years ago. For visitors to the farm now, what it was like back then—when Dick and Lollie operated out of a barn in the backyard with their sons for a stable crew—has been lost in the passage of time. Today, the spacious layout could be called a showplace; you have to see it in action to realize that it remains, fundamentally, a working farm, home not only to the family’s Arabians, but also to the even more historic Ames Percherons. “We had no idea it would get as big as it is today,” Lollie Ames admits (“Not in our wildest dreams,” her husband adds). But beneath the surface, it is as it always has been, just on a larger scale and with more services. From that first small barn has come a comprehensive operation that features a full reproductive facility, a nationallevel training barn, and an instruction program in riding and horsemanship that includes competitive
opportunities. And over it all is an ongoing equine marketing program, as well as a public outreach effort that includes hosting a myriad of tours and events. Oh, yes, and then there is the reputation that has been honed over the years: they’ve won national awards in nearly every division of the show ring, and their breeding program, which has escalated to encompass the Arabian halter, English and reining divisions, has twice netted them the title of APAHA Breeder of the Year. Perhaps the miracle is that no matter how beautiful and busy the farm may be, visitors feel at home. That is because, in real terms, the Ames family has not changed much. “At a horse show, the Cedar Ridge barn aisles are always neatly swept,” says longtime friend Walter Mishek, “and pretty often it’s Dick who is doing it. He’s never lost sight of what’s important in life.”
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The Heart And Soul Of Cedar Ridge: Dick And Lollie Ames Technically speaking, the Percherons, who now represent Ames Construction in publicity, go back the farthest at Cedar Ridge Farm. Dick Ames’ family began breeding them around the turn of the 20th century, and he’s known them all his life. Asked what attraction they hold for him, in light of his commitment to the much lighter Arabians, he responds, “I was raised on a farm, for heaven’s sake! Percherons are a big part of our history because they’re the ones who did the farming before tractors, and I think history is important.” That’s only part of the story; although he leaves the eight-horse rigs to his professional trainers, he loves driving the six-horse teams. As one observer notes, the earth shakes when Dick Ames wheels one of his draft hitches—
Dick and Lollie Ames.
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massive, dapple-grey showstoppers—into an arena. The Arabians came in the late 1960s, when Dick, who showed grade horses in western pleasure as a youth, thumbed through a horse magazine and saw a classified ad for a Half-Arabian palomino gelding. He purchased Sheracca, a *Serafix grandson, over the phone from Jim Jack Arabians in Fort Wayne, Ind., and put him in training with top Minnesota horseman Bob Powers. “We won everything,” he recalls modestly. (Mishek, who was around at the time, backs him up. “Sheracca looked like a purebred,” he says, “like a HalfArabian Saddlebred, but with all the Arabian type in the world—long neck, flat topline, beautiful. He was a champion, caused quite a sensation.”) Remembering that era now, Lollie Ames confides that she was not too entranced at first. “I was boats and motors and waterskiing and fishing,” she says, “but Dick likes farming. His dad used to laugh, ‘It’s too bad; if she’d taken to the cows as she did to the horses, you would have had a lot of good milk checks.’” She was game, however, and now she looks back fondly on those early days, as they bought their first mares and added breeding to their show activities. “I remember being with Dick one night on foal watch; we were sitting on a bale of hay, and it was so cold—we were covered up with a dirty horse blanket. But we had fun doing it!” By the time they purchased *Hal Gazal in 1979, she was so immersed in their venture that she did all the
1979 National Top Ten Mare Gai Fawn and David Boggs.
Feramigo with Dick Ames.
breeding—71 mares, she recalls, and it wasn’t AI. But that is getting ahead of the story. In 1970, the Ames’ went to their first U.S. Nationals, and as Dick tells it, “we were fascinated, and gullible and naïve and we bought into everything.” That is an overstatement, as they soon began attending Lasma sales and even through the nearly 15 years of Scottsdale’s halcyon, high-dollar glamour, they never fell prey to stratospheric prices. They learned and grew, and the friendship with Gene LaCroix that began in those years continues today. Early on, they acquired a Gainey-bred colt named Feramigo, and when the youngster matured, Dick took him to the show ring, winning consistently in English pleasure and native costume. “I was his personal groom,” Lollie chuckles. “He used to holler at me a lot! He’d come home from work at night and we’d have the Ford all packed up, ready to go.” While Dick gravitated to the performance divisions, Lollie especially liked halter and it was there that they scored one of their earliest national titles. It also was
Brass with Lollie Ames.
a milestone for a well known name in the Arabian industry now. In 1973, at Gainey Arabians, Dick had selected a yearling daughter of Gai-Parada as a gift for his wife—a standout filly, everyone recalls, and Lollie loved her. Six years later, she entrusted Gai Fawn to a young trainer they knew locally to show in mare halter. “She was my first-ever U.S. National Top Ten,” David Boggs remembers, “and the next year, I showed her to Canadian National Top Ten Mare. Dick and Lollie absolutely loved beautiful horses.” Over the years, there would be more memorable horses, an ongoing parade in the show ring and, significantly, in their breeding program. Among the stallions they stood at Cedar Ridge in the early days, the ones to remember were *Hal Gazal, Feramigo and Taask. In today’s world, probably the best known have been the *Bask son Brass, whose influence—particularly as a broodmare sire— resonates strongly in the breed today, and the Zodiac Matador stallion Matoi, one of the top sires of purebreds and Half-Arabians in the English division. There also have been plenty of accomplished mares since Gai Fawn, including, among others, Toi Jabaska
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and G Kallora. For Lollie, the all-time favorite has been the Brass daughter Ames Mirage, dam of U.S. National Champion Ames Charisma and the exported Sir Marwan CRF, Canadian National Champion and twice U.S. National Reserve Champion. “That mare has just been unbelievable to this farm,” Lollie offers. “No matter who you breed her to, she keeps putting out winners, even in performance.” There have been thousands of ribbons over the years, she reflects, but she looks at trophies and awards differently now than when they started. A lot of learning has been involved and a lot of work, but breeding so many has added a dimension that she appreciates more as the years go by: there are so many Cedar Ridge-bred and -raised horses in the ring, and she loves seeing them do well, whether they are showing for her family or for others. “You know the horses, you know firsthand how much it means,” she says. “At this past nationals, one of our horses was national reserve champion and I was getting a little teary-eyed, and somebody said, ‘You’re actually going to cry.’ I said, ‘Well, those horses out there are like your children, except that when you sell them, they turn into your grandchildren.’”
Ames Mirage and Mike Brennan.
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Cedar Ridge, The Next Step Now, at the opening of 2015, Cedar Ridge Farm is undergoing an important change. The Ames family has long prioritized breeding, but they are taking it a step further. They are spinning off the farm’s training operation and lesson program, which now will operate under the banner of head trainers John and Leah Golladay, with the Ames’ remaining as clients. The object? That the family can concentrate more than ever on breeding and developing young horses to supply the trainers and ultimately the Arabian community.
The Breeding Division The breeding operation has long been the heartbeat, the quiet engine, of Cedar Ridge, as it encompasses far more than just the family’s 30 to 35 mares. Breeding Manager Mike Brennan and his staff also are responsible for the farm’s stallions, as well as the foals, yearlings and 2-year-olds—caring for the mature horses through the different stages of their lives and preparing the younger ones for productive roles when they grow up. Step one, of course, is breeding. Choosing stallions for the Cedar Ridge mares—the most critical element in those Breeder of the Year awards—is a group effort, usually involving Dick, Lollie, their daughter Lara, John and Leah Golladay, consultant Tom Moore and Brennan. The farm patronizes outside stallions as well as its own, largely because it supports many futurities. The staff ’s work calendar begins around the first of December, when mares are brought in to prepare for breeding, which begins February 1. They foal out each one that is carrying a baby (“one of us is here 24 hours a day when we know a mare is going to foal,” Brennan notes), and work with the colts and fillies, teaching them basic social skills. Further into the season, they will wean the foals in pairs, teach them to lead, tie and work with the farrier, and also do the first series of vaccinations. When the youngsters have absorbed that opening round of education, they are turned out to grow up for two years, although the team keeps a close eye on them.
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The foal care, Brennan says, is as important as the mare care. “Our goal is to make them manageable, where you can be their friend—but without being too friendly, because too friendly sometimes makes them a little harder to train. We want everything to be safe, and have everyone happy and content with what you are asking them to do. We don’t want them scared of things, because life is going to be so much different when they come in for training and start being asked to perform.” When the youngsters are ready, they head off for training with John and Leah Golladay or, if they are a part of Dick’s reining program, to Brian Welman, in Hastings, Minn., or Crystal McNutt, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Introducing Golladay Training at Cedar Ridge About 55 horses are in training at Cedar Ridge at any given time, counting everyone from the show string to the youngsters who come in from the mare barn, typically early in their 3-year-old year. There have been
many national-level trainers at the farm in its history; John and Leah Golladay have headed the program for the past five years, and they are the ones who will take it forward as their own operation. “This is an unbelievable opportunity,” John says. “We want to carry on the Cedar Ridge values and everything they’ve set up for us. I think over the next few years you’re going to see some really cool stuff.” Despite all of the accolades earned by Cedar Ridge horses—and there have been plenty, for horses purchased from the farm and those owned by the Ames family as well—perhaps the most important aspect of the training operation is not just that the horses learn their jobs, but that, as Mike Brennan cited, their relationship with humans has been considered from their earliest days. The Golladays endorse that perspective. “I like to be pretty hands on, because the foundation for a horse is something they remember for the rest of their lives,” says John. “It’s important that it is done right. Horses
Brass Star with John Golladay and Starr Llight with Leah Golladay.
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Dick Ames, Tom and Elizabeth Moore and Lollie Ames.
Toi Supreme CRF with Lara Ames.
remember everything. You’re always teaching them to do something when you’re interacting with them; whether it’s good or bad, they’re learning, especially Arabians, because they’re so aware and sensitive. It can be a really easy and pretty fun process when the right channels are taken.” The result is that the Cedar Ridge horses, whatever their abilities and talents, will have jobs in the industry, an expectation that makes the farm a resource for horses on many levels and most divisions of competition. “If an individual’s potential is that it can become a national champion or reserve or top ten, then obviously we want to be a part of that,” Golladay says. “But I think when you take the prize out of it, and your goal is just to fulfill that horse’s potential as a great country horse or English horse—and you make sure there is a balance there, so that they can understand what you are asking of them and not get frustrated—then these horses set their own guidelines and potential. They tell us what they are capable of doing. “When people push past that,” he adds, “that’s when they get into behavioral issues and confusion and soundness issues.”
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That approach has paid off. At this year’s 2014 U.S. Nationals, under the Golladays’ direction alone, several Cedar Ridge-bred and trained horses brought home titles. Toi Supreme CRF was a U.S. National Champion, while Ames Inspiration, Noble Supreme CRF and Ames Celebration all were reserve. And Toi Fabulous and Noble Bey CRF nailed top tens.
The Ames Reining Program Along with the English and halter horses that have distinguished Cedar Ridge since its inception, the farm has become known for its reining division, particularly
Gone N Dunit RA and Brian Welman.
in the past decade. From its annual foal crops, it sends a selection of young prospects off for training, and ultimately, many are sold to top reining barns around the country. Over the past decade and a half, Dick Ames has been a key player in the unprecedented growth of reining in the United States. In the history of the Scottsdale futurities—the Half-Arabian competition began in 2005 and the purebred the following year—Ames horses have twice won both in one year (in 2008, Fyre In The Skye in purebred and TR Texas T in Half-Arabian, both trained and shown by Brian Welman; in 2013, the Ames-bred Take A Spin in purebred for owner Amara Spizzirri, and in Half-Arabian, Gone N Dunit RA, with Welman up, for Ames). And to augment the 2008 performance, Dick rode Minding Ps and Qs, a full sister to Fyre In The Skye—and winner of the purebred futurity and the Canadian National Championship the year before—to the title in the Primetime Non Pro Derby. The difference in the two occasions highlights the evolution of the Ames program: in 2008, both winners were owned by Ames but purchased from other breeders; in 2013, both winners were bred by Ames, but one had been sold to another owner.
Dick Ames with TA Mozart (left) and Minding Ps And Qs.
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The program scored again in 2014, when All Maxed Out RA, with Crystal McNutt up, won the purebred futurity for owner Cotton McNutt. Crystal also rode Dunit On Fyre RA to the 2014 Scottsdale Reining Junior Horse Championship for Vallejo III. And there have been plenty of other success stories— national-level contenders Dun With Style RA and Ben There Dunthat RA, Scottsdale Futurity Top Ten Dunit My Way RA, and Dunminding Ps and Qs, who was reserve in the futurity this year with Welman, are among many on the list. Asked to explain why so many Ames-bred reiners emerging into competition come equipped with real ability, both Welman and McNutt cite the use of horses with demonstrated success in the sport as breeding stock. Many of the champions today are from Minding Ps and Qs, Fyre In The Skye, and U.S. National Top Ten Reining mare Marliera, crossed with top-level, award-winning stallions. The farm now stands U.S. National Champion TA Mozart at stud, and patronizes other proven Arabian and Quarter Horse sires as well. Both Brian Welman and Crystal McNutt also value Dick’s perspective. “He is really good to ride and train for,” McNutt says. “He’s realistic in what he expects; he gives you plenty of time, and if you take a little longer with a horse, he’s okay with that as long as you’re honest with him.” The result has been reiners who last a long time, successfully, in their careers. “I think Minding Ps and Qs has probably been my favorite,” Brian Welman says. It wasn’t just that she was such a talented mare with so much stamina (at some shows, with Welman showing her open and Ames amateur, the mare competed through six classes). It was also that she has proven so impressive as a broodmare. He has enjoyed seeing the Ames breeding program evolve and mature. More recently, he has liked Gone N Dun It RA, the winner of the 2013 Scottsdale HalfArabian Reining Futurity, who was bred and raised at the farm. He has seen the program come full circle, and the perimeter of its reach continues to expand.
Integral To The Process: Sales For many Cedar Ridge horses, the careful preparation in breeding and training is designed to lead out into the industry under other ownership. “The Ames’ are all about bringing new people into the Arabian breed,” says Gene LaCroix. “If I were looking for an English performance, halter or reining horse, that’s one place I’d have at the top of the list. The integrity of the people is that they’ll tell you if they have something available.”
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Amateur rider Katie Harvey has purchased two HalfArabians, Toi Sensation CRF (English pleasure) and Smoking Gun (reining), from Cedar Ridge, and says she will return to buy in the future. “When I go to a farm, I don’t just look at the horses I’m interested in,” she says. “I look at the entire barn and the horses in their stalls. Is this an operation that is run well and focused on the care of the horses? That’s what I saw when I was there: all those horses are happy and they do their jobs. And I didn’t just look at polished horses—I looked at 3-year-olds, the horses in long lines, and older horses. I think there is a consistency in quality of care in all their horses. And when I’ve gone to Cedar Ridge to try horses, they’re all well-trained.” At the 2014 U.S. Nationals, Harvey rode Toi Sensation to the U.S. National Reserve Championship in the Half-Arabian English Muturity. “She loves her job, she never puts an ear back, she’s as great on the ground as she is when you’re on her back. That’s great bloodlines, but it’s also training and care and handling. And Smoking Gun is the same way.” The story is similar in the reining division. “I train for them, but I’ve also bought probably 10 or 12 horses from them,” Crystal McNutt says. “The quality is very good, because they’re breeding specifically for reining.” At this point, she is into the second generation of hands-on familiarity with some of the lines, and smiles
that some of her frequent winners now (All Maxed Out RA, Gone N Done It RA and Custom Gale) are purchases from Cedar Ridge.
Nurturing Humans For The Horses: The Lesson Program “My family is all about youth,” Lara Ames says. That was the basis for their starting the riding lesson program at Cedar Ridge more than 20 years ago, although it long ago expanded to include adults as well. The program now, which is run by Stephanie Davisson, offers about 70 half-hour lessons a week for students age 7 and up, all conducted on Arabian horses. Roughly 10 horses are used for instruction, representing different levels of ability. “Our goal is to bring new people into the Arabian industry,” says Davisson. A graduate of the University of Kentucky in Equine Science, she worked at the world-famous Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and assisted in training barns before coming to Cedar Ridge three years ago. “We teach them about how special Arabians are and how to care for them. Basically, what I tell them is that if you want to ride, you have to take care of your horse. The lesson kids and I are the only ones who take care of the horses, and if they don’t want to do that, they don’t get the opportunity to ride.”
Lesson Program Manager Stephanie Davisson instructing client.
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Dick with great-granddaughter, Hadley Ames.
Two fun shows a year at the farm provide an easy entry to competition for the new riders, and if they like it, they can move on to the three or four academy shows the farm attends. After that, there are class A shows for more competition, and Cedar Ridge has horses available for sale or lease (the farm provides the horse and the services, while the lessee pays the expenses). “I like watching the kids learn, and learn to love the Arabians,” Davisson reflects. “I’ve been riding Arabians since I was 4, so I know what their attraction is to it. It’s fun to learn and grow—and then one day they say, ‘Hey, Mom! I want a horse!’ That’s the best part because they know the work that goes into it and they still want it.” Now, as Golladay Training debuts in the Arabian community, the lesson program will be part of the new operation. “I’m excited to see where it will take us,” Davisson says. The principles and the standards remain the same. It is simply a new generation carrying the message forward.
The Cedar Ridge Experience Inevitably, some of the lesson riders respond to the challenge of showing, want to move up the ladder, and decide to buy a horse. Janice Morton’s daughter, Laura, who began riding at Cedar Ridge at age 11 and just finished her last year in youth competition, is one. She now rides with John and Leah Beth Golladay and shows Toi Slamtastic CRF. “Slammy probably has had 14 or 15 national championships since we’ve owned him,” says Morton. “We bought him as an investment and his first shows were futurities, showing with trainers, but then when Laura was old enough, she rode him. She was 13 or 14 when she started showing him at Youth, and that year she won two unanimous national championships. That has a lot to say for the breeding program as well as the lesson program at Cedar Ridge.” These days, Laura is not the only family member riding at the farm. “Now I take lessons,” Morton smiles.
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“We own six horses and I love them all, but Slammy’s special—he’s one of the great ones, one that people say comes around once in a lifetime.” Cedar Ridge, she adds, has been about more than just horses. “The amateur and youth riders there are like family,” she says, “and I think the mentoring that Laura has had from older people, from being around the adults, has been important. Everybody’s equal there; it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, you’re part of this horse family. She’s very poised and gracious, and I think that has a lot to do with it. She’s grown up there. Toi Slamtastic and Laura Morton.
“One thing we learned at Cedar Ridge that I think is a huge part of everyone’s life is that you win with grace and dignity and you lose with grace and dignity, and you support everybody. If we’re up till midnight watching somebody do the last class and somebody else is in the first class at 8, you’re there. We learned that from Dick Ames—when some of the kids from the lesson program are at a show, if those little kids have a not-so-good ride, he’s there saying, ‘You just did a great job.’” She recalls a moment at the barn, when one of the riding students was grazing a horse. Dick, looking on, observed, “Isn’t that beautiful? That’s what it’s all about.”
Dick, Lara and Lollie Ames with their Percherons.
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“She was just having moments with her horse, loving on him,” Morton says. “This is not just about the 30 minutes in the ring. It’s about the journey and everything that goes along with it. The people who
are attracted to Cedar Ridge are people who love their horses. The ribbon you win is a bonus; the relationship you have with the horse is what it is all about.”
The Takeaway What makes Cedar Ridge special, it becomes clear, is the level of caring apparent in the people there, and their sense of responsibility not just for the farm but for the breed. It is most apparent in their program, but it reaches beyond the white fences at the edge of the property. The Ames’ equine “civic commitments” are well known, as they have supported nearly every program designed to strengthen the industry in all the years of their participation. Two examples of their involvement would include the Minnesota Arabian Horse Breeders Futurity (Dick was a founder, and he’s been on the bandwagon ever since) and the Youth Nationals (Lollie was one of its earliest supporters and still serves on its show commission). Today, Dick is best known for putting his horses and his money behind reining, where he has founded and funded futurities. “You can’t just take, take, take,” Lollie says bluntly. “You have to give back too.” But it may be argued that it is the personal touch which tells the story best. No one, for example, can get around Dick’s larger than life personality, and his love for Arabians is magnetic. Cedar Ridge is not just a business; it is an affair of the heart. Tales are still told about how, years ago, he decided to take a young stallion named Brass out for a spin with the jog cart. At the time, Brass was about as strong-willed as his owner and it was a spectacular—if hair-raising—trot down a long lane that wound up landing them both in a ditch, neither one having given an inch. But Dick loved the bay son of *Bask with a ferocity that shows in his voice today, as it does with Lollie and Mike Brennan too. Seven years after Brass’ death at the age of 28, if you ask about him, their voices slow and soften when they answer. And then Brennan will clear his throat and tell you about how Brass, in his old age, would charm visiting senior citizens, newly off a tour bus, by dropping his head over their shoulders for pictures. And how as the
Lara, Lollie and Dick Ames.
stallion neared the end of his life, the barn staff would take turns walking him for exercise at the noon hour, invariably handing over their lunchtime apples to the demanding old rascal. It is feelings like that that enable Brennan to shrug off the added duty of conducting those tours. It’s just promoting the breed, he says, and he likes telling visitors about the horses and the breeding program, and seeing the delighted faces on some of the guests in wheelchairs when the barn cats hop into their laps. It’s horses and people, a magic combination. Everyone is important, and besides, he quotes the boss, you never know where your next customer is coming from.
Cedar Ridge: The Future The surest guarantee of Cedar Ridge’s future is that it is a family operation. Dick and Lollie’s daughter, Lara, is responsible for the farm (in addition to her duties as publisher of Arabian Horse Times, a completely separate business); Breeding Manager Mike Brennan is a nephew (the son of Dick’s youngest sister); and Cedar Ridge amateur rider Laurie Husband is Lara’s cousin. And the Ames sons, who long ago groomed and cleaned stalls, have offered grandchildren who are taking to the saddle, and now even a great-grandchild is starting to ride.
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threatens her voice. “I don’t know why I’m crying! I love all of this—I’m so proud of being a part of it, and of this breed.” She pauses and then continues, “I want to say that in the future, Cedar Ridge will still be breeding good horses—Lara will carry it on, and we have some grandchildren coming up that like the horses.” And she and Dick, who seem timeless? She’s back on her game. “You’re only as old as what you feel, and I don’t feel my age. You’ve got to think young and keep going; you can’t just sit down and do nothing.” She isn’t kidding. The days in her week trip over each other, they’re so full of agenda items, everything from horse shows to fundraisers for fighting children’s cancer to welcoming new horses. It doesn’t stop. “We want to continue to provide a place that people can come and enjoy their horses and the environment,” she adds. “We love to have people come and visit, and we love our horses.” ■
“This is something we’ve always done as a family,” Lara says. “Basically, we just love horses—that’s my entire life.” They all appreciate the opportunity to turn over responsibility for the training barn and lesson program to John and Leah Golladay and Stephanie Davisson. “That will enable us to focus more on our breeding program,” Lara Ames says. Bottom line, that is their first love. It is where everything begins. “It’s very satisfying when they announce a horse’s breeder or where it came from, whether or not we own it,” Dick says. “I maybe get more satisfaction from that than winning a blue ribbon.” “I’m really proud to be a part of the Arabian breed,” Lollie observes. “I have my office here in the mare barn, and sometimes I just sit here and look around at all the ribbons and trophies from over the years.” A choke
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“They’ve contributed so much. They continue to be diversified; they breed halter and do performance, and they stayed loyal to the breed when economics might have dictated they do something else. They’re not afraid to try things (for many years, they even tried to keep the auction sale going, and it was certainly not for personal benefit—it was Dick Ames and Gene LaCroix. for the industry). It’s the working together of the people and the pride in what they do and the work ethic that makes them special.”—Gene LaCroix