JULY 1997 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 7/1/97; 10:00:00 AM.
Big Hips, Pretty Faces
by Jim Bramlett
"A good Quarter Horse has the face of a lady and the fanny of a cook," H.H. Darks once wrote. That description sure fits all of the horses on the Pidcock/ Coates Quarter Horse Ranch at Benton City, Washington.
When I walked through Jim & Gay Coates' pastures and paddocks last fall, I saw mares and colts with well balanced, massive hindquarters, prominent stifles (should stifles be the widest part of a horse's anatomy), short cannon bones and slim necks with keen little heads on the end: the result of years of selection and culling. A customer once told Gay Coates; "You've taken foundation Quarter Horses and made them pretty." That customer was right! But looks is only a part of it; these horses are bred for stockhorse events. A Pidcock/ Coates horse isn't just another pretty face; look at the other end. The colt was bred to work and is built to work.
An example of Pidcock/ Coates working bloodlines is reflected in their aged stallion's pedigree. Joe (Doc Joe Tucker) is by Doc Tom Tucker (Hall Of Fame Working Cowhorse), who is a son of the great Doc Bar. Whew! In the mare herd we're talking about bloodlines of Colonel Freckles, Zippo Pat Bars, Poco Bueno, Skipper W, Leo and King Fritz.
Gay is the number one horse handler as well as the mastermind behind the little ranch's successful horse program. "We breed for disposition first," she proudly stated.
"How did you develop such an eye for Quarter Horse conformation?" I asked her.
"From my dad," she replied. "He's half horse, you know. About once a month I follow him through our herd, picking up pointers, suggestions and comments on each horse."
That evening I met Dick Pidcock, Gay's father. Dick had been a rambling cowboy in Colorado and Wyoming during the days of the longhorns. He had ridden with Johnny Mullins and Tom Mix both on the range and in the movies. When Dick moved to Eastern Washington, he became a horse breaker, packer and wrangler. The old cowboy had broke and trained many horses during his lifetime.
Most of Dick's talk consisted of colorful anecdotes about horses he had known:
"I never did trust a horse that travels with his ears layed back. I had a little strawberry roan that was like that. He would bite at me when I went to get on him and as I would ride along, he would kick at my feet in the stirrups and he would really make my spurs ring."
"Me and some Umatilla Indians trailed horses into Vail, Oregon once. There were three hundred in that bunch."
"Cecil Taylor, my neighbor to the west, owned two or three hundred head of horses which roamed the range. He had four Quarter Horse studs: Idaho Red, Joe Reed, Lucky Taylor and an army stud called Flying Fast. He kept them up for breeding. He furnished bucking horses for the Toppenish rodeo and, because I helped him with his horses, he entered me in the bronco riding at Toppenish. That was my first attempt at rodeoing. I drew a big, black named Nigger Heaven and bucked off."
"Cecil also owned about sixty head of whitefaced cows which he bred to Jeff, a brahma bull. He bragged that Jeff was broke to ride. He was teasing me about getting bucked off and said if I got unloaded on Jeff's range, I could just ride the big bull in. I said 'no thanks', that bull didn't look friendly to me."
"Ol' Zipper was only fourteen and a half hands tall, but he was the best built horse that I have ever seen."
I soon found that Zipper (Condons Zippo Parbar) is a revered name around the Pidcock/ Coates breeding farm. The name is spoken with respect. The stud is the sire of an elegant four-year-old stallion prospect, the pride of the ranch; they call him Boots (Zip Par Bar). Boots is the kind of horse that makes a horseman's eyes feel good. He's built the way a quarter horse is supposed to be built. Even his color is perfect, a deep mahogany bay with four matching white socks. When Zipper mysteriously died just before Boots was foaled, the young stallion became even more special to the Coates family. Boots is presently in training but will stand to outside mares during the months of April, May and June. When the stallion was first delivered to the trainer, ten-year-old Frankie Coates warned, "You had better be nice to my horse."
Presently, the ranch has two stallions and broodmares. It is a comparatively new business that could become a force in the Quarter Horse industry. Pidcock/ Coates colts have gone to many states including Alaska. The first of Boot's foals will be old enough to start riding in 1997.
"We're not afraid to go to outside studs if we think we can improve our colts," Gay said, nodding in the direction of two roan colts with ample bone and muscle that were strolling around a paddock. "We took mares to a top stud in Idaho to get these."
"Tell me about your ranch's game-plan," I said. "How are you consistently getting such good-looking foals?"
"Well, actually, the highest challenge is in getting past the careful examination of Dad's well-trained eye," Gay said laughing.
"It goes like this, too much refinement or coarseness is a defect to us. In determining the degree of such faults, we discuss the usefulness and marketability of the type of horse we are attempting to produce. Our preference is an all-around foundation-type Quarter Horse. I've heard one described as: 'A half-ton of controlled energy, held on an easy rein and a hair trigger. He's a working man, proud when he walks, but when he runs he can whip the tears from your eyes. He's big in the haunches, stout, and wide enough across the chest to hold his great heart. Cow-smart, though sometimes a clown, he's a hand... and a faithful friend.'
"We've found that not all well-bred stallions or mares reproduce the qualities needed to satisfy our high expectations of a breeding-quality animal; the offspring should be uniquely and foreseeably patterned after each parent. But as we gain experience, our colts show more desirable characteristics resulting in easier marketablility and higher prices.
"Our strategy begins in the early fall with a round-table discussion between Dad, Jim and I; Frankie even sits in. From the weanlings right up through the producing oldies, each horse is evaluated and breeding plans are made. Mares and stallions alike must meet certain standards to qualify as producers. We have high expectations. For example, mares must produce breeding-quality foals for three consecutive year before they earn their permanent position in the band. Less time is required to determine a stallion's breeding qualities. Each foal must have a quiet, gentle disposition! Conformation can vary slightly but powerful muscle and bone structure is a must. We stay close to the older foundation bloodlines for all of the above reasons. To quote an old phrase, 'The proof is in the puddin.'
"We carry over one or two young stallions each year for our own program. When they approach two years of age we start them under saddle. After thirty days, we allow each of these youngsters to cover several gentle mares to prove fertility and to learn manners. By this time, the colt has become quite valuable and is in demand elsewhere."
"Most of our stock is marketed as prospective stallions or fillies and are bought by breeders looking to replenish and upgrade their herds. Some are happily ridden off into the sunset to fulfill a rider's dream."
"At our ranch, which is only large enough to accommodate twenty five or thirty horses, every individual must be carefully scrutinized. Not all will make the grade -- its called culling -- but that's what keeps the quality high. Well.. that, and a working husband's first reaction to my, "Sweetheart, ya' wanna' go look at a horse?"