Reined cow horses are a passion for Garth Gardiner.
Just ask him about Gardiner Quarter Horses, specifically the National Reined Cow Horse Association participation, and the Ashland cowboy’s enthusiastic adrenalin is most obvious as he talks almost nonstop 45 minutes about the home raised horses, their families, the shows, his family, and the incredible successes.
Immediately and frequently intermingled, Gardiner emphasized “We’ve been very blessed in so many ways. Blessed with nice horses, nice people and that our horses have been in good hands of top riders, along with our share of good luck. So many good things have come our way, but it’s a family operation with my wife Amanda and our three children. That’s the biggest blessing of all.
“We thank the Good Lord every day for everything that our horses have accomplished, but He keeps us humble. That’s one thing about horses, raising horses and showing horses, it always keeps you humble. You can be on top one day, and at the bottom the next. That’s just the way it is, and the way it’s supposed to be,” Gardiner acknowledged, both humbly and gratefully.
While Gardiner remembers and can spontaneously reflect nearly every horse produced, nearly every horse show run they’ve made to intimate detail, and even each judge’s marking, it’s virtually impossible in one short composition; that writing would require a book, which undoubtedly will be written in due time.
Now, suffice that the easiest and best way to tell the story, becoming more detailed even at the moment, Gardiner Quarters Horses was recognized as the both the Leading Breeders and Owners in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) for the past year, 2013.
“We are so happy, yet again so very humbled for these standings, not only in one division, but in two,” Gardiner recognized.
More Than ‘Just A Cowboy’
“What makes it even more humbling and such a blessing is that we really haven’t been involved in the NRCHA that long, or even breeding and training our horses for those specific disiplines that long. There are breeders who’ve been in the business a lifetime working to be at the top, which really does humble us,” emphatically analyzed the cowboy, who should justifiably be referred to as “horseman,” or a “horse breeder.”
Although his dad Henry Gardiner might prefer to have him called a cowman, as the Gardiner Angus Ranch is recognized as one of the leading breeders of registered Angus seed stock in the world, Garth Gardiner is still really a cowboy. “My granddad had race horses, we’ve always used Quarter Horses on the ranch, my brothers raise Quarter Horses, too, and I always wanted to be a roper.
“That’s how I met my wife Amanda (Maxwell), she was a roper, and we started going to rodeos, jackpots, then Quarter Horse shows after we were married. We were actually roping when we first became involved with reined working cow horses. It’s a much longer story, but that’s the short of it,” cowboy Garth Gardiner reflected.
To the essence of the story first: Gardiner Quarter Horses NRCHA Leading Breeders and Owners. While Gardiner readily relates just about everything about his horses, he’s much quieter about their winnings, certainly from the dollar standpoint.
However, that’s the way NRCHA list toppers are calculated: by dollars won in sanctioned competitions. Other groups including the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) figure their yearend standings based on points collected at approved shows.
“I really don’t know how much our horses have won. We have had futurity winners and high placings in other derbies and competitions with a number of horses and high pay back, which definitely attributed to the owner-breeder recognitions,” Gardiner cautiously tallied response.
However, exact calculations are in the official stats most congenially provided by Donna Timmons, assistant director of Equi-Stat, a division of Quarter Horse News, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.
To top the NRCHA Leading Breeders All Ages/All Divisions in 2013, Gardiner Quarter Horses won $190,814. Topping those winnings was Time For The Diamond, who collected $117,978.
Gardiner quickly pointed out, “Time For The Diamond won the snaffle bit futurity which included $100,000 in prize money and was a key factor in the yearend totals.”
Additional Gardiner bred horses collecting NRCHA paychecks last year were Bed Heat Cat, $33,425; Shining Cinderella, $14,808; Shes Wright On, $13,394; Wrightin Checks, $5,850; Very Red Remedy, $2,017; Diamonds On Time, $1,418; Smooth As A Diamond, $1,118; and Cut Wright, $806.
Interestingly, especially for those even vaguely aware of Quarter Horse breeder names, Carol Rose Quarter Horses, Gainesville, Texas, was second on the Leading Breeders list, with $164,331, while Arcese Quarter Horses, Weatherford, Texas, was third with $153,274.
To be at the top of the NRCHA Leading Owners All Ages/All Divisions in 2013, Gardiner Quarter Horses won $140,142. “Our stallion, Hickory Holly Time, won $60,195 of that total, which made us extremely happy, because we intend to use him as one of our own sires and stand to the public in the future, probably next breeding season,” Gardiner noted.
Additional Gardiner owned horses collecting NRCHA checks last year (most already named on the Top Breeders List) were Bed Head Cat; Shes Wright On; Fancy Boons N All, $11,731; Hoo , Talks Money, 7,717 ; Wrightin Checks; Hearts Satin Fox, $3,032; Very Smart Playmate, $1,735; Soula Jule Forever, $1,159; Wisha Pona Star, $972; and Shiney Remedy, $932.
Triple D Ranches LLC, Dyer, Nevada, was second in the owners division, with one horse, Time For The Diamond, bred by Gardiner Quarter Horses as previously noted, winning $113,300.
Chris Dawson, Jacksboro, Texas, was third leading NRCHA owner, with horses collecting $106,810, last year.
Two Very Important Horses
In his first trip to the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Finals in Reno, Nevada, Nick Dowers, Dyer, Nevada, claimed the $100,000 Championship aboard the Gardiner Quarter Horse’s bred Time For The Diamond (One Time Pepto x Diamonds With Style x Playin Stylish), a horse he owns under the name of his family’s Triple D Ranches, LLC.
Dowers, 31, piloted the sorrel stallion to a total 661 score (218.5 herd/218.5 rein/224 cow), earning a deafening ovation every time he entered the arena.
“I wasn’t sure I would be able to hear the horn at the end of my fence work,” Dowers said smiling, when analyzing the championship. “This is surreal. It hasn’t even sunk in. I’ve been telling my wife for a year – I got the horse to do it. If I can get things done right, I got a shot.”
While Time For The Diamond was bred by Gardiner Quarter Horses, Dowers purchased the stallion at the 2011 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale as a yearling – and it was love at first sight.
“I saw his head and neck sticking out of the stall, and I was, like, ‘Wow.’ He’s got the prettiest head and neck of any horse here, in my opinion. And that’s what drew me to him.”
Dowers considered selling “Cactapus” – nicknamed by his five-year-old daughter, Tulip – when an elite NRCHA professional threw a six-figure offer on the table.
“I stewed over it for three or four days,” he said. “I called a good friend and mentor and asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Well, is your dream worth that?’ I was, like, ‘You’re right. It isn’t.’ So, that was my decision. My dream of this major win, wasn’t worth the price.”
Up-and-coming professional horseman Kelby Phillips, Ashland, claimed the biggest win of his young career when he piloted Gardiner Quarter Horses’ stallion, Hickory Holly Time (One Time Pepto x Hickorys Holly Cee x Doc’s Hickory), to the NRCHA Intermediate Open Championship.
Phillips and the roan stallion scored a total 648 points (214 herd/218.5 rein/215.5cow) for the win, which came with a check for $30,000.
“This means a lot. This is probably my most favorite horse I have ever had. Ever since I’ve had him, he’s just kind of a pet, always wanting to nibble on you. He’s always been fun. It doesn’t ever seem like he has much of a bad day,” Phillips said right after his championship run.
Phillips showed another Gardiner-owned horse in the Intermediate and Limited Open finals: Bed Head Cat (Wild Haired Cat x Isabellena x Quejanaisalena), and he qualified both Hickory Holly Time and Bed Head Cat for the Futurity Open Finals.
Phillips has had tremendous success in the Limited Open at NRCHA Premier Events in 2013 aboard horses owned by the Gardiners. He won the NRCHA Stakes, Hackamore Classic and Derby Limited Open Championships, but this is the first time to qualify for the Open Finals.
“These are the first two horses I’ve ever trained from the start to bring here, so it’s a pretty big deal to me,” Phillips continued talking about his success. “To bring these two horses here, the first ones I’ve trained, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Although Phillips was thrilled to win the Intermediate Open title, he admitted the high point of his trip to Reno was watching his boss, Garth Gardiner, score a 218.5 to win the cow work round in the Futurity Non-Pro preliminaries.
“This is really an exciting moment for me, but to see Garth win the fence work was probably the proudest I’ve been. We had his horse ready, and had him ready, and he came in and marked a 218.5 and won himself a gold buckle,” Phillips said, smiling.
The Beginning And Forward
A cattleman by genes, a basketball player in his dreams, and singer by heart, Garth Gardiner envisioned playing basketball at Kansas State University and then becoming a Nashville country music recording star, going to the extent of spending five years in that city pursuing a professional singing career.
Yet, he was a cowboy, and sang during the American Junior Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in 1995. A year later, Gardiner’s four-year-old bay mare BCS Silver Doc was shown by Leonard Berryhill to win the AQHA Junior Calf Roping World Champion title.
Come along Amanda Maxwell, Colby native who was Miss Rodeo Kansas 1994, and champion roper on the Northwest Oklahoma University Rodeo Team.
“We started roping together, competing at rodeos, jackpots and shows. Amanda and I were married in 1999 and continued competing, raising horses and also having our horses shown in AQHA shows,” Gardiner said.
In 2007, Gardiner Quarter Horses brought to the World Quarter Horse Show a horse named Shiners Diamond Jill, trained and shown by Brad Lund from LaCygne. This horse won high point honors in senior heading and heeling. When the point totals were calculated, Shiners Diamond Jill was named AQHA Super Horse.
In 2008, another Gardiner-owned horse named Sue C Shiner was reserve world champion in the heading competition of the AQHA team roping. In February 2009, she was shown by Amanda in the novice, non-pro bridle class of the National Reined Cow Horse Association and was named reserve world champion.
“The versatility of the Quarter Horse is terrific,” Garth verified. “They can cut, jump, drive, or pull. They have cow sense, athleticism, and beauty. That’s why they’re such an outstanding breed of equine.”
In five years, Garth and Amanda Gardiner went from die-hard rope horse owners to showing, breeding and selling top-notch cow horses.
Garth and Amanda Gardiner both showed a cow horse for the first time at the same horse show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. To fill a class, trainer Brad Lund, who helped the Gardiners with roping, asked the couple to enter the amateur cow horse class.
“Brad Lund and Jay McLaughlin talked us through the pattern and explained how to run the rein work and where to be in the cow work,” Amanda said.
“I was riding, Sue C Shiner, who had of course been to the NRCHA Futurity, but she was nine-years-old, and a rope horse now. I asked Brad if I needed to turn her, and he said to sit deep, push on the horn, and hang on. So, in the class we headed down the fence, and she sat down on her butt and turned that cow. I had a huge smile on my face.”
Garth showed his roping horse, who didn’t have the advantage of cow horse training when it was younger.
“Neither one of us had a clue as to what we were doing,” Gardiner claimed. “It was a little different for me, because I had to steer quite a bit. But, from that time, we were both sold on reined cow horse events. Amanda called Todd Crawford, who we didn’t know at all, and went down and started riding. The cow horse industry is just full of good, helpful people.”
Gardiner clarified, “Reined cow horse classes have three divisions, all with equal value in total score. They include herd work like a cutting contest, dry work with a reining pattern, and cow work where a horse must turn a cow back twice running down the fence, and then turn it in a circle both directions.
“Each division has an average score of 70 points, and it’s important to do well in each category in order to win. A zero in any division will virtually eliminate a horse from collecting payback,” Gardiner explained.
The Gardiners knew the kind of horses they wanted to breed were similar in the fact they could compete in Western performance events, whether roping, reining, cutting or cow horse. Slowly, they built a herd of 16 mares with bloodlines that were marketable to cow horse and rope horse owners and trainers.
With the help of Brad Lund, the Gardiners found Hes Wright On, a 2003 bay stallion by Lenas Wright On and out of Shesa Lota Nic, a Reminic mare. He’s garnered numerous wins under the guidance of NRCHA Hall of Fame Horseman and $1 Million Rider Doug Williamson, Bakersfield, California.
“That horse has a royal presence about him, and it has only grown as he’s gotten older,” Garth says. “I never saw him before we purchased him; I put a lot of trust in Brad. We continued to have Doug show Hes Wright On, because, like I’ve told people, he and Doug are like Batman and Robin—you can’t split them up.”
“We were only able to breed one mare to Hes Wright On the first year we bought him, because it was late in the season,” Gardiner said. “We transferred an embryo from Sue C Shiner, that resulted in a mare named Shes Wright On, who’s a five-year-old now, and she’s won more than $31,000.”
Sue C Shiner has played a big part in the Gardiners’ cow horse history. A 1997 daughter of Shining Spark out of a Zan Parr Bar mare, she earned over $19,000 in the show arena. The mare was the perfect choice when the Gardiners’ son, Gage, wanted to show with his parents.
“When he was five-years-old, Gage showed her in the green rider class,” Amanda recalled. “He was just a little guy, but he went in and did his circles the right way, he just counter cantered. Gage was most excited to slide Sue C Shiner, so he came down the arena and his little legs were kicking for all he was worth. He said whoa and she just dragged her butt. That mare was as quite as can be for him.”
With older son, Greysen, and daughter, Grace, who also ride, the Gardiners hoped Sue C Shiner would help their children show. The mare was hurt and is no longer able to show; however, her impact on the family is still strong.
The Gardiners transitioned from showing rope horses to cow horses in 2007. They maintain a significant presence in the show arena, where both Garth and Amanda have become fixtures in the Non-Pro finals at the NRCHA Premier Events.
A Breeding Program
Their broodmares have been purchased both publicly and privately, but many have performance records and all carry outstanding cow horse lineage.
“Our broodmares have come mostly from Carol Rose. We like the influence of Shining Spark for the mare side crossed with sons of High Brow Cat for paternal influence,” Gardiner said.
“Hes Wright On has been bred to a variety of mares and seems to improve the mare and put his stamp on the babies. There’s a lot of ‘buzz’ on the offspring from owners around the country, all excited and all in agreement that Hes Wright On is stamping his foals,” Gardiner noted.
Presently, the Gardiners have nine mares with 28 foals born this year out of recipient mares.
“While our mares have all had live foals at some time, we presently only raise embryo foals out of them, bred to our own stallions, and other leading sires. This is the most foals we’ve ever had in one year. All of our embryo work is done by Oklahoma City Equine Clinic. They do a terrific job for us,” Gardiner credited.
“We have 18 mares to foal next spring. Most of them will foal in January and February, which makes the yearlings bigger, stouter when we consign them to NRCHA and other elite consignment sales, or to sell private treaty here at the ranch.
Of course, the Gardiners compete in non-pro divisions and also have leading trainers show some of their other horses, specifically futurity and derby nominees. Considerable credit is given to trainers Doug Williamson, Ron Ralls, Todd Crawford, and Kelby Phillips.
“Erin Taormino and her husband, Anthony, have now moved to our place, and are heading up our training and showing. Erin and Anthony worked for Todd Bergen in Oregon for five years before coming here. That experience was invaluable for them and made them a perfect fit to come here to start out on their own,” Gardiner noted.
The Gardiner family remains solidly rooted to Gardiner Angus Ranch in partnership with his brothers Mark and Greg.
But, the couple makes time for their children, and their many activities, including successfully competing in Little Britches Rodeos.
Garth also helps coach a local high school basketball team. When he took over, they’d won three games in the previous four seasons, but under Gardiner’s leadership, the team became undefeated, and won the state championship title.
“Our oldest son, Greysen, is a good horseman, but he’s more interested in basketball right now. He wants to play at K-State, but that’s okay, because I wanted to do the same thing when I was his age,” Gardiner admitted
Both Gardiners contribute their time as NRCHA volunteers. Amanda serves on the Board of Directors, and Garth oversees the NRCHA Stallion Auction, as well as serving on the NRCHA Sale Committee. The Gardiners’ Non-Pro Limited sponsorship is motivated by the desire to encourage others to participate in the NRCHA.
“The NRCHA is such a family oriented organization. Everybody wants to win, but they are always very willing to help each other in every way they can,” Gardiner said.
“We’ll never take our blessings with our family and our horses and all of the good people we’ve worked with for granted, and we will always remain humble.
“Amanda and I may not compete ourselves as much ourselves for a few years, because we don’t want to miss out on any of the activities our children are involved in. They are growing up so fast, but we’ll continue to be committed working to maintain and improve our breeding program to have the very best working cow horses possible,” Gardiner promised.