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Living Legends : The Invester

Horse & Rider
Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Changing a quarter horse's registered name is a medium sized hassle. But legendary halter horse specialist Jerry Wells knew it had to be done. Eying the beautiful weanling colt he'd just purchased at the 1969 Oklahoma State Fair, he knew he couldn't let him go by the name of Hank something-or-other.

Wells remembers the time "like it was yesterday," though in fact it was nearly 3 decades ago. "He was a cherry-red sorrel with stocking legs, a real pretty head and neck, and lots of body and muscle," he recalls. "He was also straight and correct, and a good-minded colt." The kind, in fact, that just might bring a nice return on your investment. So Wells, the man who has led 52 American Quarter Horse Association champions-and who also renamed the noted stallion Conclusive-christened his new colt The Invester. In so doing, he guaranteed that the pleasure-horse dynasty the horse was destined to found would be full of catchy, identifiable names. (Indeed, when six offspring of The Invester made the finals of the 1980 All American Quarter Horse Congress 2-Year-Old Pleasure Futurity-sweeping first through fourth place-names like Sure Investment, The Collateral, Double Vested, and Investers Reward were on everyone's lips.)

But back then Wells was - as is today - a halter man, and he'd bought the colt as a halter prospect. Yet he knew that the son of Zippo Pat Bars and Hank's Peppy Lou was carrying the blood of Three Bars, Leo, Peter McCue, and Joe Reed P-3, making him "bred to ride" as much as to look pretty. So when trainer Jack Benson called Wells late in 1969, looking for a stallion prospect, Jerry mentioned The Invester. Benson was shopping for Texan George Pardi, who'd told him to bring back a Three Bars son of breeding age. When Benson described the weanling grandson to him, Pardi balked. But the trainer won him over him with five words: "He moves like a dream."

It was this natural movement-slow, graceful, sweeping-that enabled The Invester (Zippo Pine Bar's half-brother) to become a foundation sire of the modern pleasure horse. "He's the best horse I've ever been around," avows trainer Brad McCamy, who joined forces with Benson to promote the stallion. (Benson bought The Invester from Pardi in 1973 for $25,000.) "But I'm sorta prejudiced - I've been living on his colts for 25 years." One particularly successful protege is Melvin Proctor's Impulsions, the 1989 American Quarter Horse Association World Champion Snaffle Bit Western Pleasure horse, and the leading sire of Western pleasure money earners through the first half of last year.

McCamy describes The Invester's movement in terms of his hind-leg construction. "He has a great hock for the lope-better than any other bloodline. His hock is relatively straight during his stride-the leg swings from the stifle joint, and the hock doesn't flex a great deal. At the same time, his stifle and gaskin are big and strong, enabling him to reach forward and plant his hind feet far up underneath himself, with no quivering in the joints. It's this strength that makes it possible for him to go so slow, yet maintain the three-beat integrity of his lope. He can 'hold' the ground better than other horses can."

Though he's known today as a pleasure horse sire, The Invester first drew attention as a sire of halter champions. His son, El Cicatriz, was the AJQHA Champion with points in English and Western pleasure, reining, and cutting. In fact, with Benson aboard, the athletic young stallion missed the 1972 National Cutting Horse Association Futurity semifinals by only one point. Apparently, the horse could move in more ways than one. And he passes his movement to his offspring. "His babies have that great hock at the lope," says McCamy. "And they're also real fancy joggers - crisp and cadenced, with no walking in front. They just march along, like they're in a military band, with their lateral pairs of feet landing in perfect unison." Other trademarks of offspring by The Invester include a big hip and proper tailset, along with overall good looks.

McCamy and Benson worked hard to promote The Invester, who stood at their Stallions Unlimited facility in Brenham, Texas; by 1980, the stallion's get began marching into the Western pleasure winner's circle in a big way. That year's Congress futurity was a watershed. Trainer Jerry Stanford had started five of the six Investers in the finals, and he rode Jay and Kathy Livingston's The Collateral to the reserve championship. Today, the Arkansan still praises the durability of this line's product.

"The Invester sires a different kind of horse-very strong physically," says Stanford. "Not only are their hocks set differently - lower, straighter - but their backs and loins also are stronger than those of many horses you see today. That's why they have the longevity they do - they just keep going."

Shortly before that Congress sweep, The Invester became one of the first halter/pleasure sires in the country to be syndicated. Benson and McCamy kept 20 shares, selling another 40 to breeders around the country. In the 1980's, The Invester raced up another three world champions, numerous AQHA World Show top-10 finishers, three AQHA high-point horses, and uncountable point earners. By 1988, he was one of AQHA's leading performance sires.

In February of 1989, a tragedy put The Invester in the hands of new owners. Jack Benson, the stallion's lifelong promoter and staunch supporter, stepped out of his pickup on the way to a horse show in Houston, Texas, and was struck by a semi trailer and killed. When financial considerations caused The Invester to be offered for sale later that year, a pair of Nebraska pleasure-horse breeders were very interested. Carol and Dan McWhirter already had had a taste of Invester genes as owners of The Big Investment (The Invester x The Country Girl, by Lad's Zero), a highly successful young pleasure-horse sire who'd died unexpectedly in 1986. They proposed a partnership to their friend, Wayne Atchley of Elkhorn, Nebraska. Atchley, who after earning nine amateur world championships in halter was interested in getting more involved in performance, said, "Let's go." After a series of legal complications and setbacks, the McWhirters finally brought The Invester to their farm in Doniphan in January of 1990.

"We were thrilled," Carol recalls. And the McWhirters' decision to continue "investing" was validated later that year, when Impulsions won the Congress 3-Year-Old Snaffle Bit Derby, and five other top-10 finalists were get of either The Invester or The Big Investment. But Carol and Dan, who also make their living farming, weren't taking any chances with their breeding program. They paid pedigree consultant Larry Thornton to analyze The Invester's get record to discover exactly which bloodlines crossed best with their new stallion.

"Larry's research showed that a high percentage of The Invester's Superior-award get were out of mares with a strong dose of Three Bars blood, as well as links to Leo, Joe Reed P-3, King P-234, Chicaro Bill, or Joe Moore in their dams' pedigrees," notes Carol. And All That Jazz, Bonafide, Collectors Prize, El Cicatriz, Good Invester, Impulsions, Invest In Ears, King Invester, Miss Balance Plus, Miss Cash Ticket, Ms Big Spender, Ms Safety Deposit, Pardin Me, and SR Market Invester are among the outstanding performers produced by such mares.

With this information in mind, the McWhirters have done well crossing The Invester on his own close relatives, who themselves carry many of the desired bloodlines. "We've had a lot of success breeding to daughters of Zippo Pine Bar. For example, Vested Pine was the result of our first mating to a Zippo Pine Bar mare. We also bred The Invester back to his own granddaughters-offspring of The Big Investment.

"But," she adds, "we're always careful to make sure there's enough outcross blood in the bottom sides of these mares' pedigrees, as well. Then, too, the unrelated lines must represent families with characteristics we want to see in our foals." As a result of this deliberate approach to herd selection, says Carol, the mares in his court in the last few years "are the best he's ever been bred to."

The recent record certainly doesn't deny this assertion. The Invester was inducted into the NSBA Hall of Fame in 1994, and the following year boasted two Congress pleasure futurity winners. "No other stallion had more than one," says Carol proudly.

Despite the success of The Investers over the years, there has been some talk that they're not always easy to work with. This claim makes Carol chuckle. "They're very smart horses!" she says. "Sometimes smarter than people who try to ride them. Back in the days when chambons, hock hobbles, and other severe equipment was used to force pleasure horses to travel a certain way, the Leo/Joe Reed part of his bloodline wouldn't put up with it. Our trainer, Gary Trubee, says, 'If you want to pick a fight with an Invester, you'd better pack a lunch. But there's no reason to fight with them if you just let them do what nature intended."

"Just get 'em broke and get outta their way," agrees McCamy, whose wife, Kelli, rode Impulsions to his Congress derby win. "And they have so much heart. In some of the earlier futurities, you had to go four or five times a day. The Investers would always be bright, looking through the bridle with their ears up and a lot of expression, enjoying the go. You were never out of horse when you got to the finals."

Carol also points with pride to the many big-name trainers who've ridden horses by The Invester over the years: "Cleve Wells and Todd Sommers got their starts riding Investers. And others who've done well on them include Mike Carter, Tommy Manion, Keith Whistle, Barney Hinds, Al Dunning, Steve and Mary Carole Heckaman, Bruce Walquist-and Jerry (Stanford) and Brad and Kelli (McCamy), of course."

So, what's in a name? Could The Invester have yielded such a payoff had he been called Hank something-or-other? Probably. But when his offsprings' names are announced in the winning lineup, their owners owe a thank-you to Jerry Wells.

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