They say there’s a first time for everything, and I had one of those times yesterday when I made a nomination to a hall of fame.
In this case, I nominated the deceased stallion Major Bonanza (1972-1997) to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. And have my fingers crossed that he’ll be among the inductees for 2013. I was a little surprised to find that he’s not in the AQHA Hall of Fame already. He was a special horse who deserves to not be forgotten.
Major, whose show career ended in 1980, epitomized the halter horse that could perform. People talk to this day about the Superior halter and Western pleasure horse that also proved to be one of the best working cow horses of his day. But his siring ability would soon eclipse this.
Passing along his athletic talent, versatility, and good looks, Major achieved the astounding feat of siring nearly a dozen world champions, winning 15 World titles in nine widely ranging events. He dominated AQHA Leading Sires lists for a decade, and his influence is still found in the performance bloodlines of today.
Major represents a different era. He was popular with mare owners at a time when there was no breeding via shipped semen. He sired nearly 800 foals in 24 seasons at stud, and almost all were from mares that were shipped to him, as he stood in Alberta, Oregon, and Texas. (His final foal, via frozen semen, was born 14 years after his death).
His influence on his human associates has been just as notable. He helped establish the careers of such respected AQHA Professional Horsemen as Bob Avila, Steve Metcalf, Carol Carter Metcalf, and others. He was owned by the same couple, Andy and Carol Rees, and later a partner, Gordon McDonald, from the time he was 12 hours old until he died 25 years later. He built a ranch and was considered a member of the families he supported; he was never syndicated property. He has legions of fans whose horses trace to him.
I’ve profiled many a horse over the course of my career, Major included. I wrote about him as the H&R ‘Living Legend’ and cover horse for the May ’96 issue, and also wrote his chapter for Volume 6 of the ‘Legends’ book series published by Western Horseman. Here’s how I’d sum him up:
Major Bonanza was the real deal. He embodies the dream to make it big, somehow, with the horse upon which you’ve pinned your dreams–and to have that horse become not just successful, but respected for his legacy.
I hope he makes it in (to the Hall of Fame, that is.)