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2001/06/13

No "Cutting" Corners For Don Vickrey And Cutting Horses by Kevin DeBusk Three-years-ago Don Vickrey and his wife Justina moved from New Albany, Mississippi to Amory, Mississippi, where they purchased a three hundred acre farm and started to build. At the time the farm was nothing more than pasture and Don was just getting into horses. Today Don owns and operates Flying V Ranch. Visitors to the ranch are greeted by a long drive with fields and horses on each side and a beautiful white house and barn combination, Don built out of three old barns, at the end. You also find a 180 x 320 outdoor arena, a new barn with an 80 x 200 indoor arena and an upstairs guest room. He also included a state-of-the-art facility for AI and embryo transfer. "I started with cutting horses about two years ago," Don said. "We tried the western pleasure thing and it was boring to me. I got interested in cutting because I stopped by the cutting in Memphis by accident and that's what hooked us. We've been working that way ever since to build our program. "Our ultimate goal is to be a one stop facility. We want to have a place where people can train, get their horses bred and we can hold weekend shows. We also want to show and promote our business. "Invariably if you wanted a good cutting horse in the past, you had to go to Texas and I want people to realize there are nice horses around the Mid-South. Right now, we have weanlings, yearlings, two and three-year-olds and finished cutting horses for sale." Don currently runs approximately thirty brood mares, twenty-two weanlings, eight yearlings, eight two-year-olds and five three-year-old futurity babies in training. "One of the first horses we purchased was a futurity prospect that was in training," he said. "Since then we have been buying a few show horses but our operation really took off when we bought Corwin Collins herd, out of Texas." Cedar Valley Ranch of Harrison, Arkansas, which is owned by Collins, originated in Texas and is known for its role in the horse industry. In 1931 Mr. Collins father owned PRETTY BOY, who is the grandsire of POCO LINA and POCO PINE. SMART LITTLE LENA, ZIPPO PINE BAR and DUAL PEP can also be traced back to PRETTY BOY. So what made Don decide on these horses?"The bloodlines of his program is what sold me on them. He had a program that was ninety to a hundred years old and it's hard to put that together by yourself. He was looking for a place for his horses to go where they wouldn't go through a sale barn. "All of his babies are bred real nice and they have nice minds. Eventually they are going to be some big name horses and win some money. "The first thing I'm looking for in a cutting horse is bloodline. I want to stick with proven bloodlines of cutting, the PEPPY SAN BADGERS and the BOB ACRE DOCS. What sells horses is bloodline. As far as finished cutting horses the value is usually based on how much money they have won, especially on a horse that has been shown for a while. "You can look at bloodlines and see if the parents have won money. You also want to look at confirmation. Confirmation wise, you can talk with every trainer and get a different answer, but typically people want horses with little heads, long necks and big butts. Cutting horses have to be able to sit on their backend, because they have to spin on their backend. "Just because they have that, it doesn't mean their mind is good enough. There are some horses out there that are built real nice but they don't seem to have it between the ears as far as being trained." "When Don told me he had a bunch of mares coming in from Texas and asked me to come check them out, I expected one or two good ones and the rest to be mediocre," said DVM David Hidalgo. "I was surprised. This is as solid a group of mares as I've seen put together. If I was going out and looking that's exactly what I would have picked." Don added Hidalgo has participated in roping and been around horses like this in the past. To continue the success the Collins family had, Don is utilizing three studs. "We picked the studs that we thought would represent most of the better bloodlines," he said. "What we tried to do was get a diverse bloodline. We have DOC BAR, DOC QUIXOTE and PEPPY SAN BADGER influence in our breeding. "We're letting Mr. Collins dictate to us what mares to put with what stallions and in three years we'll know if it worked or not. He knows the horses and the bloodlines and it would be foolish of me not to use that knowledge. "We're using BOB N WILLY who is a Grulla stallion that is the son of BOB ACRE DOC, CHILE PICANTE who is a chestnut stallion and PEPPY SAN MARSALA, who is a King Ranch bred son of PEPPY SAN BADGER and daughter of DOC BAR." Embryo transfer also going to play a major role in increasing quality. "We're going to be doing embryo transfers here on the farm," Don reported. "I want to be able to take my best mares and get an embryo from them. One of the reasons people aren't doing embryo transfer around here is it's so cost prohibitive. They have to send two other brood mares with them to Texas and you have to take your horse out of training, but if we can do it locally we can do it very economically. When you have to send three horses out there, you have mare care for three horses and there is no guarantee it's going to work. We have to make it more convenient for people in this area. "David and I have discussed this and first off, we are going to get our feet wet with our mares before we offer to others." "It's a process I think anybody can do," said David. "You've got ten steps to follow and if you miss one step, or even part of a step, it goes bad. Once we get it down, and I don't know how long that will take but I anticipate it taking two or three mares, we'll be off and running. I would hate to charge someone for an outside mare and not have it down." To accomplish this goal Don and David have worked together to create a collection room. This room is designed with a squeeze shoot, sink and processing room/laboratory off to the side. "He's got the facilities he needs," David said. "It has to be clean and dust free, with a laboratory. We'll also have our incubators and microscopes set up in that room. "We'll implant immediately. Frozen embryos have taken off in the cattle industry but we're not doing it in the equine industry yet. I think in the future we will." Don is also looking to promote his facility through showing and training. "We have been training our own with outside trainers but we decided it was probably time to hire our own trainer," Don said. "We've hired Jeff Gassen of Louisiana. Jeff will be starting the first of June and is a NCHA judge with twenty-five years experience training and showing horses. He's real excited about coming on. He's seen our stock and bloodlines and he thinks we have something to build on." Don is also excited about the quality of his younger horses. "One of our three year-olds is signed up for Fort Worth," Don stated. Another filly that Don is excited about is out of CLASSY ROXANA and sired by CHILE PICANTE. "She's the only one not for sale," Don quickly commented. "I like the muscle content of her. She has a small head and ears with a long neck. She's just built real nice. She's real inquisitive. She wants to come up and see you. That's a sign of intelligence to me when they're inquisitive and don't run off. I guess it's just personal preference and she strikes me as being a pretty horse. "I hope that we don't have to buy any more horses. Hopefully, now we'll be showing and selling our own horses. That's the way you promote yourself."

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