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2002/08/15

Breeder Was Foundation Before Foundation Was Cool story and photographs by Tom Burriss Ivan Cummings from Colt, Arkansas is a part of a recent movement in the horse industry to return original genetics and characteristics to the Quarter Horse. This is nothing new or recent to Cummings though. Since 1965, he has been line breeding to the likes of JOE REED, SKIPPER W and LEO, all for the sake of keeping characteristics and qualities which he found necessary for the type of work and showing that he enjoys. He does not see them as Foundation Quarter Horses, rather as horses that go back to the original Mustang and Thoroughbred cross.Cummings wants to keep what he likes about Quarter Horses in Quarter Horses, and than continue infusing the thoroughbred influences as some breeders do. The smaller framed and more heavily muscled Foundation Quarter Horse is better suited for doing reigning, barrels and cow work. The smaller frame lends to a smaller back, which provides strength in work and competition, in addition to the pear-shaped hips. The angled shoulders allow the horse more clearance underneath while still gaining the benefit of a shorter stride. The shorter strides allow for more quickness (more steps in a smaller distance). It possesses stability and pure athletic ability on its feet. Especially attractive is the fact that it has much stronger joints and bones in its legs. The thoroughbred is a horse with virtually no "cow" in it. Cummings intention of having working horses requires "cow." "He has such good, strong cow horses. They are really smart," says Cummings customer and calf roper, Dr. Jerry Miller. The most observable trait is the disposition. Cummings' quarter horses are absolutely calm. Quarter horses with a greater percentage of thoroughbred have a more high strung disposition. The gain in height and length of stride from a thoroughbred give way to a different demeanor. Standing out in his brood pasture you can certainly tell the difference. Until you give them a reason to be skiddish around you, they are completely at ease. You can see the calmness in their eyes. Of course, disposition and spirit should not be confused. Cummings has demonstrated a history of the spirited work with his Quarter Horses. He and his children have put up trophies and awards from all over the mid-south and nationally, showing their success in line breeding. In his efforts to line breed the qualities and look he desired in a Quarter Horse took him a little while. He sought to purify his own stock to achieve the look in its purest form. He did the breeding work himself, although it took him about seven or eight colts. He eventually bred his desired sires. SILVERADOLEO goes back to his grandsire SKIP O LEO on both sides. The other stud is KAY HORNET LEO who goes back to LEO and JOE REED on both sides. These two studs are providing Cummings progeny to work and train. "A medium range horse can do anything. They have enough leg for all classes," comments Cummings. Meaning that his Foundation horses are equally capable of having a look for pleasure classes, having the strength for reigning, and the agility for cutting and barrels. "They have a great conformation," adds Miller, "if I wasn't training ropers, I'd be showing halter classes." He keeps his herd on five pastures totaling fifty-two acres. He leases and rents some of the pastures in which he splits his herd to broodmares with foals (his SILVERADO daughters), yearling studs, and two year-old fillies. Cummings usually expects his pastures to support one horse per four acres. He spot seeds his pastures and fertilizes once per year at 30-10-10. Cummings makes a regular practice to run over his fields with a harrow to spread out the manure. Inattention to manure in a field will severely restrict grazing. It is good nourishment for the ground and grass, but a build up will create areas that are not grazed. The harrow spreads the manure and allows for uniform grazing. You might fancy Cummings somewhat of an innovator. As a man who also operates his own heating and air conditioning business, you will find a number of products which Ivan has concocted in his mind and subsequently built in his back yard shop. For instance, one of them is used in his fields. It is a chisel-plow. He took old tines from a bucket and welded them to a frame. He uses the chisel-plow to aerate his fields. By dragging the "chisels" through the field it loosens the dirt more thoroughly to allow water and grass roots to penetrate the soil, but without the damage or turn-overcaused by discing or tilling. Essentially, when he is done with the chisel-plow, you cannot tell he has been over the pasture. Cummings feeds a combination of 9% sweet feed and 12% all-purpose feed, which he supplements with a mineral. He is particular about how much protein he feeds never over 10-12%. Too much protein, he believes, can damage kidneys and lead to nervous system problems. He also feeds crimped oats to his foals, because they do not digest the whole ones very well. To Cummings, there is no sense feeding what they cannot use in their system. Which is his argument for a worming program. "With a good worming program in place, it takes less feed and energy to raise a foal." Essentially, feed the foals and not the worms. When his colts and fillies come two years old, he begins to train them, and never a minute sooner. Cummings does not start early with halter training or imprinting. "I don't need too. They are already bred to be good natured and do what you ask," he says. "Except if they get beat a lot when they are young." Primarily, he starts his work on the ground, in a pen, with lead lines. "That way, when you get on their back, they already know what to expect." Cummings sets a schedule to work a horse for 20-30 minutes two times per day. "That is about the amount of time their attention can handle," he says. By not extending them past their attention limits, it helps them remain quiet and consistent. Once again innovation comes into play with his training and he uses some homemade head stahls and bits when he begins training. He starts with a regular nylon halter that has a snaffle bit attached. This allows the horse to get the feel of the bit, yet keeps the horse's mouth soft. The halter absorbs a portion of the force exerted from the reign, which for a new learner can be a relief. Another bit he uses is one that he came up with on his own. Basically it is 3/8 inch bar stock which he has shaped and welded together. Washers are welded to the ends for the reigns and a chin strap. It has a high port, which is much more forgiving and carries more quietly in the mouth. The shank is turned back and provides the appearance of a looser reign and carries the head more square when collected. Ivan will spend about two weeks in the barn with the horses before he will start a regimen of trail riding. Part of their learning experience is the life they have lived while out in the pasture. "There are a lot of things they will see and do before you get on their back that they will have already grown used to." He will not ask a horse to do any thing that it is not capable of doing, and when a horse balks he starts slowly and small and works his way up, such as with water and creeks. All of his animals are proven. "You do not want to think 'well, she won't show, we'll just make her a brood mare.'" Cummings has specialized in the versatility of his stock, and they have been bred so that his children could show whatever they wanted to with them. He has continued that way of thinking with his stock and passes it along to anyone who wants the foundation qualities. "He basically has a who's who of Foundation Quarter Horses to choose from," notes Jerry Miller. "If you want quality you have to start with quality," Cummings emphatically states. By the same measure, one must also finish with quality. Nothing passes by Ivan without living up to that standard.

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