Three Bars, The Stallion That Changed the AQHA
In the horse world some of the best stories are about underdog horse stories where they may start life with a few exceptions and then nothing but bad luck follows them, but somehow through the adversity they simply rise above. In the AQHA racing history Three Bars was that unassuming horse and he was not even a quarter horse to begin with. And that alone is the first amazing fact about this special thoroughbred stallion that ended up changing the very heart of the AQHA.
Three Bars was a unplanned and unexpected foal that was born out of a mare named Myrtle Dee. The well-bred mare was sold to a duo of friends and it was unknown at the time that the mare was bred. This mare had been exposed to a stallion named Percentage. Born April of 1940, the owners knew with one look that their newly purchased mare had produced on heck of a colt. The colt was named Three Bars from a slot machine and with this colt, all involved had hit the jackpot.
As a two-year old Three Bars was a powerful runner and had a tremendous surge of power at short distances. But fate was not kind to this young stallion and shortly after turning two he developed a severe leg circulation problem that was never solved and the new owners, saw no future for the stallion. Because this horse was the fastest horse the partnership had ever seen and he was actually almost too fast for the track distances they decided to wait. After several vets looked at the stallions leg, a cure for the colt could not be found. A hard decision had to be made.
Many horses on the race track come to this cross roads in their lives and many race horse owners have to make tough money decisions. Three Bars was basically passed on to the next willing owner with the promise of a $300. Dollar payment should he ever win money on the track again. So Three Bars was sold for that tiny amount because it was assumed that this was all he was worth. He later did return to the race track and the $300. debt for him was eventually paid.
From this point in Three Bars life, it is unclear by all accounts how or even who cured the leg circulation problem that had plagued the stallion. But he ended up back at the track with a leg that was as good as new as a spped that could not be held back.. Three Bars was ready to run again but once again fate was unkind to this champion. Just as his career was about to really take off with several wins, World War II caused all race tracks to be blacked out for the duration of the war. Three bars was taken away from the race track and was stood as a stud horse at a cattle ranch. He was starting his breeding career by being bred to several high quality AQHA mares.
In the 1940’s the AQHA was just becoming popular and the registry was only started in 1940. Three Bars had such a cow horse conformation he was a perfect match for any quarter type mare. He was eventually sought after by a breeder with a vision and in the 1940 he paid 10,000. Dollars for the stallion. His breeding career was about to begin and no one could have guessed where it was all going. By 1946 the racing world was alive again and Three Bars was raced 17 times and won first place eight of those starts for a total winnings of $16,940.
On the track Three Bars was a tremendous powerhouse that came out of the gate first and always did his best to stay there. Even with his soundness issues he gave his whole heart every time he ran. His solid cow horse looks and speed were the saving grace and his rating as a standing popular stallion began in 1945 till 1952. The stud fees varied during these beginning years at 500. Dollars, then went to 1000. Dollars and it was not long before his stud fee was at 5,000. Dollars. From the years of 1963 to the year 1966 the fee to breed to Three Bars was reported at as high as $10,000. This makes the original $10,000. Dollars to buy the stallion look like a very good investment.
Due to the high stud fees that Three Bars was demanding, the mares that were brought to him were some of the best in the country and the best represented ranches in the country. The mares brought to Three Bars were the royalty of the AQHA world. During his life on the ranch in Oklahoma, Three Bars was almost lost at least three times. He was sick from sheep virus on two separate occasions and the vets that looked over him only gave the stallion a 50% chance of making it through the sickness. Three bars was also stolen on one night and was later found bloodied and beaten and fighting with another horse. He was kept under lock and key from that day on.
Three Bars was a ranch horse he was ridden regularly on the ranch in Western tack and was treated like a ranch horse all of his life. He was a stallion with a lot of fire and a ton of personality that never quit. He was a thoroughbred stallion that changed the AQHA like no single stallion ever did. In conformation terms he was a picture perfect example of what western breeders were looking for. He also had the powerful speed, but more than any trait was his ability to pass on all his heart and all his best on to the next generation of foals. Three Bars was a champion till the last moment of his life and he died on March, 1968 in Oklahoma.
Three Bars ended up siring 29 AQHA champions, 4 AQHA Supreme Champions and 317 racing register of merit earners. He became a member of the AQHA as well as being inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame. Today you do not have to look far to find his influence in your AQHA paperwork. He was the architect of the AQHA as we know it today.
Editor: Robbie Jones