Today, the idea of a cutting horse sire being an AQHA Champion is almost unheard of. But in the 1970s, the title of “AQHA Champion” made broodmare owners “stand up and take notice.”
That’s more than likely why E.C. (Gabby) Bryant Jr., made sure that his new stallion, Doc’s Solano, was shown at halter, Western pleasure and reining, as well as cutting. The 1971 son of Doc Bar, out of Susie’s Bay, a daughter of Poco Tivio, earned nine cutting points, 18 halter points, five reining points and 34 Western pleasure points, for a total of 66 AQHA points.
Even though the stallion spent a large part of his life in the East, and was 11 before he was moved to Texas, he still sired 26 colt crops which included 738 offspring. Of those, 329 performed and 155 earned a total of 2,253.5 AQHA points. Showing the versatility of the sire, 44 were halter points and 2,209.5 were performance points. A total of 241 of his offspring also earned over $3,276,766 in the cutting arena (averaging $13,597 per money earner) and $64,894 in the reining pen.
His leading cutting offspring, Big Red Solano, a 1983 stallion out of Tivio Vanita Bar by Big Vanny, earned over $224,000, while his second-leading, money-earning cutter was the great mare War Lano Missy, a 1983 daughter of War Leo, that was also his leading producing daughter, as she was the dam of seven offspring earning over $292,000.
Today, Doc’s Solano is a million-dollar sire with over $3.26 million in earnings won by his offspring.
In the beginning
Doc’s Solano’s dam, Susie’s Bay, a 1955 mare, was foaled on the Solvang, Calif., ranch of George Smith Jr., and his wife, Kathy. Her sire was the legendary Poco Tivio and her dam was Susie L, a daughter of Jess Hank, a son of King, giving her a double dose of King. Stephen and Jasmine Jensen of the Double J Ranch, later known as the Doc Bar Ranch, Paicines, Calif., purchased Susie’s Bay by topping Smith’s sale when she was a 4-year-old.
Charley Araujo, Coalinga, Calif., had stood both Doc Bar and Poco Tivio at his ranch, and later sold Doc Bar to the Jensens, suggesting that they cross the stallion on Poco Tivio mares. Lucky for today’s cutting horse industry, the Jensens took his advice.
The Jensens’ daughter, Stephenie Ward, remembered Susie’s Bay in a 1992 article by Bruce Beckman in the Quarter Horse Journal, saying she was a “great big mare, built like a tank.”
But evidently, she also moved like a tank, as cow horse trainer George Rose, started her on cattle and at her first show, she stumbled and fell while taking a cow down the fence. Their second show wasn’t much better, as Susie’s Bay again tripped and fell, but this time, she broke Rose’s leg.
Although that was the extent of her show career, she was later inducted into the Cow Horse Hall of Fame by virtue of the outstanding performance record of her offspring.
According to Stephenie, Susie’s Bay was a cranky mare and hated to be tube wormed more than anything else. But she was a “darn good broodmare.”
Although she had several colts by other stallions, her first foal by Doc Bar was Doc’s Susie Que, a 1964 bay mare earning halter, reining and Western pleasure points, followed in 1965 by Janey Durante, an AJQHA World Champion Working Cow Horse. In 1966, she foaled Doc’s Bar Bender, a ranch gelding and the high-point calf roping horse of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association.
She was barren for four years, but in 1970, the cross of Susie’s Bay with Doc Bar produced Doc’s Marmoset, the 1973 Champion of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity and NCHA Derby with Tom Lyons in the saddle. She was the first horse to take such honors. In 1974, the pair also won the inaugural AQHA World Championship in Junior Cutting and seven years later, won the NCHA World Championship.
In 1971, Doc’s Solano was born and in 1973, her foal was Doc’s Oak, a stallion that Lyons showed to fourth place in the 1976 NCHA Futurity, fifth at the 1977 AQHA World Show in Junior Cutting and third at the NCHA Finals in 1978, ending the year in fourth place.
In 1974, Susie’s Bay went through the Houston Livestock Show Quarter Horse Sale and was purchased by Eddie Wilson’s New Frontier Investments, Bowie, Texas, who planned to export her to Australia. (In 1977, Wilson purchased the Doc Bar stallion, Doc’s Prescription). Heavy in foal, Susie’s Bay was flown to England for a lengthy quarantine to meet Australian requirements, and less than two months later, foaled Doc’s Susie Bay.
Although Doc’s Susie Bay made it to Australia, Susie’s Bay never did.
According to Stephenie, she was “adopted by some lady in England and bred to Doc’s Cylip, a son of Doc Bar, that went to England on the same plane she did. The result was Dream Lucky Lad, a sorrel colt foaled in 1977. Susie’s Bay died in England soon thereafter.
“I went to Houston with intentions of buying Susie’s Bay,” Gabby Bryant said in a recent interview. “I went to the banker and told him that I wanted to buy this mare and he said, ‘go ahead,’ so I flew to Houston thinking I could get her bought for $5,000 or $6,000, which was a lot of money to pay for a horse in those days. But I didn’t even get to bid “I think she sold for $20,000 or $30,000.”
Susie’s Bay had put 12 foals on the ground sired by five different stallions. Those foals earned 1,064 AQHA points and included three AQHA World Champions, two open and one youth, and one NCHA World Champin, an NCHA Futurity and Derby winner and an open and youth high-point horse.
A new home
When Doc’s Solano was just a weanling, Keith Barnett, who at that time lived in Wayne, Okla., purchased Doc’s Solano from the Jensens on Dec. 20, 1971.
“I had tried for three years to buy a Doc Bar stallion,” Bryant recalled. “I had seen Doc O’Lena win the 1970 NCHA Futurity and I decided I just had to have one of those. But at that time, yearlings were selling for about $5,000, so I decided I’d wait. They were just too expensive.
“The next year, Dry Doc won the 1971 NCHA Futurity and I fell even more in love with the Doc Bars, but they had gotten more expensive. Now they were around $10,000 for a yearling.
“The next year, Herb Monroe had been to Oklahoma visiting with Keith Barnett and saw Doc’s Solano. He called me and told me about this yearling son of Doc Bar. I didn’t even ask him how much Keith wanted, I just told him to buy the horse. So I bought him as a yearling sight unseen, for $15,000.”
On July 21,1972, Doc’s Solano’s papers were transfered to E.C. “Gabby” Bryant Jr.
“It wasn’t long after that when I went to a horse show and these two guys were standing close to me saying they had heard that someone had paid $50,000 for a yearling son of Doc Bar named Doc’s Solano,” Bryant said.
According to Bryant, his wife, Jean, just looked at him and didn’t say anything. But as soon as they got in the car, she said, “50,000?”
Bryant soon calmed her down, saying she could be assured he didn’t pay anywhere close to $50,000 for the young stallion. “I don’t think she ever did really know how much I paid for him,” he said.
Although Bryant had been interested in horses all his life, he was a relative newcomer to the cutting horse industry. “I knew practically nothing about establishing a young stallion as a cutting horse sire,” Bryant said. “Frankly, that wasn’t my intention. We got into it for the fun. I sure couldn’t train or show a cutting horse and I didn’t know many people who could help me get it done.”
The Bryants owned a furniture business in North Carolina, a state that was not exactly the place for a young sire of cutting horses.
“We didn’t have access to the trainers, customers or cutting horse public,” Bryant said.
So, the next year, Herb Monroe, an all-around trainer, showed Doc’s Solano to his AQHA Championship.
“He was an absolutely gorgeous horse,” Bryant said. “Most judges wanted to put him first, but some of the halter horse judges that liked the big, heavy horses thought he was just too light. But if any of them had ridden a horse, they put him right up front.”
But Doc’s Solano was also shown in the performance arena by Dale Wilkinson and Ronnie Sharp.
He won or placed at such major cuttings as the Indiana State Fair, Kentucky State Fair, Quarterama, the Washington International and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress. He also earned his NCHA Certificate of Ability.
According to Bryant, one time, he went to the Congress to watch his stallion cut. He soon spied the stallion tied to the fence, but he hadn’t been brushed, had straw in his tail and his mane, just behind his foretop, was sticking straight up in the air.
“I was really upset,” Bryant said, “because I had started in the halter horse business. But I guess it didn’t matter, he won his class.”
Doc’s Solano as a sire
Although Bryant knew he had a versatile athlete in Doc’s Solano, he felt the stallion could also sire some great horses. However, it’s unlikely at that time, that Bryant knew how great a sire Doc’s Solano would be, even though he bred far fewer mares than most stallions.
Today, Doc’s Solano is a proven sire and his colts have made a name for themselves in the areas of cutting, reining, reined cow horse, Western pleasure and halter.
“We bred very few mares for the first few years and that, of course, gave us a small colt crop to work with,” Bryant said. “But a superior individual like Doc’s Solano will put you in the breeding business, regardless of the obstacles you put in his way.”
According to Bryant, Doc’s Solano established himself as a superior stallion without the benefit of an experienced owner who knew how to campaign and promote a stud.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m not saying that we never had any help, because we did, and from some mighty nice people. But the lion’s share of the credit goes to Doc’s Solano.”
His first registered foal crop, born in 1974, included only two offspring: Miss Doc’s Solano and Doc’s Deer. However, his second year at stud, Doc’s Solano sired 20 foals born in 1975, including Billydoc Solano, with five AQHA performance points; Mr Doc Solano, with 14 performance points and an Open Register of Merit (ROM); Doc Bee Leo, 9 performance points; Beths Doc Solano, 106 performance points and 10 amateur points, with his ROM and Superior in Western Pleasure; Docs Wasp, 15 halter and 47 performance points with his ROM and named an AQHA Champion in 1980; Funny Farmer, six cutting points, a finalist in the 1978 NCHA Non-Pro Futurity and fifth in the 1979 NCHA Derby and 1979 Reserve World Champion Junior Cutting Horse; Solano Spyder, 21 performance points and an Open ROM; Kid Solano, one halter and eight peformance points, and Doc Glo, 10 performance points and an Open ROM.
From his 1976 crop came 41 registered foals, while 21 were registered from his 1977 season. In 1978, only eight foals were born.
In 1977, Doc’s Solano was moved to Dale Wilkinson’s facility in Ohio, where he stood along with Wilkinson’s stallion, Mr Gun Smoke. The folowing year, 1978, he stood with Ronny Sharp in Indiana, and in 1979, 25 foals were registered. Doc’s Solano was brought back to the Bryant Ranch in North Carolina in 1979 because Gabby considered 1978 the year that things really got rolling for Doc’s Solano.
Although only a handful of Doc’s Solano horses were of the age to compete in the 1978 NCHA Futurity (only 20 foals of 1975 were registered with the AQHA), three made the semifinals and two placed in the finals. That was one-fourth of his entire colt crop. Royal Blueblood, a mare owned by Tom and Mary “Tootie” Lyons, and ridden by Tootie, placed third in the Non-Pro Division.
Another mare, Funny Farmer, owned and ridden by Paul Crumpler, made the Non-Pro finals, and Solano Spyder, also owned by the Lyonses, made the semifinals of the Open Division, ridden by Tom.
Another small, yet competitive group of colts by Doc’s Solano were shown in 1979 (There were 41 registered foals from the 1976 crop). Of the 271 entries in the Futurity, 13 were sired by Doc’s Solano, and all 13 qualified for the second go-round. That represented 32 percent of his entire 1976 foal crop that made the second go, and three took home awards.
Count The Gold, owned and ridden by LeRoy Ashcraft, Decatur, Texas, placed fourth in the finals and won $22,000.
Ashcraft’s other colt, Don Solano, ridden by his son, Charlie, made the Open semifinals and was the Reserve Non-Pro Champion. Also making the semifinals was Doc’s Sidewinder, owned by Dr. M.E. Hays and ridden by Jim Willoughby.
During the 1979 Derby, Funny Farmer placed fifth and was Reserve Champion of the 1979 AQHA World Championship Show in Oklahoma City. Don Solano won the Non-Pro title at the 1979 Oklahoma Futurity and Baby Solano was a 1979 finalist in the NCHA Non-Pro Derby.
There were 49 foals registered in 1980 and because of the success of Doc’s Solano’s offspring in the cutting arena, breedings picked up substantially to 56 in 1981 and 81 in 1982, which was the largest crop registered in a single year. That’s the year Doc’s Solano was moved to the Bryant’s new breeding facility in Weatherford, Texas, located only 30 minutes from Fort Worth and 20 minutes from the Will Rogers coliseum.
By 1980, Doc’s Solano appeared on the AQHA List of Leading Sires of Performance Horses, and this had been done with foal crops totaling only 82 babies.
Doc’s Solano sired 241 offspring that earned close to $3.3 million, averaging $13,600 per offspring. However, the highest money-earning offspring was Big Red Solano, a 1983 stallion bred and raised by Bryant Quarter Horses and ridden by their son-in-law, Ron Young.
Out of Tivio Vanita Bar by Big Vanny, the big sorrel stallion was a semifinalist in the 1986 NCHA Futurity, as well as the 1987 NCHA Derby and Super Stakes and Augusta Futurity.
The pair were Reserve Champions of the 1987 Bonanza Cutting and finalists at the 1987 Sunbelt Spectacular. In 1989, they won the 5/6-Year-Old Classic at the Gold & Silver Cutting, taking home over $20,000.
“He was one of those horses that trainers only get once or twice in a lifetime,” Young said in a recent interview. “I was just a novice when I trained him, and one day, I took him up to Shorty Freeman’s when he was a 3-year-old. When I left, I asked Shorty what I should be doing with my colt, and Shorty replied, ‘Just keep doing whatever you’re doing.’ The problem was, I wasn’t really doing anything. I just showed him what to do and the rest just came.”
Barnett, living in Brenham, Texas, later bought the stallion and hauled him for the World title, finishing in the Top 10 in 1995 and 1996. In February 1996, the pair finished eighth in the 1995 NCHA World Championship Finals, while in 1997, the pair finished 11th in the 1996 NCHA Finals.
Top non-pro competitor Julie Roddy owned and showed War Lano Missy, a 1993 mare out of War Leo Missy by War Leo, to over $200,600 in lifetime earnings. Later, the mare was owned by her son, Jerry Herrin.
The pair split 10th in the 1986 NCHA Non-Pro Futurity, placed third in the 1987 NCHA Non-Pro Super Stakes and were finalists in the Open; were semifinalists at the 1987 NCHA Breeders Cutting, tied for the Reserve title in the Non-Pro Tropicana Cutting Spectacular, were Reserve Champions at the 1988 NCHA Non-Pro 5-Year Old Cutting Spectacular and won or placed at most of the major cutting events, not only on the West Coast, but in Texas.
War Lano Missy is also the second-leading producing mare sired by Doc’s Solano, with seven offspring collecting over $292,000 in lifetime earnings.
Star Snip Solano, a 1984 gelding out of Snip’s Rey by Rey Jay, was owned by Ian and Robin Chisholm, with both of them riding him to over $106,500 in lifetime earnings and various titles, including the Non-Pro Championship of the 1988 NCHA Super Stakes.
The pair were also Non-Pro finalists of the 1987 Nevada Cutting Spectacular and third in 1988, finalists at the Open Northwest Cutting Futurity and fourth in the 1989 Non-Pro PCCHA 5-Year-Old Classic. In 1993, the gelding was sold to Buck McEwen of Manitoba, Canada, who made a top weekend horse out of him.
There were many other greats, such as Southern Solano, a 1980 gelding with $86,500 in lifetime earnings and King Glo Solano, a 1984 stallion, with $83,650 in earnings. Sixteen of his offspring won $50,000 or more in earnings.
Showing his versatility, Doc’s Solano also sired two stallions, Doc’s Sidewinder and Joker Solano, which not only won money in the reining arena, but also sired offspring that were money earners in reining.
Doc’s Solano as a grandsire
As a grandsire, Doc’s Solano has produced 239 grandbabies that have earned over $1.1 million, averaging $4,714 per grandbaby. But there’s one that stands out above the rest.
In the year 2000, Count The Spots, a 1983 Paint gelding sired by Count The Gold, a son of Doc’s Solano, out of Sandlewood Doll, a Paint mare by Sandlewood, was inducted into the American Cutting Horse Association (ACHA) Hall of Fame. He was only the third horse to receive such an honor.
Owned by Patty and Charlie Ashcraft, Decatur, Texas, the bay and white gelding was ridden by Charlie, who had been inducted into the ACHA Riders Hall of Fame the year before.
The gelding has been a mighty weekend warrior, winning all of his $110,150 in lifetime earnings in NCHA and ACHA weekend show competition.
Doc’s Solano is also known as a paternal grandsire of reining horses as four of his grandbabies have won over $20,000 in the reining pen, sired by Doc’s Sidewinder and Joker Solano.
Doc’s Sidewinder sired 23 offspring that earned $167,524, including Side Smoke, a 1986 gelding out of Miss Gun Smoke 1, that was owned and ridden by Craig and Ginger Schmersal to over $69,450 in reining earnings. He also sired Wind Her Up Doc, a 1989 mare owned and ridden by Dave Nogle to over $15,600 in non-pro reining checks.
Joker Solano sired 43 offspring with earnings of $175,111, including Jokes Startime, a 1992 mare that earned over $32,770; Just Bay Solano, with $23,170 in reining earnings and Jokers Sunny Jack, which earned $22,400.
Doc’s Solano as a maternal grandsire
As a maternal grandsire, Doc’s Solano had 204 grandbabies earn $2,450,513 for a $12,012 average.
His leading maternal grandbaby, Gins Solano, a 1981 gelding by Tanquery Gin out of Solano Jill, earned a total of $280,192. The 1981 gelding, owned by Beus & Bongiorno and ridden by Gary Bellenfant, earned most of his money during his aged-event years.
The pair were finalists in the 1985 NCHA Derby and finished fourth in the NCHA Super Stakes. They won the 1985 NCHA Breeders Cutting Open Division for a $92,040 paycheck, as well as the Texas Quarter Horse Association National Stakes, where they took home $28,628.
Doc Solena, a 1988 stallion by Shorty Lena out of Miss Doc Solano, is also a big money earner, collecting $173,950 in lifetime earnings. The stallion was a weekend warrior most of his life, and in 1997, he was purchased by Lee Garner, Batesville, Miss., who won a multiude of titles on him and even took him for the NCHA Non-Pro World Championship Finals.
Two other maternal grandbabies, Flashin Some Cash, a 1992 stallion, and Travalano, a 1995 gelding, also won over $100,000. Ironically, they are both out of the same great daughter of Doc’s Solano, War Lano Missy.
Flashin Some Cash, with $138,050 in lifetime earnings, sired by Cash Quixote Rio, was also a weekend warrior, owned and shown by Joe Howard and Tracy Williamson and used by Joe Howard in his quest for the NCHA Non-Pro World Championship title.
Travalano, sired by Travalena, was originally owned by Nick Arismendi and shown by Julie Roddy, with the pair finishing third in the 1999 PCCHA Cutting Derby.
The gelding was sold to Don and Pam Dubin’s Canyon Creek Ranch that year and was ridden by Don Dubin and Tim Smith. With Tim in the saddle, the gelding won the 1999 Northwest Cutting Futurity, the 2000 Tejon Ranch 5/6-Year-Old. their biggest paycheck came from a third-place in the Open Division at the 2000 NCHA Super Stakes. Both Tim and Don were finalists in a myriad of West Coast major aged events.
Although he didn’t win the most money, probably Doc’s Solano’s best known grandbaby is Color Me Smart, the Paint stalliion that was reportedly purchased by the Esperanza Ranch last year for $2.75 million. Color Me Smart, sired by Smart Little Lena, is out of Doxs Painted Lady, a Paint daughter of Doc’s Solano that Sue Dunn Stevens raised, owned and rode to the Non-Pro semifinals of the NCHA Super Stakes and was the 1989 APHA World Chamionships and World Champion Cutting Horse.
Doc’s Solano’s maternal grandbabies are still making news. In the recent cutting statistics, compiled by Equi-Stat and published in the March 15 Quarter Horse News, Doc’s Solano ranked 15th on the Leading Maternal Grandsire all-ages list, 22nd in the Leading Maternal Grandsire of 4-year-olds and 21st on the list of 6-year-olds.
Doc’s Solano’s magic cross
Since Doc’s Solano spent most of his breeding years in the East, he wasn’t bred to a lot of well-known mares. His magic cross contains many sires that most of us haven’t heard of, including the stallion Big Vanny, his best cross, which produced Big Red Solano and two other money earners.
There were several foundation-bred sires that were on the maternal grandsire list, including War Leo, Sugar Bars, Rey Jay, Mr Gun Smoke, Royal King, Vandal, Sport Model, Cutter Bill, Captain Joker, Son O Sugar and Tiger Leo. But there are very few of today’s popular grandsires, such as Jewel’s Leo Bars, Mr San Peppy, Peppy San, Doc Bar, Peppy San Badger, Smart Little Lena, Doc O’Lena and Freckles Playboy.
But in spite of little of the blood of those top ancestors of today’s cutting horses, Doc’s Solano became a $1 million sire… basically, crossing on the foundation bloodlines… which is a tribute to the horse and his owners.
The twilight years
In 1992, the number of colts registered by Doc’s Solano, had dropped to a single digit for the first time since 1978. Although in 1994, 11 colts were registered and in 1996, 10 were registered, his colt crops continued to diminish until 1999, when his last foal was registered. There was only one.
Although he is living his days out in a beautiful pasture on the Bryant Ranch in Weatherford, Texas, and is enjoying life, Doc’s Solano is now sterile but his foals will still be shown for the next few years.
“I have a real nice mare named Mo Betta Solano that I plan to show in this year’s NCHA Futurity,” said Young, who trains out of the Weatherford facility.
And Gabby, now 75 and enjoying retirement, continues to marvel at how Doc’s Solano “did so much with so little.”
“If ever a stallion made it on his own, it was Doc’s Solano,” Bryant said. “I never considered raising horses or standing a stallion a business. I had another job. I just did it because I loved it.”