Dr. Mike Moleski • Bronson, Michigan
At Armageddon Clydesdales, we have been blessed to stand a number of truly outstanding stallions over the years. Perhaps the most storied was Broadlea Classic Joe who topped the list of America's leading Clydesdale sires in the last 25 years (1990-2015) in the Bruce Roy article which appeared in The Draft Horse Journal, Winter 2016-'17. Also of note were Armageddon's Lord Jacob, Solomon's Tim and National Champion Stallion Northwest Glenord's Shea. However the stallion which made the biggest impact on our program was none of these. He was Solomon's Commander.
Solomon's Commander was bred by the Remus family of Osborne, Kansas. He was foaled in 1980, the son of Footprint Royal Ideal, out of Donna Royal Gift. Both were Canadian-bred, out of strong Scottish stock. He suffered an injury as a young horse and was never shown, as far as I know. He was purchased in 1982 by the Goodells of Gilmore City, Iowa. They had two young stallions at the time and when they felt it necessary to sell one, they consigned Commander to the National Clydesdale Sale in 1984, at the time held in Waverly, Iowa. That was the first National Sale and meeting we ever attended. The two most remarkable things that happened there for us were meeting and becoming good friends with Jim Emmons of Galesville, Wisconsin, and seeing a massive huge-footed young stallion named Solomon's Commander. Over the ensuing years Jim became both a good friend and advisor. He is one of the most knowledgeable Clydesdale historians alive as well as a superb judge of horses. When we attended the sale we already co-owned a stallion with the Wilcenski family of Waukesha, Wisconsin–the Scottish import Torrs Black Magic.
As it happened, Torrs Black Magic passed away and the following year we were in the market for a stallion. After some futile searching on our own, we called Jim Emmons to see if he could offer any advice. He thought about it a bit, said he would make some calls and get back to us. Commander had been purchased by the Corls of State College, Pennsylvania, at the 1984 sale. Jim managed a purchase wherein we were co-owners with him. We did that, becoming part owners in 1985. Two years later, Jim sold us his interest.
Solomon's Commander was clearly lacking in many of the features that appeal to Clydesdale breeders. He was not the preferred bay with four white legs and a blaze, or even a black ... as has always been our predilection. Instead, he was of an indeterminate dark color, with brown turning to near black ... in the summer (unheard of). He didn't have a blaze, but rather a small star always hidden under his forelock. And for a Clyde he was also suffering an even greater curse: two partially dark front legs. What did he have? Immense solid feet. Jim Emmons said he had seen a gelding owned by Wreford Hewson 20 years before that rivaled his. None since. What else did he have? Great size. He was one of the two tallest horses measured at the National Sale over the course of many years. He also had an impressive long neck on a good shoulder.
We were blessed, as Commander threw all three of his great traits, especially his foot. Will Lent, master farrier that he was, was enamored of the thick walls and wide heels he threw, always leaving him great feet to work with. To this day, his influence can be seen on our farm, most particularly in the width of heel still present in his descendants.
Commander's breeding history is unfortunately a short story, rather than a novel ... but it was a highlight reel nonetheless. He arrived here at the age of five and passed away of a bizarre liver disease at the age of nine. He produced 35 foals for us, Emmons, Dan Jones, Dennis Cupp and the Colyers. Many of his foals had extensive show careers. He sired Armageddon's Lord Jacob, who tied for 8th place in Bruce Roy's list of America's leading Clyde stallions from 1990 to 2015. His full-brother Abraham won the stallion foal class at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF) in Toronto. He eventually became Jester, a gelding hitched with the famous Joker for David Carson–undefeated at least one year in the team class. Armageddon's Mistress Ruth and Hannah competed successfully on the national stage and performed well in the Colyer mare hitch. Armageddon's Mistress Martha won the foal class at the National Show and, the following year, the filly futurity for the Birky family of Kouts, Indiana. Martha grew to over 19 hh and weighed over 2,300 pounds ... a massive mare who is the granddam to the very successful Birky's Pride Robin, who, today, carries her foot and size. Robin is still being shown and in 2016 was Reserve Grand Champion Mare and Best American Bred Mare at the National Show. Genetics carry on.
Commander's most famous offspring is probably Armageddon's Mistress Eve. Crossed with Broadlea Classic Perfection, he produced Jacob, Eve and Esther. Eve had an outstanding show and breeding career. Highlights included finishing a close 2nd at the 1990 RAWF as a foal. As a yearling, she struck it rich–she won the yearling class and was named Junior and Reserve Grand Champion Mare at the 1991 RAWF. Armageddon Clydesdales was officially on the international map! The following year she was Junior and Grand Champion at the 1992 National Show, as well as Supreme Champion overall. Eve went on to have a great breeding career here. She produced three fillies in a row that were Junior or Reserve Junior Champion at the National Show. One was Armageddon's Mistress Sabrina, who was Reserve Grand Champion mare at the National Show as a yearling. Sabrina was probably the single best Clydesdale we have bred. She went to 12 straight National Shows, even finishing second as an 11-year-old in her finale. Breeders will recognize her as the dam of Armageddon's Lord Lazarus, the World Champion Stallion at the 2015 World Show! She also produced the second placed two-year-old stallion at the same event.
by Richard D. Lee • Hilbert, Wisconsin
While I've been breeding Percherons for a good many years, we've always been kind of a small operation. We have had a number of stallions over the years, breeding mostly our own mares and very few "outside" mares.
My father, Clifford Lee, had been using registered stallions for a long time, but decided to raise all registered Percherons around 1954 or '55. One of our first stallions was Prince William, sired by St. Valentine, by Lynnwood Carvictor, bred by Ray Emmons of Galesville, Wisconsin. Prince William showed well at halter, was a great "working horse" and sired some good colts. Our foundation mares came from Brandtjen Farms, Farmington, Minnesota, and from Robert Eschrich, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These mares trace back to Top Sergeant, Lakewood Dragon, Treviso, Lynnwood Don, Koncarhope and Drake Farm's Chief.
Although these mares foaled some quality offspring, we needed to breed a better "running gear" with more "bottoms." We bred a couple of mares to a horse named Starlight Koncar Chief, who was sired by Morden Chieftain, off a Riverbend Monkoncarlaet mare. He was not a big horse, but had tremendous feet, lots of quality and was very athletic. Art Eller from Pierz, Minnesota, had a young stallion sired by Starlight Koncar Chief and off a mare sired by Jack. Jack was by Prince William and off Brason's Dragana, a Lakewood Dragon daughter–one of our foundation mares. Art's young stallion was named Pine Hill Champ. He was a medium-sized colt with great feet, hoofheads and high-quality hocks, ankles and bone. Dad traded for Pine Hill Champ and we used him as a herd sire for many years.
G. Sherman Read shared some of his wisdom with me when I was in my teens. Sherm said that in your lifetime, you will own a number of stallions, but if you are really lucky, you will own a sire. Sherm added that he, himself, was lucky because he had Drake Farm's Chief. Pine Hill Champ turned out to be our sire.
If memory serves me right, we started to show Pine Hill Champ's offspring in about 1977. Although they did not mature very fast, his get all seemed to have the bottoms, hocks, ankles and the hard flat bone that we were looking for. I won't name all of his offspring that we showed, but I'll mention a few.
Daleview Luckey and Daleview Rose were full-sisters off of a Drake Farm's Chief mare. They were both champions a number of times, but we lost Luckey at a young age. Rose was champion at quite a few state fairs and became an excellent broodmare.
Daleview Cher was the same age as Rose, but was out of a Chief Max mare. We sold her as a weanling and she later ended up at Soder Farms where she showed very well and was a great broodmare. Her foals did well in the show ring and the breeding barn. One of her sons, Northwood's Midnight Sun, was many times a champion as well as a good breeding horse. An interesting note, Cher's maternal half-sister, Daleview Peg, sired by Starlight Koncar Chief, is Pleasant View King's maternal granddam.
Daleview Irma, off Lynda May, a Lyndon daughter, was a big drafty matron with super bottoms. She was champion many times and National Grand Champion on one occasion.
Daleview Cheri was also off Lynda May. Cheri was a late foal and I think she was a 2-year-old when we first showed her. Cheri was pretty much what we were looking for in a quality Percheron mare. An attractive feminine mare, Cheri had quality "bottoms" and "running gear" that Pine Hill Champ seemed to pass to his offspring. She was National Champion, All-American and Grand Champion at state fairs numerous times. She stayed very sound and I don't think we ever put a leg wrap on her at any show. Jim Mills, JP Farms, bought Cheri after we retired her from the show ring. Jim flushed embryos from her and showed her at the 1995 World Percheron Congress where she won the class for mares ten and over.
A full-sister to Cheri and Irma, Daleview Emma was also a late foal. Her very first show was the 1986 World Percheron Congress where she won her class and was Junior Champion. She went on to show very well and was also an excellent broodmare and hitch mare. She was sold to Soder Farms, who successfully showed her and raised a number of quality foals.
Another full-sister, Daleview Heidi, was All-American and champion at a number of state fair shows. Like her sisters, she also turned out to be a good broodmare.
Although not many of Pine Hill Champ's sons showed after they were foals, some went on to become excellent breeding horses. Daleview Luther and Daleview Joker were full-brothers out of a Drake Farm's Chief-bred mare. Daleview Luther was sold to Roger Otto, then of Arthur, Illinois; then went to Emanuel R. Yoder of Baltic, Ohio. Daleview Joker was sold to Glenview Percherons of Glenwood City, Wisconsin. Both sired a lot of show winners and top sale horses.
An important aspect of any "sire" is his ability to breed on. Pine Hill Champ's sons and daughters passed on the quality conformation and "running gear" to their offspring. I will list a few examples of how Pine Hill Champ's offspring placed at some top shows. At the 1986 World Percheron Congress, Daleview Cheri was Reserve Grand Champion; Daleview Emma was Junior Champion; and a daughter of Daleview Rose won the filly foal class. At the first Sterling North American Percheron Show in 1988, a son of Daleview Rose won the yearling class; a son of Daleview Cheri won the stallion foal class; Daleview Cheri won the broodmare class; and Daleview Emma won the 4-year-old mare class and was Reserve Grand Champion; and a daughter of Daleview Irma won the 3-year-old mare class. Daleview Princeton is an own son of M.G.'s Prince out of Daleview Heidi, thus making him another grandson of Pine Hill Champ. A great "wearing" individual, we showed Princeton very successfully for ten years. There are a lot of other Pine Hill Champ offspring that have succeeded as show and breeding individuals, but these are a few examples of how he "bred on."
As most horses do, Pine Hill Champ had his own special personality. When he was at my folks' farm, he was kept in a fairly small box stall. My dad told me that every time he'd take Pine Hill Champ out to service a mare, he would take care of business and then, before returning to his stall, he'd always find some grass and roll a couple times. I mentioned to Dad a few years later that I thought the old horse was sure wearing well and did not really show his age. Dad, however, contended that he thought Pine Hill Champ was showing his age a bit. He said, "Now, when I bring him out to service a mare, he rolls first!"
An extremely sound horse, I don't ever remember Pine Hill Champ being lame. He lived to be 23 or 24 years old. The day he died, he had a little problem getting up after he rolled in his paddock. Our son was driving a pair of Pine Hill Champ mares on the hay rake next to his paddock. The old horse whinnied to his daughters and laid down and never got back up. He is buried on our farm.
We feel extremely fortunate to have had Pine Hill Champ. Although he did not breed a huge number of mares each year, he consistently passed on the quality traits we sought. In my opinion, he was truly a "sire" and my hope is that he continues, through his offspring, to breed on.
STONEY LAKE BELGIANS
by Randy Robertson • Douro-Dummer, Ontario, Canada
When asked to pen an essay about the stallion I felt had the greatest impact on our "Stoney Lake Belgians" breeding program, one horse immediately came to mind, but like most decisions I make, I had to chew on it for a few days.
I was taken back to a conversation I had about 40-plus years ago with one of my mentors. "The stallion that should have the greatest impact on your breeding program should be your next stallion." That comment made by Reg Black, a premier Percheron breeder, never left my mind. If a breeding program is to move forward, your next horse should continue with qualities you have diligently worked for, while complementing traits needed.
Similar to buying a horse, your first impression is most often your best–if you have to sell it to yourself, it's best left behind. I never once had to sell myself on Orndorff's U.C. Encore. He was standing in the center of one of the lots at the Orndorff farm one fateful Easter weekend and I was smitten. I realized right away that Encore should come to Stoney Lake and he would be a great cross for our H.B. Jay, RKD Harley and Stoney Lake Clifford daughters.
Like his sire, Orndorff's U2 Charlie, Encore possessed the most impressive slope of shoulder and length of neck, enabling his head to always be in the right place. He had ample foot and bone–which cannot be sacrificed–and the most incredible free way of going. His motion came from all four corners, flexing his joints with precision and rhythm. We showed him to great success, winning many championships, but what was most telling was his combination championship at Davenport where he won both halter and cart. He could do it all ...
During his first year of breeding at Stoney Lake, we crossed him with four very good mares ... but they were four very different type mares. All four foaled the following year and as a testament to Encore, each of these foals were better than their mothers.
We kept two from that first foal crop and they are still with us today. Stoney Lake Elvis, who is a Champion in his own right, and was National and Merit Champion as a foal and two-year-old, continues to sire National, NABC and hitch champions. Last year alone, we showed three different stud foals by Elvis, each of which won at a major show.
The filly we kept was Stoney Lake Estella, who just completed her tenth season in our six.
When we used Encore, it would have to be considered somewhat of a down time for the Belgian industry–it was sometimes tough to get service fees back when selling stud colts. Horsemen had already taken notice of Encore's offspring, however, and we had a waiting list of people that wanted a stud colt from his second crop. Unfortunately Encore only sired three crops of foals before his untimely death, due to a freak intestinal problem. His foals were better than their mothers and these mothers were not too shabby to start with! We showed most of Encore's offspring to major wins at all major shows. Probably the most notable is Stoney Lake Esmerelda: First Place Foal and Reserve Jr. Champion at the North American Belgian Championship (NABC) 6; and First Place Yeld Mare, Supreme Champion and Mare Cart Champion at the NABC 7. In 2016, at her third NABC, she was again Mare Cart Champion and was picked as a wheel horse for the Mare Dream Team. Like most of Encore's offspring, Esmerelda is not a one-trick pony–she has been highly durable at the top level for over a decade and has also produced five valuable offspring.
Since we don't breed outside mares, the Orndorffs were the only other beneficiaries of Encore's capabilities. The one and only season they used him, they produced show toppers like Orndorff's Captain Encore, Orndorff's Jenna Encore and Orndorff's Master Encore. So, from only three crops, Encore produced a generation of horses like himself ... correct, stylish, durable, smart and proud of themselves.
While Encore was with us, he was the smartest horse I have ever had the pleasure to work with, next to Bunston's well-known gelding Doug. Although he was hardly halter broke upon arriving from Pennsylvania, within a month, Encore could breed a mare ... and then you could throw the harness on him and spread a load of manure alongside that same mare that he just bred. He just really wanted to please you!
One winter we did a Christmas photo shoot and used him to pull a Christmas tree out of the woods. My wife Nancy got up on his back for the first time and that picture went viral.
We are just starting to see Encore's long-lasting influence, as his daughters are now producing the next generation. Last year alone, we showed Stoney Lake Alaska (out of an Encore daughter, Stoney Lake Exhilaration) to Supreme Champion at America's National Belgian Show. We were also honored with Champion Stallion, Stoney Lake Arthur, who is out of Stoney Lake Catherine–a granddaughter of Encore. Double S Belgians of Menan, Idaho, showed Master Encore's Eddie to Champion Gelding honors.
To put that in perspective, last year marked ten years since Encore's untimely death, yet he was the grandsire of all three National Belgian Show Champions–mare, stallion and gelding. His son, Orndorff's Master Encore, was 2018's Premier Belgian Sire. Another son, Orndorff's Captain Encore, was the record high-seller at the Fall 2018 Buckeye Draft Horse Sale in Dover, Ohio, at $57,000. Lastly, Stoney Lake Esmerelda was the 2017-'18 Classic Series Cart Finals Champion. If that's not impactful, I don't know what is!
Flash back to Reg Black's wisdom, that the stallion that should have the greatest impact on your breeding program should be your next herd sire. In Stoney Lake Belgian's case, the next stallion is DHF Captain's Abe (the sire of both Alaska and Arthur). He has enhanced the qualities of Orndorff's U.C. Encore, thus ensuring that Encore's lasting legacy can continue to be appreciated.