Capital Quarter Horses, LLC – It’s All In The Family
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34 – November/December, 2019
By Megan Ulrich
As a young woman, Susan Albertson was busy competing on the high school and amateur rodeo circuits in southern Colorado. If someone had told her then that her future family would someday be the owners and operators of one of the most well-known breeding and equine facilities in Texas, you’d probably have knocked her boots right off. But that’s exactly where her life would lead.
After completing nursing school, Susan worked as a registered nurse in Colorado before moving to Amarillo, Texas to continue her career. While there, she met Blair Roberts, who admittedly knew nothing about horses. Regardless, the pair would marry in 1990 and eventually purchase a horse together – an AQHA mare named Tip Babe Tip who earned her superior in Western Pleasure. At that time, in the ‘90s, the couple was working with trainer Orin Barnes of Amarillo. With his help, Susan finally set foot in the Western Pleasure horse arena. Eventually, the couple would work with Mike Moser of Gainesville, Texas, with whom they had both Western Pleasure and Reining horses.
By the early 2000s, Susan’s passion for horses was coursing through the veins of the couple’s daughter, Hillary, who had learned to ride by piloting Tip Babe Tip around the pasture. She made her show pen debut in 2003, at eight years old, in Walk-Trot Pleasure aboard a horse given to the family by Moser. She placed second in that class, and the experience got her hooked on showing horses. She began showing at AQHA shows on the same horse the following year.
When it was time to level up in 2005, the family sought out the expertise of Butch and Patty Campbell, who found Hillary a Barpassers Image gelding, Just Imagine It, that was a perfect starter horse for the novice events. In 2009, the family purchased Chrome On My Zipper, the all-around horse with whom Hillary had the most success, with many wins in Showmanship, Horsemanship, and Trail, as well as success in Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation.
By 2010, then 15-year-old Hillary was a force to be reckoned with in all-around events. With the help of Rusty Green, she was also showing in the Western Pleasure pen aboard Only Ever After, a horse the family purchased in 2009. The pair was named Reserve Champion in Novice Youth Western Pleasure at the Congress in 2010.
As the family traveled with Hillary to shows near and far, Susan found herself consumed by a new role: horse show mom extraordinaire. That wasn’t a role that would keep her satisfied for long. She was anxious to get back in the show pen. Susan and Only Ever After began showing in Select Western Pleasure. Through the years, they earned a third place finish in Select Western Pleasure at the World Show, as well as a Reserve World Championship in Performance Halter Mares. The mare continued to have success under trainer Andy Cochran’s guidance. At the 2017 NSBA World Show, Susan won Select Western Pleasure and Hillary rode the mare to win the Limited Open Maturity. The family retired her in 2018.
“We later purchased Whatscookngoodlookin and Only A Breeze, and we decided that with these three great show mares, we should begin breeding and try to turn our hobby into a business,” Hillary recalls. In 2011, Capital Quarter Horses, LLC was born.
Within just two years, Blair and Susan recognized a need for expansion, prompting them to purchase 84 acres on St. John Road in Pilot Point, Texas. After discovering foundation damage to the existing house and many issues with the existing barns, the family decided it would be best to start from scratch. The new facility, complete with a breeding barn, show barn, arena, round pen, and hot walker, was completed in the fall of 2015. The full-service breeding barn features all of the necessary equipment to stand stallions, in addition to large foaling stalls and a poured rubber floor that ensures foal safety. The show barn has vet and farrier stations, a break room, a tack room with swivel doors that hold saddles and bridles, and two wash racks. The arena is 125×250 feet and it’s cooled with large fans. Both the round pen and walker are also covered. Like so many in the industry, the human accommodations were second priority to those of the horses, so Blair and Susan moved in with Hillary for the two years that their home was under construction. The new home was completed in November of 2017 and was recently featured on the cover of Western Art & Architecture magazine.
At this facility, the Roberts are able to breed 8-10 mares a year and have historically foaled out 12-15 babies every year. “My goal is to build a reputation for selling quality, sound, strong horses that can go on to be successful in other programs and events as well as Western Pleasure,” Hillary says. She notes that the family doesn’t typically begin to market their babies until they’ve become yearlings, though that is dependent on the situation.
What has led to the family’s success? According to Hillary, it’s simple. She says, “My parents are the most incredible people I know. They have a stellar reputation in the horse industry for good reason. They’re the most honest, kind, and genuine people, and it shows in the way they treat others. My dad has been very successful in the business world and brings that knowledge to our equine operation. In addition, we’ve been able to acquire some exceptional show mares over the years that have already produced some great offspring. Rusty Green is to thank for helping us build our breeding program and achieve success and great show records on those mares. Andy Cochran has come in and not only continued the success of our existing show horses, but has built horses we’ve bred from the ground up into successes in their own right.”
It’s easy to see that the ascension of Capital Quarter Horses to its current level of notoriety has certainly been a team effort. Aside from the Roberts family, four more individuals are pivotal to Capital Quarter Horses’ continued success: Andy Cochran, Greg Johnson, Katie Cochran, and Nolan Johnsrud.
Calling trainer Andy Cochran, “one of the most talented individuals I know,” Hillary says his passion, work ethic, and commitment is evident day-in and day-out. “He cares so deeply about what he does. I see him put his all into cultivating great horses. He truly wants the best for our business, the horses, and us. I have seen him grow a lot since he has worked for us. He has become an even better coach and really takes the time to explain everything he does. Working with him is always fun, and I feel like I learn something every time I watch him ride.”
Working closely with Andy is assistant trainer Greg Johnson, who also serves as colt breaker and facility manager. “He wears many hats and comes to work every day with an awesome attitude. He makes everyone happy,” Hillary says. “Greg is one of my favorite people on earth and we’re best friends. He takes superb care of the facility and horses, and he would do anything for anyone.”
Keeping everything organized and the facility running smoothly is Katie Cochran, Andy’s wife and “Organizer in Chief.” Katie works closely with veterinarian Dr. Tony Rocconi, and she always makes sure everything is ready to go to the show. As if that is not enough, she helps Andy with anything he needs. “She works her tail off. At the shows, she’s always busy banding, beautifying, longing, and doing anything needed to help everyone be successful. We’re lucky to have her!” Hillary says.
The final piece of Capital Quarter Horses’ personnel puzzle is breeding manager Nolan Johnsrud. She says, “He’s so knowledgeable, personable, and trustworthy. It has been a joy to have him with us. He does a great job in the breeding lab and handling the babies.”
The family is also thankful for the expertise of Dr. Rocconi of Mid-South Equine, breeding veterinarian Dr. Chelsea Cohorn at Pinnacle Equine, and their farrier, Ben Coley – all of whom they consider part of the Capital Quarter Horses family.
“Our unwritten team goal is to come to the barn every day with a positive attitude, be honest and respectful with one another always, and remember that we do this because we love horses. I’m reminded of that every day when I walk in the barn and see my best friends, Long John and Candi,” Hillary says. “We’re so blessed, and we operate our business with that in mind.”
But any family-run business can be difficult to navigate. Add in the pressures of the horse industry and it might seem nearly impossible. But the Roberts family and all of the staff have found a way to maintain positivity, professionalism, and fun through thick and thin, knowing that what they have built together is really something special. Hillary says, “I think it can be hard for us all at times, especially at horse shows where everyone is in the same tight quarters, dealing with lots of pressure, and oftentimes with lots at stake. Despite that, I think what makes our team work is mutual respect for one another. We all care so much about what we do, and each other, that it really works. We are truly like family.”
Andy, who had previously worked for Donnie Recchiuti, echoes Hillary’s sentiment. “I was intrigued by working for the Roberts family for a couple of reasons. They own and raise great quality horses, first of all. Second, I was excited to have the chance to work for a farm as the head trainer and not having outside clients. That gave me the chance to focus solely on the farm and the Roberts as a team,” he says.
Though he’s been training Western Pleasure horses for 25 years, Andy says one of his proudest accomplishments in the industry happened just last year at the Congress and the World Show. Both Hillary and Andy won at the Congress on two full siblings that Capital raised and Andy trained: WhatsOnUrMind (winner in the Two-Year-Old Non-Pro Western Pleasure) and WhatGosAround (winner in the Masters Western Pleasure). The AQHA World Show was also a success in 2018, with Andy taking home wins in Two-Year-Old Western Pleasure and Senior Western Pleasure, and Hillary winning the Amateur Western Pleasure. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to ride and train some of the best horses in the country and to work for a great, influential family in the industry,” Andy says.
When it comes to the Roberts family, the broodmares are counted among them. It’s a fine group of horses that helped the family achieve its current success, breeding champions from champions. The broodmare lineup includes:
During the short five years she’s been having babies, everything this mare has produced has hit the show pen and earned money, which includes a Congress Champion, World Champion, Reserve World Champion, and Tom Powers Champion. She was also NSBA Horse of the Year, 2018 Number One Leading Dam, and a multiple World, Congress, and futurity champion. Additionally, over the years, she has won an AQHA World Championship in every division. “The best example of what Candi can produce is our two-year-old stallion, Hay Goodlookn. He has the best qualities of his mom and his sire, Invitation Only. He’s the coolest horse I’ve ever seen,” Hillary says.
Only Ever After
This mare produces strong, versatile prospects. Her oldest, No Doubt Im Lazy, has had lots of success in the Hunter Under Saddle and Western Riding pen after beginning his career with Gil Galyean. He placed fourth in the inaugural Pleasure Versatility Challenge and was very successful with Becky Galyean in the Western Pleasure pen. Her second foal crop produced Only After You, a Tom Powers Champion, and a NSBA Riders Cup Champion during his three-year-old year with Katie Cochran. Now owned by Tara Landon and Millie Green, he has gone on to be successful under the guidance of Bruce Vickery and Anthony Montes.
Momma Knows Best
Momma Knows Best is, in Hillary’s opinion, one of the best lopers Capital Quarter Horses owns, if not the best. So far, she has passed that quality on to her babies who will be hitting the show pen soon. She was the Senior Western Pleasure and Amateur Western Pleasure World Champion in 2018 and the NSBA World Champion in Senior Western Pleasure in 2019.
Only A Breeze
Though she got a slow start in the breeding program due to an ovarian cyst, this mare is the best-minded horse and biggest saint of all time, a quality the family is hopeful she’ll pass on to the prospects she produces. She, too, is a multiple World, Congress, and Futurity Champion and has brought the Roberts family much success.
Johnnie On The Spot
A great show horse in her own right and winner of the 2019 Tom Powers Non-Pro Maturity, this mare is drop dead gorgeous. Her first set of foals are weanlings, and they’re all beautiful headed and flashy just like her.
“We’re lucky to have these great mares as part of our breeding and show program, and we are really happy with the size and scope of what we do now, though we do hope to expand by standing a stallion. A long-term goal for us has always been to raise and stand our own stallion, and it’s looking like that will work out,” Hillary says, referencing Capital Quarter Horses’ own 2017 sorrel stallion, HayGoodLookn. As Andy readies him to show in The Equine Chronicle Masters at the Congress and in Two-Year-Old Western Pleasure at the AQHA World Show, the family anxiously awaits his debut and potential as a stud. “As long as all goes well, our plan is to stand him,” Hillary says. “He has been special from the beginning.”
That, too, must run in the family.