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EC Color Classic – Redefining the Color Breed Horse

Filed under: Current Articles,Editorial,Featured,Uncategorized |     

242 – August/September, 2013 (click here for complete digital article)

B­y Lana Grieve


Held at the world-renowned Reichert Celebration horse show in Fort Worth, Texas, The Equine Chronicle Color Classic 2 Year-Old Western Pleasure futurity class was created 15 years ago to promote and bring attention to color breed horses in our industry. Today, the class has become a rich tradition at the Reichert Celebration, attracting professional trainers, respectable owners, and a group of the country’s finest two year-old color breed horses each year.

The Equine Chronicle Color Classic, originally open to maiden horses only, is making history in 2013 in more ways than one. Along with no entry fee required before August 2, 2013, and the $25,000 purse to be paid to the winners at the gate, the class has made a priority of encouraging new participants to join the show horse ranks. By allowing color breed two year-olds that have shown in their color breed association previously in the calendar year to enter, this class is sure to create some buzz at this year’s Reichert Celebration. There will still be a bonus payout in the Open division of the class for owners and trainers who wish to present a maiden horse. The class is also introducing a new Limited Division, creating equal opportunities for both open and limited riders.

I asked a few of the industry’s top riders and committee members involved with The Equine Chronicle Color Classic about their perception of the class, its future, and how they feel about the changes for 2013.




No stranger to the color breeds, Mike Hachtel of Collinsville, Texas is, to date, the top earning rider in the history of this class. With earnings exceeding $180,000, he has prepared five Equine Chronicle Color Classic futurity champions and one reserve futurity champion including the very first horse to ever win the class, A Scenic Impulse. Training horses for 30 years, he began his training career in the Appaloosa industry and today actively shows on the ApHC and APHA circuits.

Competing at the Reichert Celebration since its inception 15 years ago, Hatchel has competed in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic every year since its debut in 2004. A Scenic Impulse remains the only stud to win the class, and the only stallion to produce winning offspring in the class, all of which Hachtel trained and presented. In 2006, Hachtel was Reserve Champion on a mare named Sensational Lollipop, and in 2007 he won the class again on a gelding named Iron Chief, before winning on A Scenic Impulse offspring. In 2008, Scenic Ocean Drive took the futurity championship followed by A Scenic Cheerleader in 2010, and A Lipstick Impulse in 2012.

Hachtel discusses what is special to him about The Equine Chronicle Color Classic. “I think I speak for all competitors and horsemen when I say this: That class in particular represents true horsemanship. There’s a standard that originated in 2004 with that particular class, and that standard is the best horse has to win that class. That is a standard the Reichert Celebration brought forth back in 2004 and it is a standard that still exists today. That standard represents a lot when you’re a horse trainer and owner, or just a spectator, and that is something that stands out and draws a lot of attention.”

Bringing the best horses to the Reichert Celebration each year, the class brings the mentality of the horse trainer and the spectator to a new level, Hachtel says. “When you mention the Reichert Equine Chronicle Color Classic, you think to yourself, ‘Okay, let’s go there, even if we’re not showing, let’s go there and watch because it’s going to be the best of the best.’ It’s open to everyone: Paints, Appaloosas, Palominos and Buckskins. It’s all color breed, so you should have the best from the whole country in that one class on that one evening.”

Even though it is in its ninth year, the appeal of the Color Classic has never decreased. Hachtel describes the class as having standards that surpass the rest. “It is still a very high profile gig, and it’s something that all horse trainers, owners and competitors aim for. If you’re a horse trainer, you want to represent yourself and your system, and the horse that you pick to go in there. The popularity of that will never go away.”

Speaking highly of the class overall, Hachtel says the goal of The Equine Chronicle Color Classic was for the best color breed horse in the country to win the class. He say the level of judging has stayed consistent each year. He goes on to say, “I don’t believe anyone would disagree that the best horse in that class for the last eight years has won that class each year. As a horseman, as a judge, and as a spectator, that is indescribable. The judges are horsemen themselves and that is reflected in the results of this class. The judges who are chosen to judge that class are all recognized as excellent horsemen and people who are active in the industry. It’s true horsemanship in a lot of different ways. It’s not just about the trainers, the owners and the actual horses; it’s also about the people standing in the middle of the arena judging the class.”

Adjusting with the times, The Equine Chronicle Color Classic has made it very convenient for people to participate. Eliminating part of the gamble, the new options for 2013 allow horse owners and trainers to evaluate their two year-old prospects and determine days before the class if the horse will be shown.

“We used to choose our two year-old in March or April, and you’d ride that horse until the bitter end, but times change and situations change, so now we’ve opened the class up to nominating your horse a couple days before you go to the show, if need be, and we are keeping it open so everybody feels like they’ve got a good chance to bring a horse along at a pace that they want to, and that shows more concern about the welfare of the animal,” says Hachtel.

The demands of the futurities sometimes results in a lack of concern about the mental and physical demands placed on a two year-old horse. Hachtel explains the two year-old year is usually the hardest year of a horse’s life. Aiming to get a two year-old ready for their big debut, Hachtel reminds us to be realistic stating that some horses can take it, but some horses simply are not ready that young. “You’ll ride that horse harder in its two year-old year than you will in its entire life. So, as a horseman, you have to adjust to those types of situations, and I think this new process for entering the Color Classic, allowing people to nominate their horses a month prior to the horse show, is a sign of the times and it’s giving everyone an equal opportunity. If your deadline is such and such (early in the year), you have to know how to pace yourself and your horse to get to that point, and I think with having the option of thinking, ‘Well, if we make it, we make it, and if we don’t, we don’t,’ is a bit more relaxing. I think that is the angle in the new nomination rules, taking some of the pressure off of the horses by allowing them to take their time a bit more to prepare and get ready. And I think it is a little more relaxing for the exhibitors and the owners as well.”

Hachtel concludes saying, “The Equine Chronicle Color Classic represents excellent horsemanship in all aspects. It shows the horse world great judging, great owners, great exhibitors, and outstanding horses. It is about the way the class is managed. The number one quality that sticks in my mind is the class is about true horsemanship. We don’t have enough of that and we need to keep that going. The Color Classic is doing this for the industry and, year after year, it is a solid representation of horsemanship.”




Having been involved with horses since he was a young child, Alan Fisher of Fayetteville, North Carolina, fondly recalls winning his first high point award in lead line as a four year-old with his father guiding him around the ring. That singular win would be the beginning of a career in horses that has resulted in multiple color breed World Championships.

After high school, Alan worked for various trainers before meeting and marrying his beautiful wife, Shannon, who shows in non-pro events. Winning a Pinto World

Championship in 2 Year-Old Western Pleasure, an Appaloosa Reserve World Championship in the 2 Year-Old Snaffle Bit Futurity, and a World Championship at the APHA World Show, Fisher has guided non-pro and youth clients to world championship wins at major color breed shows over the years.

Competing at the Reichert Celebration for ten years, Fisher recalls his first memory of the show. “The first class I showed in, I won a Sundowner Horse Trailer, and I thought that was a pretty good start!” With a Top 10 finish in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic, and a fifth place finish in the Limited division with What A Famous Chex in 2011, Fisher has followed the evolution of the Color Classic since its origination. Changes he says distinguish the class from the rest.

Fisher enjoys the challenge of showing maiden horses and believes this class creates an opportunity for the color horses to compete in a signature futurity class unlike any other. “To me, the Color Classic truly gives the trainers and owners of color breed horses their own venue to compete. I think it’s going to give another place for those trainers to show their quality horses, so I’m really hoping this year’s changes will increase participation.”

This year, the purse will be handed to the winners at the gate directly after the class is placed. Fisher says, “Any time you’re paid at the gate, it’s a really good incentive to participate in that class, and I also think the no entry fee (before August 2, 2013) makes it a win-win situation. You get to go out and show your horse in a premier two year-old class where you could potentially win $25,000 for free. Who wouldn’t want to participate?”

The Reichert Celebration is known for bringing a level of entertainment to its signature classes that is unmatched in the industry. Whether it’s representing our glorious country with 50 horses and riders galloping full bore in the arena carrying a flag honoring each state, watching a dramatic indoor fireworks show before the premier futurity class, or turning the spotlight on the owners, there is certain flair that the Reicherts bring to The Equine Chronicle Color Classic as well as other high profile classes.

Fisher reminisces about a past Color Classic event. “One year, the class had tables set up in the middle of the arena for all the owners, and they were served dinner and drinks while the horses were being shown in the class. As a trainer, you have to do your homework for something like that. It’s not exactly something you can practice with a two year-old at home. That is what makes this class special. The class is including the owners in a new way and, at the end of the day, the owners are the people who give us our jobs training their horses. They are the ones who are supplying the horses for us, so I think it is important to give them that level of recognition. It was really fun because we were all out there warming our horses up, and I could ride my horse right up to the dinner table and talk to its owner. I credit J.R. for all that he does. He truly makes the show and all of his classes entertaining and different, and I always look forward to what he plans each year. Also, the way J.R. introduces the riders and owners before the classes gives everyone an opportunity to be in the spotlight. The owners aren’t on the sidelines at this show, they are literally in the middle of it all, in the arena watching their two year-olds being showcased.”

A solid believer in the integrity of The Equine Chronicle Color Classic, Fisher is encouraged by the changes in 2013, and supports everyone who is making the decisions to transform the class. “I think a lot of thought has been put into it, and I really can’t say I would change a lot about the class as a whole. I enjoy the competition and the challenge, as well as getting a two year-old ready for this class. I think the judges in the class are excellent judges. I’m looking forward to seeing how this class evolves over the coming years.”



Jay Jordan Photo

Training horses for over 25 years, professional horsemen Jay Jordan of Boerne, Texas, has been actively involved in all aspects of the horse industry. A trainer of Paints and Appaloosas in his early years before he began training Quarter Horses, Jordan is a past member of the NSBA Board of Directors and currently holds a position as a member of the APHA Board of Directors. While he maintained his Reichert Color Classic committee member status, Jay was ineligible to compete in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic due to his primary training business being in the Quarter Horse industry. However, that hasn’t stopped him from being an advocate of the class.

Actively involved with The Equine Chronicle Color Classic since it originated, Jordan has personally competed at every Reichert Celebration since its founding in 1999. Winning the 2 Year-Old Color Futurity the last year the show resided in Iowa, he has since shown in three year-old futurities, stakes classes, maturity classes, and AQHA and NSBA classes at the event along with guiding non-pro and amateur riders to numerous titles.

Jordan is quick to say J.R. Reichert deserves all the credit for creating a signature class for color breeds. He says, “People get a misconception that The Equine Chronicle Color Classic is strictly a Paint class, and that is not correct. This is a color breed class. This was the first show where we had an opportunity to bring all of the color breed horses together and showcase them; Appaloosas, Palominos, Buckskins, anything that qualifies as a color breed horse. We were and still are trying to integrate the whole color breed industry.”

“What the Color Classic has evolved into this year is really a change to the whole futurity system. There’s nothing like it; with a completely free entry fee. Through the development of this class, there have been discrepancies on who’s eligible and who’s not eligible, or what you have to do to be eligible, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. Your horse’s trainer has to, primarily, be a color breed participant. If the majority of your training income is from training color breed horses and you go to more Paint shows than Quarter Horse shows, then you are considered a color breed trainer. The purpose is not to exclude anybody, it is simply trying to give the color breed riders and trainers an opportunity to have a two year-old, have a client, and have a plan where you have this horse for nine months with participation in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic as your utlimate goal.”

Intended to be the “Masters” class for the color breed horses, The Equine Chronicle Color Classic is intended for color breed trainers of all levels and stature. The goal is also to provide a venue where a young trainer can receive his or her “big break” in the industry. Jordan says the class also gives the trainers another place to play. “It gives the color breed trainers an opportunity to take their clients and have the same fireworks show and all the hoopla that goes with celebrating the great two year-old futurity horses. This has been a tremendous process, and it is an example of how the industry is changing and how the class is changing with the times. There are several examples of this class providing young trainers with world-claas recognition over the years. Dave Archer is a very good example. He was a Limited rider who came in and won the Limited Division of the class. This is why we have these divisions. There is a Limited division along with the Open division, and once you earn $75,000 in the Limited division, you move up to the Open Rider list and you don’t cycle back to the Limited unless, for example, if you make the Top 15 list and earn (less than) $18,000 in one year, then you can go back next year in the Limited division.”

Over the years, Jordan confesses that a few top Open division riders have dominated the class, potentially intimidating the Limited riders. Crediting the trainers who have won the class as being very excellent horsemen, Jordan’s goal for The Equine Chronicle Color Classic is to have the class maintain its identity as a welcoming class to all levels of color breed trainers.

“We want the Limited riders to know that they’re not at a disadvantage against the Open riders,” he says, “but we also want the Open riders to feel good about showcasing their horses. The goal for everybody should be to become an Open rider. I think a lot of times, with this Limited status, it’s sometimes like a security blanket that encourages rides to stay put. I am very old school in my thought process of what the Limited division is about. The Limited division is to give everyone a fair chance, but it’s also to develop horsemen. It’s not a security zone, it is intended to build your confidence and make you think, “I want to go out and compete against the Open riders. I want to go beat them!” That’s where we’re trying to take this class. In the color breed industry, that is where I personally won my first World Championship, in the PHBA. And it’s not like playing in the minor leagues in baseball; it’s a very competitive, very tough set of horses and trainers, and that’s what we’re trying to showcase with this event.”

When a client owns a high quality yearling and their goal is to compete in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic next year, Jordan emphasizes the importance of presenting a solid business plan to the owner. He credits the Color Classic as a reputable class that is a worthy opportunity for investment by the client. “That’s part of our job as horse trainers, having a good business plan. For example, if someone goes and spends $15,000 on a horse and another $10,000 on training and veterinary throughout one year, you do not want to enter that horse in a class where you can only earn a $3,000 purse. That’s not very smart. We realize how expensive this can get for people, especially with the changes in economy. So, for the Color Classic this year, we decided to waive the entry fee, and we are depending on sponsorships for the purse, which at this time is $25,000. Right now is a crucial time to take this class to the next level, and we need input from people on how to mold this class into what people want it to be in the future. We want input from breeders, owners and trainers. We are trying to help the breeders showcase their color horses. If a breeder is able to say, ‘My stud’s baby won The Equine Chronicle Color Classic at the Reichert Celebration,’ that achievement needs to carry some credibility,” he says.

“This class has a lot of integrity, and we are trying to make this class good and fair for everybody. With that said, there are some really talented horsemen in this class, and that’s something that our industry needs in order to raise the standard of horsemanship and the integrity of the color breed horses.”



Melissa Baus Photo

Another Color Classic committee member, Melissa Baus has been active in the APHA circuit alongside her husband and professional trainer, Mark Baus, for many years. Owning and managing Brama Farms in Stillwater, Minnesota, where they proudly stand APHA Stallion, Fleet Machine, the Baus’ have been involved with the Reichert Celebration since its inception. “I have competed at the Reichert once personally, and my husband, Mark, has shown there multiple times over the years,” Melissa says.

When The Equine Chronicle Color Classic was only an idea in the making, Mark and Melissa were one of the first people to commit to the class and its future. Melissa recollects, “I still remember where I was standing in the arena when J.R. called Mark and me over to talk about this class. We were at a horse show in Winona, Minnesota (in the warm-up pen) and he told us his idea about this class and we were so excited that the Celebration, number one, would include APHA horses and, number two, have such a high purse. We committed to a slot for $3,000 that day.”

Earning $15,000 in winnings to date, Mark Baus currently holds a Top 15 spot on The Equine Chronicle Color Classic top riders list. Showing in the class multiple times, the Baus’ fondly remember the first horse that Mark piloted through the debut class. “That very first year, Mark showed a Breeding Stock APHA mare, Fleets Sissy, by Fleet Machine and placed third in the class. It was really exciting to be a part of the class and its beginning.”

Although the rule has changed this year, allowing non-maiden two year-olds to compete in the class, Melissa talks about the anticipation for this year’s event and the challenge of  presenting maiden horses at the Color Classic. “The gamble that everyone takes, and showing your two year-old to see if everything has paid off is truly exciting. And the payout, though it’s decreased with the economy over the years, is still the highest paying slot class specific to color breed horses, and that’s special in itself. With zero entry fee for the class this year, I think that is amazing, too. Where else are you going to get an opportunity to ride for this type of payout with a zero dollar entry fee? I think it’s an opportunity for people (trainers, breeders and owners) to get their horses out there in front of an educated audience with minimal expense for the exposure.”

The class has endured many changes over the years, but the Reichert committee has stood behind the initial reason why this class was formed. Melissa says, “The committee has maintained that this class is exclusive to color breed enthusiasts over the years, and I wish more color breed trainers and owners would come and participate. The committee has worked so hard to create an opportunity specifically for them. As a committee member, we are always open to suggestions and your thoughts, so please do not hesitate to call anyone on the committee list and ask questions or give suggestions. We are here for you and to support the color breed industry,” she says.



Jeffery Gibbs Photo

Jeffery Gibbs, 29, owns and operates Gibbs Show Horses in Col-linsville, Texas. Specializing in events ranging from western pleasure and futurity prospects to finished show and all-around horses, Gibbs is a multiple APHA World Champion and three-time NSBA year-end award winner including Limited Rider of the Year in 2005. Since opening its doors in 2008, Gibbs Show Horses has produced 39 APHA World or Reserve World Champions, and multiple World Show All-Around high point horse and/or rider winners.

Showing at the Reichert Celebration since 2003, Gibbs has competed in The Equine Chronicle Color Classic six times and is currently on the Top 15 list. Noting that the class had changed its format often over the last couple of years, Gibbs supports the decision this year to waive the entry fee to encourage new participants. “I really like that the committee made this choice. It will make the class harder, with nicer horses, but it also takes away all pressure of having a deadline for these two year-olds. They either make it or they don’t. It puts less pressure on horse trainers, and allows us more time to find the right horse for the class. Also, more people can enter now that weren’t necessarily ready four months ago to put a big payment down to reserve a spot. I’m certain the class will have more entries and it should be a nice change for the Color Classic. Plus, being paid at the gate is always nice,” he says.

An atmosphere all its own, Gibbs and his clients are loyal supporters of The Equine Chronicle Color Classic and believe in what it signifies to the color breed owners in our industry. “The class is very exciting, and it is a fun place for the owners and breeders of these color breed horses to be able to watch them perform and earn a credible title. The lights, the music, the fireworks, the games for the audience; all of it is simply great!”

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