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Generations Of Horse Loving Families Share Their Keys To Success

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66 – July/August, 2024

By Elizabeth Arnold

Horses have a way of bringing people together. Talk to anyone in the industry and they’ll likely tell you that they have met some of their closest friends through horses. For some, the relationships are even closer, with horses leading them to begin a generational legacy of horsemanship, industry success, and family bonds that stand the test of time and serve as a testament to what’s possible through perseverance, determination, and the love of great horses.

Origins: Where It All Began

Jeff Johns family’s origin in the horse industry dates back more than 90 years. His family’s success in the show ring and breeding industry spans decades. With so many members of the family involved in the horse industry, he jokes that Quarter Horses are in his blood. The family’s story in horses began in the most traditional sense on an Arizona cattle ranch. Johns shares, “My family has been involved with Quarter Horses since the 1940s. My maternal great-grandfather had a cattle ranch in Arizona, and they started using Quarter Horses to work the ranch around 80 years ago, and they still use them on the ranch today.”

The family’s ranching heritage spurred a love for competition that has bridged generations and disciplines. “The ranch started my family’s journey with AQHA and Quarter Horses in general,” shares Johns. “It has truly been a family affair; my grandfather had racehorses and was a past AQHA president, my aunt, Katherine Tobin, has been showing since she was in youth and still shows. My mother, Susan Johns, has been showing since she was in youth and still shows. My brothers all showed in youth, with one still showing today, and I have cousins who have competed on their Quarter Horses at the National Finals Rodeo.”

The Kail family also hails from Arizona, though Debbie Kail tells us her family’s early days in the industry began further west in California. “My parents, Greg and Mary Whalen, were AQHA Hall of Fame breeders, and my dad was a Hall of Fame exhibitor. Originally, my father was a rodeo cowboy, but mom converted him to the showing side of things. They had Blue Ribbon Farms in Clements, California, where they trained and raised many horses. At one time, there were more than 200 mares and babies on the ranch. Their primary stallions were Smooth Town and Page Impressive,” Debbie says.

Click here to read the complete article
66 – July/August, 2024

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