If you have young daughters, you should be careful when you bring ponies to your house for a birthday party! A short ride on Shetland ponies lead the Pendergraft family to years of showing American Quarter Horses. While her grandparents and aunt had horses many years ago, no one in the Pendergraft family had ever shown horses. Party Time Ponies came for Rachel’s fifth birthday. Within the year, she was ready to show horses. In fact, 28 year-old Quarter Horse Doctor Gold Bar lives a happy retirement at their barn.
The Pendergraft girls began competing at local Northwest Arkansas Horse Association Saturday open shows. They made numerous friends who taught them the joy of families with horses. Sarah Ann got her first pony, Honey Pooh Bear, and she was hooked. She was a great teacher for her and is still teaching little children how to ride today.
After losing a trainer, a friend called Neal Pendergraft and said, “I know you didn’t ask, but you need to call Murray and Robin Griggs.” At that time, the Griggs lived in Jasper, Missouri, two hours north of the Pendergraft’s home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Phone calls were exchanged and a meeting at the Griggs’ barn started a wonderful relationship. Past experience made Neal unsure about horse trainers. Murray’s past experience made him unsure about horse show dads. After touring their facility, Murray, Neal and Sarah Ann’s uncle, Tim Mason, stopped to talk. Some questions, a little dirt kicking, and some answers led to a final question from Murray, “Just what is it you want?” “I want our girls to work, have a great time and a chance to win,” replied Neal. “What do you mean a chance?” asked Murray. “125 horses, 125 kids and five judges. You tell me you can control all those variables, then I need to go somewhere else.” Thus began the partnership between the Pendergrafts, Masons and Griggs.
Weekends not spent showing found Rachel, Sarah Ann and their cousin, Wren Myers, at Griggs Ranch. Heza Sonny One was bought for Rachel shortly before joining the Griggs. Sarah Ann graduated to her first Quarter Horse, Zippos Goodfellow. Next was McZippo aka “Moose” who hauled Wren around show pens across the country. The Griggs made the move to the Pendergraft/Mason barn in January, 2009. Less than a year later, Murray and Moose won the 2009 AQHA Open World Championship in Trail.
The Griggs’ move to Fayetteville meant the girls could practice almost every day with one caveat: “as long as you have good grades, you can keep showing your horses.” The girls practiced together and traveled together; sometimes winning and sometimes getting the gate.
Early on, with Murray and Robin’s encouragement, Neal and Gina decided it was time for some advertising in The Equine Chronicle. That was when they met Gordon Downey. According to Neal, “Gordon has become one of our best friends at shows.” Their ads are the creation of Neal’s friend of thirty years, John Ware. The photographs were the work of Ms. C.J. Nicolai. Later ads included photos by Fayetteville photographer, Miles Witt Boyer. Neal gave almost complete artistic control to John and the final design was always a surprise. Neal adds, “Many say our ads are different, but poor Murray just thought some of them were weird. For us, they provide a quarterly history in four pages beginning when our girls were just starting to show and ending with this cover. Our thanks to everyone for working with us over the years.”
Year by year, the girls’ youth careers come to an end. Wren just finished her second year at Oklahoma State University. Sarah Ann and Rachel had a year that few people get to experience in 2010.
The Pendergrafts and the Griggs decided to take a year and travel as a family showing horses and taking educational trips. May, 2010, found them in their bus following Murray pulling the horses and Robin piloting the Griggs’ bus. From the Pine Bluff Memorial Day show to Santa Barbara, California, over fifteen months they traveled to, and competed in many, many shows. They were building memories that will live with them forever. No one will forget Robin Griggs’ appearance as a toothless Miss Arkansas complete with a long gown and sash at the Santa Barbara show dress-up contest.
Our cover story is about Sarah Ann and Zip Past the Jag, but she wanted to talk about the fun she had with her sister, cousin and barn family.
Sarah Ann and Rachel were officers and regional directors in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association and the Arkansas Quarter Horse Youth Association. Sarah Ann was also a member of Team USA during their 2012 competition in Germany. Their mother, Gina, chaperoned the AQHYA Youth Excellence Conference each year. The Pendergrafts believe the YES Conference is an experience that no AQHYA member should miss as it allows the youth to come together without the pressures of the show pen.
Sarah Ann will join her sister in August at Texas Christian University along with Megan McMullen and many other wonderful friends. She will join the great ladies who comprise the TCU Equestrian Team.
So, if you have ponies at a little girl’s birthday, be ready for what comes next. Murray and Robin along with all their family have become part of the Pendergraft family. The Pendergrafts all still miss Murray’s dad, Loren, and love Juan Castro, the only one in their barn who works all the time.
The girls made the best of friends across the country. Neal and Gina will be quick to tell you they got the most out of the deal. Best of all, Neal and Gina got two wonderful daughters who allowed American Quarter Horses to teach them that life is a combinaton winning and losing, but most importantly it is about hard work with family and friends and sometimes the only reward for a hard day’s work is that you did your best.