Athene Ward and her get could fill a trophy case with awards.
By Megan Brownell in The American Quarter Horse Journal
When Paulette Higdon of Yakima, Washington got Athene Ward as a yearling in 1976, she had no idea the chain reaction that would take place over the years, through the mare and her get.
By Buddy Ward (by Sugar Bars) and out of Bo’s Scorchy (by Midnight Hank), Athene Ward began her show career as a 3-year-old. Within two months, Athene Ward earned her Superior in open western pleasure.
“She was really a miracle,” Paulette says about the mare’s success. And she would pass that talent on. On top of their athletic abilities, Athene Ward’s get just seemed to connect with youth.
Her third foal was Oscar A Ward, aka “Oscar,” by Drifter’s Buzz Bar. Oscar was purchased as a 2-year-old, sight unseen, by AQHA Professional Horseman Bob Avila.
“I asked Bob if he wanted a video of him, and he said ‘no’ because he had seen the rear end of that mare enough times in futurities he knew what she was going to produce,” Paulette says.
Three Bars’ (TB) flaws seemed to far outweigh his qualities in his first few years. Though he would become a stakes-winning racehorse and the most sought-after sire of his time, one early owner actually gave the colt away. Read his story in AQHA’s The Three Bars (TB) Bloodline.
Oscar became the quintessential youth horse. Bob sold Oscar to the Blaser family in Oregon, and the gray gelding was so much a part of the family that he used to go in the house with the Blaser girls. When they went off to college, Amanda Haag of New Mexico bought Oscar, and the duo placed third in hunt seat equitation at the AQHA Youth World in 1993. Amanda went on to medical school, with Oscar’s earnings helping pay her tuition.
Sent to the court of Zippo Pine Bar, Athene Ward produced the gray colt Zippo A Ward in 1987. The stallion would earn more than 250 western pleasure points alone and would become a successful sire. His get includes Zippos Ace Of Spaces, the Sooner Trailer All-Around Amateur at the 2006 and 2008 AQHA World Championship Shows, and Intangible Award, who has several top-10 placings in western riding, horsemanship, trail and showmanship at AQHA World Championship Shows.
Paulette said Athene Ward changed her life. She lived to be 28, and 12 of her foals have earned 1,721.5 points in all divisions.
Her 14th foal was a 2001 embryo transfer filly by Barpassers Image, named Athenes Final A Ward.
“We started showing her in 2008, and she placed first under all six judges during the 2007 Region One Experience,” Paulette said. “Her mother did the exact same thing 30 years ago. I could not have cloned her and gotten anything closer!”
But for Paulette, it is Oscar A Ward who has taught her the most.
In 1996, Paulette bought Oscar back at the age of 15 for her own children, T.J., then 10, and Aimee, then 7, to safely learn riding. Years later, when T.J. was older and serving in the U.S. Navy, he would still ask how Oscar was doing when he called home.
He was named Three Bars in hopes that he’d pay off like a slot machine. He definitely had speed, a mysterious leg-problem left his future uncertain. Read more about Three Bars and his progeny in AQHA’s The Three Bars (TB) Bloodline.
Now, in his older years, Oscar provides service for equine therapy for disabled children and anorexic patients while carrying them in lead line and youth classes.
“He is so precious and tuned into these kids,” Paulette says about Oscar. “Those of us that work with horses know they’re therapeutic – he is the teacher and therapist, not us. He has raised so many children.
“They have a routine, and they know Oscar is there with unconditional love, and that’s a safe place for them to be.”