Horse Showing

What a Way to End a Career

November 30, 2011

Als Kaper shows at his last AQHA World Championship Show at the age of 31.

Als Kaper 31-year-old ranch sorter

Cecil’s age has not slowed him down much in the ranch sorting ring, but owner Ross Graham says he has to keep his age in mind during a run. Journal photo.

By Samantha Eckert

At age 31 and with eight AQHA World Championship Shows under his belt, Als Kaper has earned his retirement. The 1980 sorrel gelding bred by Ronnie Brooks of Clark, Missouri, retired after his final appearance with Ross Graham of Sherman, Illinois, in the preliminaries of amateur ranch sorting November 7.

“I have had him for 16 years,” Ross says. “He has gone for years now with me now, and he’s just as solid as can be.”

This year’s competition was the horse’s first time competing in ranch sorting at the World Show but definitely not his first go-round at the World Show.

“He was always team penning from Day One,” Ross says. “Then, we used to team sort in the full arena before they came up with the ranch sorting. It was really the same thing. Then the ranch sorting was put into a smaller confined area. They had had a few feedlot sortings throughout the country that we had been to. Really, it wasn’t that big of a change. The ranch sorting is a little easier on him. It’s less ground to cover and a little more user friendly.”

Als Kaper, aka “Cecil,” has qualified for the AQHA World Show eight times, placed in the top 10 four times, was a reserve champion and a world champion. He has an extensive record in team penning.

Being a member of the American Quarter Horse Association means supporting the world’s most versatile horse breed.

In 1996, Als Kaper earned his amateur team penning world title. He returned in 1999 to earn a reserve champion amateur world title.

“He was a pretty big cutter when he was a 3- and 4-year-old,” Ross says. “Ronnie Brooks – when I first won the World Show on Cecil in 1996 – he called me right away, and he was just ecstatic to hear that the horse had done that.”

Ross has owned Cecil since 1994, when Cecil was already middle aged at 14. Ross purchased the gelding through AQHA Professional Horseman Conway Miller of Sage, Arkansas.

“I got him because he was hard to ride,” Ross explains. “The people that owned him before had a hard time staying on him. He was physical. As he got older, of course, he calmed down, but he has always just fit me to a T. We’ve just had a ball ever since.”

Not only does Cecil have an extensive show record, but he also sired six American Quarter Horse foals and has quite the personality.

“He’s just a big ham,” Ross says. “He just loves people. He loves to eat and take naps. He’s missing his front teeth, so his tongue always hangs out a little. You can turn him out with anybody, he’s just as easygoing as they get.”

Cecil’s age has not slowed him down much in the ranch sorting ring, but Ross says he has to keep his age in mind during a run.

Your AQHA or AQHYA membership does much more than bring you together with other horse enthusiasts.

“You have to really take care of him. You can’t ask him for too much at the wrong time, and you really have to look after him first. At that age, it’s very senseless to try to push a horse into a spot that you know is going to be hard for them to succeed in.”

Ross and Cecil have been a great team in the past years, but this year, Ross just wanted to keep Cecil safe in his final runs.

Ross, Cecil and their partners, Charles Vesback of Platteville, Wisconsin, and Awesome Miss Gogo, ended up sorting their cattle in 56.808 seconds, putting them in 25th place out of 77 teams.

Catch all of the AQHA World Show winning runs, results and behind-the-scenes stories at www.aqha.com/Showing/World-Show.