January 28, 2011
He was a halter horse with cow sense.
Andy Rees had a big decision to make, and it couldn’t wait.
In 1972, Andy Rees and his wife, Carol, were both 25 years old and dreamed of owning and standing their own stallion. They had approached Bill Moomey about purchasing a son of AQHA Champion Coy’s Bonanza.
“But Bill didn’t stand ‘Coy’ to outside mares,” Andy says. “He had his own band of broodmares, and the only way to get a Coy’s Bonanza baby was to buy one out of one of those mares.”
And there was a waiting list for those foals.
“When a foal hit the ground, I would call in the order that a name was put down, and that person had to make up their mind right then and there if they wanted the foal or not. If they didn’t want it, I would call the next person in line,” Bill says.
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In February 1972, Bill phoned Andy to tell him Manana’s Rose had foaled a striking chestnut colt.
“He was 12 hours old when we got the call, and we had to tell Bill yes or no, right then and there,” Andy recalls.
When “Major” was 5 months old, Andy and Carol picked up the colt from Bill’s place in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to make the long drive back to their home in Langley, British Columbia.
“I got a phone call from Des Moines, Iowa, from Andy and he was terribly upset,” Bill says. “He said, ‘I don’t know what to do. We took the colt out of the trailer to exercise him and give him a little break. When we loaded him back in, his feet slipped underneath the trailer and he skinned his shins down to the bone. I don’t know what to do.’ ”
Bill recommended a veterinarian he knew in the area. The veterinarian looked at Major and told the Reeses they would have to leave the colt with him.
“He told them it wasn’t all lost, but it was bad,” Bill says. “He told them he thought he could fix Major, but that he would never be rideable.”
When Major finally arrived home in Canada, he appeared to be sound. He was then sent to the University of California-Davis for surgery on his knee.
In 1973, Andy began showing Major in AQHA halter classes.
“I’ll never forget,” he says. “Morgan Freeman was judging, and the halter classes back then were huge. Morgan walked around the horse and walked around again, looking at him. He turned to me and said, ‘Son, I don’t know who you are or what you do, but this horse is either going to put you in the horse business or keep you in the horse business.’”
The judge’s statement was prophetic.
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Major went on to win 73 of 79 halter classes, earning 86 points, and a young, then-unknown trainer was taken by the stallion.
“He saw a lot of talent in Major,” Andy says.
Bob Avila showed Major in reining, working cow horse and cutting while his former spouse, Christy, showed the horse in western pleasure and hunter under saddle. Major earned 137 performance points and was named 1977’s high-point working cow horse stallion and reserve high-point working cow horse. That same year, Major also earned his AQHA Champion title.
“In total, Major sired 15 world champions in amateur, youth and open, and those champions are in seven different disciplines,” Andy says. “He sired everything from cutting horses to trail horses to western riding horses. You just don’t see that today.”
In 1997, Major colicked and had to be euthanized.
“Major changed our lives in so many ways,” Andy says.