The Three Bars Legacy

A history of the horse whose offspring have become legends in the show ring.

A history of the horse whose offspring have become legends in the show ring.

Buy this photo of Three Bars (TB) at AQHAs Photo Store.
Buy this photo of Three Bars (TB).

In an age of hot-blooded, hair-triggered racehorses, Three Bars’ easygoing disposition was something of an anomaly. His temperament was one of the reasons he succeeded as a sire.

Walter Merrick of Oklahoma knew he’d hit the jackpot when he started breeding mares to Three Bars. He persuaded owner Sidney H. Vail to let him lease the stallion for three breeding seasons, 1952-54. Instead of breeding 12 or 15 mares a year, suddenly Three Bars was breeding 70. After the lease was up, Merrick hauled his best mares to wherever Three Bars was standing.

“I was criticized very sharply for introducing a Thoroughbred into the Quarter Horse industry,” Merrick said. “Some people thought it was going to ruin the breed.”

From 1945 to 1963, Three Bars sired 554 foals. His stud fee went from $100 in 1945 to $10,000 in 1963. His Thoroughbred progeny include Lena’s Bar, the dam of Easy Jet; Lucky Bar, the sire of Impressive; and Rocket Bar, the grandsire of Dash For Cash.

Learn more about Three Bars and his progeny, including Doc Bar, Sugar Bars, Zippo Pat Bars and Rocket Bars in AQHA’s detailed report, The Three Bars (TB) Bloodline.

Shining in the Show Ring

Three Bars’ American Quarter Horse sons include:

  • Lightning Bar – AQHA Champion and Hall of Fame horse who sired 148 foals, including Hall of Famer Doc Bar, whose foals earned 8,894 points, nine world championships, four reserve world championships and 31 AQHA Champions. They have also earned more than $3,213,000 with the National Cutting Horse Association.
  • Sugar Bars – halter point earner and Hall of Fame horse whose foals earned 9,896 points. He sired 36 AQHA Champions. Sugar Bars is fourth on the all-time leading sires of AQHA Champions list, followed by his sire Three Bars (TB).
  • Gay Bar King – cutting money earner whose foals earned 2,729 points.
  • Zippo Pat Bars – Hall of Fame horse whose foals earned 113 performance Registers of Merit. One of his most famous foals, Zippo Pine Bar, was an AQHA Champion who sired foals who earned 29 world championships and more than 74,000 points.
  • Goldseeker Bars – AQHA Supreme Champion with foals who earned 5,580 points. He sired two world champions and two reserve world champions.

To check out more of Three Bars’ progeny, visit AQHA Records. AQHA members get $10 worth of records free each month! Join now.

Debate over permanently registering the progeny of Three Bars and other Thoroughbreds in the 1950s created a severe rift within AQHA. The “bulldog” men, some of whom helped write the original description of a Quarter Horse, grudgingly accepted the inclusion of Thoroughbred offspring after the proponents of Three Bars formed their own breed registry.

On April 6, 1968, two days shy of his 28th birthday, Three Bars died from a heart attack at Merrick’s ranch in western Oklahoma, where he had returned to stand the 1967 season.

At the time of his death, he was the all-time leading sire of racing ROM qualifiers, of AAA runners and of money earners, his get having earned $2,857,781. He was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1989.

Want to know if your horse traces back to Three Bars or his offspring? It’s easy with AQHA records! AQHA members get $10 worth of records free each month! Join now.

Get the full story on Three Bars (TB) and many of his most prolific offspring. Get AQHA’s The Three Bars (TB) Bloodline report and learn the personal details of this Hall of Fame stallion and many of his offspring.

30 thoughts on “The Three Bars Legacy”

  1. Thank you for reserching and spending the time to trace the history of Three Bars, as much as we all want to move forward and progress, there is a wonderful sense of achievement and acknowledgement to honur the past and the greatness that helped us become proud today. My Dun mare is a decendent of Three Bars (by Sire and Dam) and has had a very successful performance record here in New Zealand, now she is in foal with her 5th foal, and all have been wonderful progeny. Many horses here in NZ are from these bloodlines, and have had wonderful careers and been great companions to many enthusiatic owners.As we have up until recent times required that our one Quarter Horse compete in many of the different disciplines of Western Riding, and due to the great mind and trainable acceptance of the QH, this has been possible.
    So thanks for supplying this informantion so I can fill in a page of my horses history and the history of many NZ horses, and Clubs here.

  2. I have two mares that have Three Bars in their line and they are both great mares to have. One I have bred and she has her 8th foal at her side now. I couldn’t ask for a better mare. The other I intended to breed but never got to it. Now we are unfortumately put in a position where I have to sell all of my horses. This bloodline has a lot of history and you can even tell today when the colts are broke out. They are very level headed and have great dispositions.

  3. I have a mare that is the grandaughter of Doc Bar and she has Three Bars top and bottom. She has given me 3 beautiful foals. There personalities are impeccable. The 1st born (now a gelding) has a lot of Doc Bar traits very stubborn but get by that and he will give you 110% and never forgets. The other 2 (1 mare and 1 gelding) are more laid back. The mare is now 26yrs old and still has her stubborn streak . Beautiful horses .

  4. We have 5 horses, all are desendents of Three Bars through the Doc Bar/Poco Lena line. I have also owned a couple of Sugar Bars horses preferring the Doc Bar line. They are level headed horses, willing to learn and please. Sometimes a stubborn streak comes out but I atribute that to Poco Lena, we all know her story! Thanks for the update about Three Bars, it was great reading.

  5. We had the great honor of owning Lynx Furry until his death in September ’08. He was a carbon copy of his sire Doc’s Lynx, who was the own son of Doc Bar. This is a wonderful line of athletic and versitile horses. And it has been a pleasure for us to own Lynx. He left us with 2 mares in foal to carry on the line.

    Thank you for researching this awesome line of horses and producing this article.

  6. I have two quarter horses who have Three Bars back in their bloodline. My 17 yr old gelding out of Scotch Bar (Sonny Dee Bar) is a great horse. I have a 6 yr old mare with Three Bars bloodline out of Frenchman’s Guy . She is very mellow and kind.

  7. I had a gelding that was a grand son to Three Bars, Ole Cody Bar … he was and still is the best horse ever. He taught my daughter to ride.

  8. Thanks for the great article on Three Bars. I am interested in getting information on the horse Band Bars. I have rode several horses in the past that traced to this horse and I found them to be the best horses I have ever owned. These horses are gone now and I cannot seem to find any more horses that trace to Band Bars. These horses are not only easy to train and a pleasure to ride, but are also really well made. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  9. I have a gelding who is a great-grandson of Three Bars; out of a Zippo Pat Bars daughter-he seems to be lighter and more alert in mind and in body than other blood-lines. Sometimes this is a blessing, sometimes it is a certain task for the rider-but he has the sweetest and most gentle attitude towards little ones.

  10. Thank you for doing up a great acticle on Three Bars.
    I bought a mare this spring that has him on her paper (2 twice) plus I have other mares with his breeding.
    Lots of people says those horses are HOT. I just laugh at them. When a buyer comes out and walk in my herd, they can’t believe how quiet my herd is.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Three Bars article as it gave me insight into my 23 year old AQHA Appendix mare. The picture of Three Bars you showed is the spitting image of my mare. She will go all day, and still runs jumps and plays and gets into mischief as she is so inteligent. She out walks any breed on the trail and will try anything. Sometimes she is a laid back Quarterhorse, and other times a fired up TB! Always willing and obedient. Fun for life! Thanks Three Bars for the legacy!

  12. I own Move N Earth sorrel stallion. He has Three Bars on his papers twice. Three Bars is the Great grandaddy twice on the papers. He has the bull dog build. He is very easy to handle. I breed him to 2 AQHA mares and last year. He throw a red dun filly and a sorrel colt. Both are quiet and soild with the bull dog look. He has made me proud. My foals will all be Appendix. Need the speed for barrel racing. My Move N Earth is awesome. He looks like Three Bars.

  13. I had an appaloosa that was sired by a quarter horse named Mr Jimmer Bar–I think he was a grandson of three bars. Any body know anything about him? By the way, I owned my app.(named Jimmy Hawkins) for 23 years. He was one of the best horses I ever had!
    He was nearly 28 when he died. I still miss him

  14. Hi! Thank you all for your comments! If you would like more information about THREE BARS or his progeny, AQHA offers records at a low cost. If you are an AQHA member, you can access records on or contact AQHA Customer Service at 806-378-4811 Monday-Friday 8-5CST to have records sent to you by mail, email or fax.

    Thank you all!
    Kayla Randall
    AQHA Customer Service

  15. My 29-year-old AQHA mare goes back to Three Bars via Triple Chick & Chicado V. She’s still amazingly healthy, can run up a storm out in the paddock (despite arthritis) and still enjoys being ridden lightly. And she still has her feisty personality! My 10 year old Appaloosa mare goes back to Three Bars as well.

  16. My late mare was a great grandaughter of Three Bars through Three Chicks. She was 24 when I lost her. There is not a day goes by but what I do not think of the rides we took together. She could be a difficult horse at times but we got along. I really miss her.

  17. Great article on Three Bars. I’ve been looking for everything I could fine on him on the internet and came across your article. We have a 22 yr old gelding, Bar Nubby Lad(Cody), from the Doc Bar/Three Bars line. Looking at Cody’s papers, Three Bars was bred to a mare by the name of War Hug. Looking back in her line I found Man O War. Now I understand where Cody get’s his temperament! Level headed up to a point and then “all bets are off!”. Thanks again for your article.

  18. I have 14yr old mare with Three Bars in her breeding. She is the best mare I’ve owned with plenty to give. Very temperamental but we understand each other and she goes like stink!! We live on the Welsh hills in U.K and it seems that I only managed to buy her because the Brits didnt like her breeding! A bit soft in their heads I reckon. She’s a pleasure to own, even though she is a little hot and always thinks she’s in a race. Brill article

  19. I have a 30 years young grand daughter (skips ole dogood) of three bars. sired by the ole man, she still can kick up her heels with the youngsters. she has produced some very worth foals, who are still out there earning their groceries. her son skips ole poco pine was herd sire for us and produced some great AQHA offspring as well as some wonderful Appaloosa offspring from that line. what great temperments. (the appaloosa stallion we stood was three bars bred as well.) speed and athleticism we found these atributes second to none. Three Bars your success as a sire is alive and well in the decendents you left in your wake. true testomony to his greatness is that the legend continues….

  20. Three Bars was the greatest horse to ever sire in the Quarter Horse Breed period. Thank God for that wonderful horse.

  21. I have a 1996 gelding (was a stallion for 12 years) and his breeding in super. Five lines to Three Bars, his dam was a grand daughter, and his sire was out of Twin Bar. Also on the bottom, his 6th grandsire is Man O’War. He looks just like him. Then he has Joe Reed, Chicaro Bill, Parkers Trouble, Kingwood, and Leo. His maternal great grand dam is Little Snip Leo’s, great grand dam of Win A Lota Cash. When he was a stallion, this guy doted on kids. He loved them to death. I had a 10 year old girl take care of him in the open pasture with 5 mares, during feeding time he never ever gave her trouble. That’s the 3Bar temp. In all my years of owning him he has been the perfect gentleman. Except when a man gets to close, then he noses himself between us. I could write a book on this guy. Maybe someday I will. I still have him and the only reason he was gelded is because the rent would go up to 300 a month unless I gelded him. Most stupid decision of my life to tell you. I got 3 colts from him and they were awesome. He even through a loud paint off a paint morgan. I can’t say enough about this line.

  22. I have a 17 yr.old stallion grandson of three bars on top and grandson of sugar bars on bottom. He is the best we’ve ever had. We haven’t breed him much but what we have breed are just like him awesome.We also have his son a (5 YR. old stallion,)out of our mare that is the grandaughter of (The Invester) on top and the grandaughter of (Win or Lose) on the bottom.We also have a 3 yr. old filly out of him and our other mare that was the daughter of (The ole man). These are very beautiful and intelligent horses. Thank you for this special artical on Three Bars a great,great horse.

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  24. In the late 70’s my folks had a great grandson of three bars. He was a racer. Good temperment as well. He stood 16.2 1/2. His name was Camptown Kid. Loved that horse. He would let me (I was a small child) pull his lip up so I could see his tatoo and I would climb all over him.

  25. My mothers pony horse was Sugar Bars. My dad Buck Keefer Jr trained sugar bars during his racing days. The stories my 81 year old mother has told me are incredible. If I could help anyone who wants to know about sugar bars e-mail me with your contact information and we will contact you. Incredible horse and he had a dead head and spurs were needed unless you were anywhere a starting gate.

  26. I have a Three Bars great grandfilly. Her name is Go Sable Tender bar. She’s got the most amazing temperment and trainability for a young horse, and she can run like a demon. Three Bars is a great sire!

  27. I bought my first horse in February of 2012. I had found him on Craigslist. I myself was new to horses and riding so when I received his papers, I had no clue who any of the horses were. Over the year, I kept coming across horses with the Bars name in them. I thought it seemed familiar so I checked my horses papers. Come to find out that he is the great grandson of Three Bars with Chicado V! He is very calm, but stubborn at times. He also has the”bulldog” look. My trainer always said I found a diamond and now we know we truly did! His registered name is Jonis Ole Man from The Ole Man. He will always be my fatboy!

  28. I recently purchased a gelding with not only Three Bars on both sides of his papers but also the great Secretariat. Guess where I found him?? Auction. Yup, purchased at auction by a kill buyer and destined for meat. He is 13 and the sweetest , most appreciative horse I have known. LOVES my small children. I thank God we found him <3 Amazing lines.

  29. I had the best gelding I’ve ever owned “Grand Riser” aka “Rusty” a great great grandson of 3 Bars …he was so loyal loving and willing he was my best friend … He lived til 30 years I was so proud of him he still had a full set of teeth and 1250 lbs of muscle .. my vet said he had the most amazing teeth he had ever seen .. I had to put my Rusty to rest in peace due an unexplainable injury top of poll and a porttion of his neck vertebrae .. The only thing I could think of is one of our younger stud colts accidentally got into Rusty’s paddock area and must have kicked him.. He lived has long as he could for me .. until we meet again my loyal and faithful companion

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