The Quarter Horse Journal
Jim Brett Campbell
When Western Pleasure was added to the slate of AQHA classes in 1959, high-sided hats were in vogue and chaps were optional. Saddles sported little or no silver, but saddle blankets were adorned with tassels and patterns. Tails were pulled to the hock and manes were roached.
Almost every horse started its show career in western pleasure, where the biggest penalty was catching the wrong lead, and judges looked for the horse that appeared to be the most pleasurable to ride.
"The horses shown in western pleasure were bred to be all-around athletes. They were shorter and heavier built, with more energetic dispositions," said Doug Carpenter in his book, "Western Pleasure." "They could compete in a halter class, cut a cow, run a reining pattern and then go around the rail for the pleasure class."
There were no 2-year-old futurities, National Snaffle Bit Association or AQHA World Championship Show. Mohawk Buck, a 1950 dun gelding by Yellow Buck and out of Susie Cindy, won the first high-point award with 15 points. In 2003, it took Miss Iron Version, a 1998 bay mare by Good Version and out of Iron On Patch, 277.5 points to win the AQHA open high-point western pleasure award.
In 1959, breeders added value to their horses by making them AQHA Champions and hauling for Honor Roll titles. In 2004, the western pleasure industry is highly specialized. Breeders, trainers and horses can spend their entire careers chasing futurity wins, All American Quarter Horse Congress titles and, most coveted of all, the "iron pony" that comes with an AQHA world championship.
Here's a look through 45 years of western pleasure history at the people, horses and eras that made the industry.
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