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      FEATURE ARTICLE:  PAINT HORSE JOURNAL Nov. 98
By Frank Holmes   Reprinted with permission 11-99 APHA copyright 1998

How did a rangy Paint mare from Louisiana become a member of the NCHA's Hall of Fame? It was a long and rocky road.

 
 

"The rangy Paint mare might not have been the best-looking horse to ever draw a breath.  Her ears were too big, her head a penny long from the eye to nostril, and she was a little wide-set in front.  On the other hand, the bay-roan tobiano was a natural-born cow horse--athletic, graceful and seemingly driven by a heart as big as Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain.  Given those latter attributes, when Delta rose like a gulf stream hurricane out of the bayou country of southeastern Louisiana in the early 70's to take cutting arenas throughout the South by storm, she became something less than a "Plain Jane."

Born To Cut

Bred by W.S. Mckown Jr. of Jackson, Louisiana, and foaled on April 7, 1963, Delta was the result of a cross between two proven performance lines.  Lemon Squeezer, her sire, was an AQHA-registered double bred descendant of King P-234.  Mildred, her dam, was a National Quarter Horse Breeders Association (NQHBA)-registered daughter of Ed Echols.  So, while Delta was bred to be a cow horse, with two registered Quarter Horses for parents, she seemingly wasn't bred to be a Paint.  Why, then, was she?

Shades of Gray

The top side of Delta's pedigree offers no clues as to where her tobiano color might have come from.  Nothing but well-known Quarter Horses appear in it.  The bottom side of her pedigree, however, is a different story.  Mildred, Delta's dam, is listed in NQHBA Permanent Stud Book Volume 2 as a gray mare foaled in May of 1944, sired by Ed Echols and out of (the) Lionel Mare by Lionel by Little Pancho.  Little is known about the Lionel mare.  With Ed Echols chestnut in color, and Mildred gray, it stands to reason that the Lionel mare was gray too.

Could it have been possible that Mildred and the Lionel mare were, in reality, washed-out gray tobiano Paints with minimal or barely discernible white markings?  Barring pedigree inaccuracies, this would seem to be the most logical explanation for Delta's coloration.  At this late date, though, how Delta came to be a Paint is a moot point.  The fact remains that she was one.  One destined for greatness.

Not-so-sudden impact

Delta's ascent to stardom was not immediate.  Registered with APHA at 2 years of age, and broke to ride 3, she was reportedly used as a racetrack pony horse until she was 6.  In late 1969, Dr. W.C. Barrow of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, acquired Delta and put her in cutting training.  The mare proved to be a natural and was soon ready to compete.  Campaigned lightly over the next three years, she was the 1970 and 1972 year-end high-point Paint in the National Cutting Horse Association.  In September of 1972, Dr. Barrow suffered a heart attack.  As a result, Delta was offered for sale.

Delta comes into her own

George Price of Fairview, Tennessee, had been a fan of Delta for several years.  When he found out she was on the market, he wasted no time acquiring her.  Price turned Delta over to Bobby Brown of nearby Collierville, Tennessee, for training.  Under his tutelage, she blossomed into a world-class cutting horse.

In 1973, Delta was the NCHA World Champion Cutting Mare and Reserve World Champion Cutting Horse.  Finishing behind her in the standings were such talented Quarter Horse performers as Mr. Holey Sox, Mr. San Peppy, Fizzabar and Doc's Starlight (*dam of Grays Starlight).  

Photo of DELTA, by Duke Neff, courtesy of APHA Journal

In 1974, Delta won the NCHA World Championship Finals in Amarillo, Texas, defeating Mr. San Peppy and eight of the then-top 10 cutting horses in the process.  In 1977, Delta became the first Paint Horse inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame.  Retired from competition shortly thereafter, her lifetime NCHA earnings amounted to $49,345.

Delta also fared well in APHA competition.  In 1976, she was the National Champion Senior Cutting Horse.  The following year, she earned Reserve National Champion honors in the same event.

NCHA competition was always Delta's first priority, but she still competed in enough APHA shows to earn 437 Open Cutting points.  And although she cut her last cow more than 20 years ago, she still ranks as the APHA's number 2 all-time leading Open Cutting point earner.  Not bad for an ex-pony horse.

A change in emphasis

In February of 1978, shortly after being retired from cutting, Delta changed hands again.  This time she went to country singer, Lynn Anderson of Nashville.  At this point, about the only challenge that remained for the mare was to prove that she could reproduce herself.  Anderson saw that she got the chance.

In 1979, Delta was bred to cutting legend Peppy San Badger, also known as "Little Peppy."  The following March, she foaled Delta Dawn, a sorrel tobiano filly who would go on to become the 1984 APHA National Champion Junior Cutting Horse.  Also showed in Open competition, DELTA DAWN earned $40,654.

In 1981, Delta was re-bred to Little Peppy.  In April of 1982, she foaled DELTA FLYER, a sorrel tobiano colt who would go on to win the NCHA Super Stakes and amass $210,902 + in earnings.  In 1984, Anderson took Delta to the court of Doc O' Lena AQHA.  Before this foal was born, however, the aged Paint mare was sold once more.  This time she went to Texas.

Taking care of business

While he had nothing to do with her cutting career or the production of her first three foals, Floyd Moore, the ebullient Texas who entered Delta's life at its twilight, would have a lot to do with seeing to it that her blood was perpetuated.  In many respects, the Huntsville-based cattleman was the ideal man for the job.  Moore's father, Floyd J. Moore, had been a highly successful cattle buyer and auction sales barn owner, who instilled in his son business instincts that would forever encourage him to think and act on a grand scale.

If the opportunity arose to buy an 800-head herd of cattle on speculation, the elder Moore never hesitated to go after the deal.  If a rival sale barn came up for sale, he did his utmost to make it his.  So, from the age of 12, when he was first sent on the road by his father to buy cattle for resale, Floyd Moore had the doctrine drilled into him, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing big."  It was a philosophy he found easy to embrace, and one that would heavily influence the way he went about developing the Delta line.  Before acquiring Delta, however, Moore first became owner of the Paint mare's most famous son.  The purchase was handled in typical Moore style.

"I gave $80,000 for what?"

Upon his father's retirement, Floyd Moore took over full management of the family businesses.  For seven years--from 1980 to 1986--he also furnished cattle to the NCHA for use in their Futurity, Derby, Super Stakes, Breeders Cup and World finals events.

While at NCHA shows with his cattle, Moore became enamored with cutting horses.  He watched hundreds of horses work, and charted the bloodlines of all the winners.  By the early 1980's, he decided that he would like to have some cutters of his own.

Initially, he bought a Quarter Horse son of Doc O' Lena.  Trained and shown, the horse did well.  Then it died.  Moore replaced him with another Doc O' Lena horse, only to have that horse die as well.  In the fall of 1984, Moore was once again in the market for a stallion.  He found one, or, more accurately, had one found for him, while on a trip to the Far East.

"My wife, Maryann, and I were in Hong Kong on a furniture-buying trip," Moore said.  "At three a.m. one morning, we were asleep at the hotel when the telephone rang.  I picked it up, and Kenny Patterson from Normangee, Texas, was on the other end.  I had known Kenny for years, and had asked him to help me find a new cutting horse.  "What are you doing?," he asked.  "It's three in the morning here,' I shot back, 'What do you think I'm doing?'

 "He just ignored me. "I bought you a two year old son of Little Peppy,' he said. ""That sounds great,' I replied.  "Tell me about him.'

"He's a Paint.'

" 'A Paint?' I said. 'What did I have to give for him?'

" '$80,000.'

" ' I gave $80,000 for what?'

"A Paint,' he said. 'But don't worry.  He's a good one.  I used to show his mother, and she was a great one.  This colt is going to make you famous.'  "We'll see,' was all I could think of to say."

Moore's high-priced Paint was Delta Flyer.  Turned over to Patterson to break, train and show, the sorrel tobiano stallion went on to achieve NCHA stardom. By early 1985, Moore was impressed enough with Delta Flyer's potential that he decided to try to buy the stallion's dam.

DELTA FLYER with Kenny Patterson, winning 1986 NCHA Super Stakes Open Championship. Photo: Don Shugart; Courtesy Paint Journal copyright 1998

"Mama" Delta and the 6J's"

"In March of 1985," Moore said, "I called Lynn Anderson to see if Delta could be bought.  The mare was in foal to Doc O' Lena at the time, and was due in about six weeks.  "Lynn told me Delta was for sale-- for $50,000.  That seemed like a lot of money for a 22 year-old mare, but with her getting ready to have a Doc O' Lena Paint foal and all, I just closed my eyes and made the deal."

As Moore was negotiating the purchase of Delta, Kenny Patterson's teen-aged son, Pard, indicated that he would like to own a part of the mare as well.  Moore admired the youngster's initiative and agreed to let him in on the deal.  That done, the seasoned broker decided a larger partnership was in order.

"Maryann and I have two children of our own," he said.  "our son, John, lives up around Franklin, Texas, and our daughter, Donna, lives in Fort Meyers, Florida.  We also have six grandchildren, and their names all start with 'J' .  When we bought Delta," he continued, "or 'Mama Delta', as we always called her, we transferred ownership of her to Pard Patterson and our six grandchildren.  And that's how 6J Paint Horses came to be."

The final hurrah

Shortly after being purchased by Moore, Delta foaled a loud-colored sorrel tobiano colt named Delta Olena.

 

Above--from left with DELTA OLENA: Floyd Moore, 
his wife, Maryann, and John Rothwell. 
Photo: Darrell Dodds; Courtesy APHA copyright 1998

She and the foal were then hauled to the Frisco, Texas, ranch of B.F. Phillips, where Doc O' Lena was standing.  Bred back to the world champion cutting horse, Delta failed to conceive.  She was left at the Phillips Ranch until the following spring, at which time she was re-bred.  This time she settled. 

On March 27, 1987, at the age of 24, Delta gave birth to what would be her last foal--a bay tobiano colt named Delta Getsya There.  Though she was barren for the rest of her life, the aging matriarch continued to reside on the Moore Ranch.  Accorded a private paddock near ranch headquarters, she was pampered at every turn. 

In April of 1994, at the age of 31, Delta--Hall of Fame cutter and the highest placing Paint in the history of the NCHA Open Top 10, succumbed to old age.

Far from being the end of her story, though, Delta's passing ushered in a new era that would see her first -and second-generation descendants begin making their own assaults on NCHA and APHA record books.

Flying High

In the fall of 1986, Moore's faith in Delta as a cutting horse progenitor bore its first tangible fruit.  With his wire-to-wire victory in the Super Stakes, Moore's Delta Flyer stunned the Quarter Horse-dominated cutting horse world.  And Delta Flyer wasn't the only Paint cutting prospect that Moore owned.  He had two more Delta foals at home that he couldn't wait to start showing. 

But, just when it appeared that the Texas native had positioned himself on the inside track to cutting horse fame and fortune, he ran smack dab into a brick wall. 

Bottoming out

As anyone who has spent very much time in the cattle business can tell you, it can be a risky venture, subject to a lot of highs and lows.  If you're cautious and conservative, you can usually do well enough during the highs to survive the lows.  Unfortunately, Floyd Moore is neither cautious or conservative.  As a result, at around the same time that Delta Flyer was taking Moore's cutting horse program to new and lofty heights, the Texan's cattle operations broke him.

Broke--as in $2.5 million in debt, with no ready way out.  "It got pretty bad there for a while," Moore said.  "I owed all that money and didn't have any working capital.  And none of the banks would loan me a dime.  Finally, I talked one bank into loaning me $200,000.  They used my place as collateral.  I owed $500,000 on it, and it wasn't worth $500,000.  But I went to work.  I'd make a deal here, another one there, and, slowly but surely, I began digging my way out of debt.  When my creditors saw I was making a good faith effort to pay them back, they relaxed a little, and it just took off from there.

"That was 12 years ago," he continued, "and I'm down to owing around $60,000.  I'll pay that off by December and that'll be the end of it.  I'll have made it all the way back."

To the rescue

There is little doubt that both Moore's knowledge of the cattle industry and his bulldog-like tenacity played key roles in his successful trip back from the brink of financial ruin.  There were some other contributors, however.  Four-legged, spotted ones, and the 65 year-old is quick to give them their share of the credit.  

"If it hadn't been for the Paints," he said, "I probably never would have gotten my head above water.  All the while I was struggling to pay off the $2.5 million, I was moving the horse program forward.  I had a Paint son of Little Peppy, and two Paint sons of Doc O'Lena.  And, by hook or crook, I'd put together a band of top cutting-bred broodmares.  I had daughters of Peppy San Badger, Mr. San Peppy, Doc O'Lena, Dry Doc, Doc's Hickory, Doc Quixote, Smart Little Lena, Gay Bar King, Colonel Freckles and Haidas Little Pep.

"By the fall of 1996, I was up to 340 head of horses.  I was raising some of the best-bred cutting horses in the country, and most of them were coming out Paints.  In October of 1996, I put on the Moore Ranch/6J Paint Horse Production Sale.  I didn't really want to, but I didn't have any choice.  I was still deep in debt.  I sold 147 horses at that sale, and they brought more than $800,000.  The day after the sale, I wasn't any richer than I'd been the day before.  But I owed a lot less money.

Bigger and better things

Even before he had the sale, Moore had made several pivotal adjustments to his performance horse program.  The first came in early 1991, when he hired Charlie and Deb Hill to help manage the operation.  "Charlie and Deb are from O'Neil, Nebraska," Moore said.  "They came to me with tons of experience in every aspect of horse breeding and raising, and they are about the hardest working people I've ever known.  Although they both do whatever is needed, Charlie's strength lies in handling and starting young horses, and Deb is a master at the paperwork end of it.  Between them, they brought some order to what I was trying to do."

The second adjustment to the program came courtesy of Maryann Moore.  "In late 1991," Moore said, "my wife came to me and said, 'Floyd, if we're going to have all these Paints, I don't think we can just go the NCHA route with them.  We need to find another avenue for them.  We need to start showing them in the Paint shows.'

"I thought about it for a while and decided she was right."  For help in breaking into the APHA show circuit, the Moore's turned to long-time friend John Rothwell of West, Texas.  Rothwell was a former PRCA calf roper who had qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, seven times.  Though he had never competed in an APHA-sanctioned show, the ex-rodeo cowboy agreed to take a shot at it.

To begin with, Rothwell showed Delta Olena, the 1985 stallion by Doc O'Lena AQHA and out of Delta, to the 1992 APHA World Champion Senior Calf Roping Horse title and 145 Open points in seven events.  (Making him an APHA CHAMPION).  Two years later, he showed Brigalenas Delta, a 1988 stallion by Delta Flyer and out of Brigalena AQHA, to the 1994 APHA World Champion Senior Calf Roping Horse Title and 153 Open points in four events.  During the same period, three additional Delta-bred Paints were shown by their owners to APHA Reserve World Championships in Cutting.

So, Maryann Moore's instincts proved to be right, and as a result, the Moore Ranch/6J Paints began making quite a name for themselves as APHA cutting and roping horses.

Then they became known for their reining ability.

Accidents happen

Although most of the accomplishments of Floyd Moore's Delta-bred Paints were by design, they were found to be excellent reining prospects quite by accident.  In 1994, Moore took Gay Bar O Lena, a 3-year-old stallion by Delta Olena and out of Nu Dottie AQHA, to Scott McCutcheon of Whitesboro, Texas, for 30 days of training.  The move was made at the request of a potential buyer who wanted to see what kind of reining potential the young stallion had.  

To make a long story short, the horse had quite a bit of potential, the deal fell through, and Gar Bar O Lena went on to win two APHA World Championships and one Reserve World Championship in Reining.  Today, Moore still owns the stallion, Scott McCutcheon is still showing and standing him.

GAY BAR O LENA, ridden by Trainer, Scott McCutcheon.  
Photo by Darrell Dodds, Courtesy  Paint Horse Journal  copyright 1998

Back to the future

After more than a decade of financial struggle, Floyd Moore and 6J Paints stand poised to begin a new era.  The ranch's horse numbers are back up where they were before the sale, and a brand new stud barn and breeding complex houses the ranch's battery of six Delta-bred Paint Stallions.

Recently, a 30-mare band of speed-bred horses was added to the breeding program.  They are being bred to Delta Flyer and Brigalena Delta to produce faster roping and barrel racing horses.  Ryons Boy Delta, a 1991 gelding by Delta Flyer and out of Ryons Sally AQHA, is one of the first horses to be produced by the program.  Owned and ridden by Taryn Lee of Pinehurst, Texas, he was the 1998 APHA World Champion 13 & under Barrel Racing Horse.

After years of not being able to afford outside trainers, Moore currently has three horses in reining training with McCutcheon, another six in cutting training with Texas trainers Gregg Welch and Leon Harrel, and one in working cow horse training with California trainer Ted Robinson.

All told, it was a long, hard road that the rangy Paint mare named Delta took on her way to the NCHA Hall of Fame.  Floyd Moore's journey to see to it that her blood lives on has been every bit as rocky.  But they both finally made it.

As a result, the Delta factor will continue to make its presence felt in cutting and Paint Horse circles for generations to come".

TO READ MORE ABOUT DELTA:

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          DELTA: NCHA HALL OF FAME:
        

  ARTICLE: 1977 PAINT HORSE JOURNAL