|This is a story about a little red Appaloosa stallion that I have shared a big part of my life with. Sunspot Pete was born 19 years ago on our ranch and began his life as a fine cattle horse. He was about four years old when I slid a saddle on his back for our first ride. I had returned from college and I was breaking our Appaloosas for riding. Sunspot Pete was the easiest of all the Appaloosas to break to ride and to train to move stock. As I thought back to my early days with Sunspot Pete, my Dad shared with me how Sunspot Pete came into our program.
In 1976, our family moved back to North Carolina from Tennessee. We had several Appaloosas in Tennessee and our first Appaloosas were purchased in the early 1970's from Eston Adcock. Upon returning to North Carolina, my Dad wanted to expand his breeding program and had set a goal to select and raise quality, foundation bred Appaloosa/Colorado Rangerbred horses with good conformation for work and pleasure as part of our farm. Our Appaloosas were always used to move cattle, on trail rides with friends and also were family pets who grazed with our cattle. Dad said he tried to raise Appaloosas with good pedigrees and he was always in pursuit of a good, gentle, family workhorse. During the late 1970's and early 1980's, Dad began expanding our breeding program with more Appaloosas.
Early in the search for good all around Appaloosas, Dad met Ralph and Joyce Cannon, who had come to Spruce Pine, North Carolina from Colorado. Through the North Carolina Appaloosa Club, Dad came to know the Ralph Cannon, Jesse Cowart and Donnie Haigler families and was introduced to their handsome leopard Appaloosas. In those early days, two foundation bred stallions stood out: High Thunderbird, owned by the
Cowarts, and Sunspot Revel, owned by the Cannons. One of our mares, Skip-A-Rue's Moon (because of her moon blaze), had
Colida, Cofleet, Flying Susie and Plaudit's Ward breeding in her background. Dad had chosen her because of these Appaloosas in her pedigree and her larger build. Dad made arrangements with the Cannons in 1981 to breed her to Sunspot Revel.
Dad's first trip up to Spruce Pine went smoothly. Dad remembers sitting with my Mom, Ralph, Joyce and her mother enjoying a cup of coffee and looking out their living room window at the beautiful mountain view. Dad also remembers being impressed with Ralph's rubber strip fences. He used these big wide rubber strips in lieu of conventional fencing to protect his Appaloosas. This seemed unusual to Dad since we used barb wire fences for the cattle. The trip and the breeding were successful, and eleven months later, on April 13, 1982, Moon had a beautiful colt.
Dad remembers that he was born in the evening. It was getting dark and Dad barely could see Moon, but he noticed a reflection in one of the new colt's eyes when leaving and went back to check on what he had seen. It was a brand new colt standing behind his mother! Otherwise, he would not have seen the colt until the next day. He was born a bay with blanket over the rump and loin and soon became a red near leopard. He had red spots all over with a beautiful flaxen mane and tail.
Dad wanted a second foal by Sunspot Revel, so he took Moon and the unnamed colt back up to Spruce Pine during Moon's foal heat. While they were at the Cannon's, the little colt kept getting underfoot and Ralph would say to the colt, "Get out of my way, Pete." The name stuck and the colt was registered as OBR Sunspot Pete.
Dad's trip back home was a little too eventful. On the way down one of the mountains, the truck's fuel pump failed, stopping the engine and power brakes. Thank goodness for emergency brakes or all would have been lost on a steep mountain incline. Some good Samaritan stopped to help out and he flagged down traffic while Dad backed the truck and trailer across the hairpin curve to an overlook against a rock cliff. Although Dad made it home safely with Moon and Sunspot Pete, the mare did not settle in so Sunspot Pete was our last Sunspot Revel foal. Sunspot Revel died soon after that in 1982 and shortly thereafter Ralph Cannon retired from breeding and sold his farm.
As Dad and I talked about the past and how his involvement in raising horses had slowed down, he recalled many good memories. Dad told me that the Cannons visited our farm and Sunspot Pete on several occasions after that. They always sent a card after their visit with Sunspot Revel's son. My father had great admiration for Ralph Cannon and what he had accomplished in promoting and breeding Appaloosas.
This winter when I was searching for a replacement broodmare I asked him about Sunspot Revel and Ralph Cannon. I asked him what he could remember and he told me most of what he could recall. But the ironic twist in my search for information occurred a few weeks later, when I learned by reading the Sundance 500 International newsletter that Ralph was still in Spruce Pine. I wrote a letter to him and enclosed pictures of Sunspot Pete and two of his get, Sunspot Comet and April Wind. I recently received a wonderful letter back from Ralph. He included an original 1980 illustrated sales catalog from Sun Appaloosas that he felt certain was what inspired my father to breed to Sunspot Revel. He remembered Sunspot Pete and his visits down to our farm. He also stated that he was excited to see the rebirth of Sundance 500 International. Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to meet him in person.
During the last 14 years, Sunspot Pete and I have ridden many miles together, herding cattle, going on trail rides in the mountains and riding at the beach. Sunspot Pete is a fine work horse, who was ridden only by me. He was trained by me for daily use on our ranch without any outside professional training. Unfortunately, over the years we never did become active in any horse shows. He remained just a plain and simple Appaloosa, with a big heart eager to please his rider. He always knew what to do before I would ask. I nicknamed him "Crazy Pete" because he was a spirited little stallion and had a crazy way of running through the pine thickets dodging the pine trees. He was always sure-footed and moved very fast. I always had to pay attention so I wouldn't get brushed up against the trees when we were moving quickly chasing the cattle. He was always a gentleman around the mares on trail rides and behaved perfectly even around other stallions. I could load him up and go to group rides and never have to worry.
Standing 14.3 hands high, he is extremely quick and agile and has always given me 100% in whatever we were doing. He is equally effective pushing stock through the woods or moving them between pastures. He has always been a very manageable stallion and I frequently ride him bareback without a bridle across the pastures before going riding and when putting him out after a ride. I had the confidence that he would do whatever I needed, whenever I asked. I have always preferred riding a stallion over a mare. Dad never kept any geldings, so I rode the stallions. Occasionally, my brothers would ride with me on weekend rides around our ranch, usually on Sunspot Comet. He also is a fine riding stallion, a grandson of Sunspot Revel.
At 19 years old, Sunspot Pete has not lost any of his stamina or intensity. Although we still ride about the ranch, his eyesight is failing and I recently decided to retire him to pasture for breeding the next few years, to good foundation Appaloosa mares. He is currently with two mares and is standing stud to good, quality-bred Appaloosas. He has sired several foals over the years, most of which Dad sold along the way except for the one son, Sunspot Comet. I hand raised Sunspot Comet from a little colt. He has always been a good riding horse for visitors and my Dad as he got older. My four and a half year old son is learning to ride on him this summer. His red spots remind me of Sunspot Revel and he is still my Dad's favorite horse.
Sunspot Pete has had a good life but it was not always an easy life. He lives in a natural environment, living outside most of the time. The reasonably mild winters in the North Carolina Piedmont area allow for easier winter care. When my Dad sold off the mares in the early 1990's, Sunspot Pete and Sunspot Comet spent two years together. In the early 1990's, my Dad had a very bad tractor accident and was no longer able to ride horses. The following year, Dad had another fall on the ice resulting in another serious injury. The doctor told him that he could not work around horses any longer. At that time, he gave Sunspot Pete and Sunspot Comet to me as a gift. The family Appaloosa breeding program was now in my hands. During this same time, I purchased two Ulrich bred fillies from Joseph Grosch in Lincolnton, North Carolina and started my own small breeding program over the next several years. Sunspot Pete has sired three foals by one of those Ulrich mares, Queeny Red Eagle.
Sunspot Pete has
been bred to our three mares for our 2002 foals. Because he is approaching his later years, I want to breed him to outside mares to perpetuate the Sunspot Revel bloodline. Currently, I have him standing at stud for approved Appaloosa mares. My three current mares all have Sundance 500 breeding, and my goal is to produce good quality foundation bred Appaloosas with a concentration on the Sunspot Revel background. I want to stay a small time breeder that can work with the foals and stallions one-on-one.
When I was 20 years younger back in the early 1980's, I remember my Dad talking about the Sundance 500 Club. At that time, I was not fully aware of the importance of the two horses Sundance F500 and Sunspot Revel. I was just interested in riding and enjoying the Appaloosas. Fortunately, early on Dad had established the goals for our Appaloosa breeding program around these two horses and the stallion High Thunderbird. I want to continue with this breeding program and produce fine Appaloosas for my family to enjoy. I remember several other foals that Sunspot Pete produced: two colts, Sundance Revel (3134 P) and Sundance Comet (3548 P), and a mare, Cherokee Sundance (4053 O), in addition to Sunspot Comet. During that time, Dad had registered these Appaloosas just with CRHA and not ApHC. With the exception of Sunspot Comet ApHC #446417, these Sunspot Pete offspring were sold or given to relatives. Only recently I was made aware of the rebirth of the current Sundance 500 International organization by an outside contact. I have now joined this organization and want to be an active member to help promote the Sundance 500 bloodline and Sunspot Revel horses. I wish that I had learned more about Sunspot Revel and Ralph Cannon sooner in my life so that I could have learned more about his breeding program at Sun Appaloosas.
It seems like we have always had horses around since I was eleven years old. I can remember my first horse and I remember the first Appaloosas Dad bought.
I always knew that Sunspot Pete was a special little Appaloosa. But I only recently learned why he was so special. I owe a debt of gratitude to Ralph Cannon and my Father, who have allowed me to inherit and continue this great Appaloosa heritage.
written for the Sundance 500 Newsletter July-August 2001
by Charles O'Bryant III