2017 AQHA Legacy Breeder Award:
Gordon B. Mason, Killarney, Manitoba
by: Alexis Shanes for AQHA
American Quarter Horses have long been a fixture in the lives of Gordon and Gladys Mason, pioneers of the American Quarter Horse industry in Canada.
The Masons established their farm when the breed’s popularity began to grow in their home province of Manitoba. At peak production, the Masons owned approximately 68 broodmares, a considerable growth from their 17-head herd in 1966. Since 2010, they have downsized significantly, and currently have one stallion and six broodmares.
Although the Masons stood 10 stallions during their 50 years of breeding, one sire – their first – was particularly influential in their program. Mr. Blackburn 49, a 1963 bay stallion by Poco Eagle and out of Lady Cowan by Blackburn, who was shown in halter and reining, laid the foundation for their operation, siring nearly 300 offspring.
The Blackburn broodmares captured the attention of another Canadian breeder, Roy Yates, who offered to buy them to cross with his King Ranch-bred stallion. Instead of selling their herd, the Masons brought Roy’s stallion to their farm and offered him first purchase rights on a quarter of the offspring.
Keeping the broodmares proved a wise decision. One colt, King Of The Tigers, a 1990 dun stallion by King Travel and out of Tiger Siss by Mr. Blackburn 49, produced more than 200 foals and became a stand-out sire in the Masons’ program.
King Of The Tigers sired six performers: Not A Gamble, a 1994 bay gelding out of Gamblin Subscription; Continental Sparky, a 1995 dun mare out of Digger Spark; Scripts Bar King, a 1996 dun gelding out of Gamblin Subscription; Tiger Safari, a 1997 bay stallion out of Skip Till May; Skip Till Morning, a 2001 grullo mare out of Skip Till May; and Pagans Tiger, a 2008 dun gelding out of Docs Cool Velvet. King Of The Tigers’ progeny have proved true all-around athletes, competing in halter, reining, hunter under saddle, trail, western pleasure and Versatility Ranch Horse.
In the mid-‘90s, the Masons entered the reining industry. They purchased Code Bee Nimble at a sale in Oklahoma and showed the 1994 chestnut stallion by The Jac Be Nimble and out of Cody Lou Fifty by Lad’s 50, to more than $4,400 in National Reining Horse Association earnings before adding him to their sire line.
Cody Bee Nimble produced NRHA performers Rey Jey Be Nimble, a 1998 bay stallion out of Wakopa Worthy by Worthy Rey; Dixie Bee Nimble, a 2001 chestnut mare out of Dixie Wildfire by Wimpy Star Jack; and Blow In A Breeze, a 2002 sorrel mare out of Breeze On Tiger by King Of The Tigers.
Other stallions influential in the Masons’ breeding program included Apache Trouble (Sleepy John-Trouble Face by Parker’s Trouble); Wimpy Star Jack (Star Eyed Jack-Dawson’s Memory by George Paul); Poco Tomahawk (Poco Champ-Grey Squaw by Waggoner); Me Jack Too (Jack’s Royal-Sporty Digger by Digger Cody); Agile Blackburn (Mr Blackburn 49-Sporty Digger by Digger Cody); and Watch Tyree George (Watch Tyree Two-Ms Wimpy Two by Wimpy George).
“For most of our time, we focused on breeding good horses and selling them as weanling or yearlings,” Gladys says. “We had many repeat buyers over the years, testifying to their satisfaction with the horses they purchased and developed.”
The Masons’ business extends far outside of Canada. The couple has sold foals to buyers in California, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).
Quarter Horses have had a profound influence on the Mason family, as the Masons’ three sons grew up competing in local fairs. Now their families are active in the industry.
“Our involvement with these wonderful animals has been an integral component shaping our lives and those of our sons and grandchildren,” Gladys says. “Healthy respect for meaningful work and care for others is an important outcome of the equine experience.