by Diann Conser
Reprinted from the Cascade Horseman, April 2001, for more updated information visit "The Manns" page.
When Mike and Gail Mann moved to Scio, Oregon from Southern California 35 years ago, They came up with a plan to raise conformationally correct all-around horses, good-looking horses that can move. Their original broodmares were running horses and as dams helped to contribute size and structure.
While Mann's Quarter Horses is known for producing and showing halter champions, Mike and Gail are quick to point out that their goal is to breed and raise horses with balanced athletic bodies. They intend to create horses with strong skeletal structures and muscles enough to excel as performance horses, not as an animal with the bones of a bird and the bulk of a Sumo wrestler.
Today, they stand two stallions and will ship semen for both of them. Secure Future, known as "Sonny," is a seven year old by Sonnys Securitee. At 15.3 hands, he has the size and structure they want in a stallion. This young stallion, with only four foal crops on the ground, is an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Superior Halter Sire n the AQHA Leading Sires list for 1999-2000. They are impressed with the catty movement of Sonny's get so look for him to be known as a performance horse sire, too, once more of his sons and daughters are mature enough to show under saddle.
Gail finds it ironic that although they purchased Sonny in Texas, he carries many of the old Northwest bloodlines, including Bally Hobo, Imperial One, and Doc's Dee Bar, which the Manns rely on to produce champion Quarter Horses. They actually agreed to purchase him before his birth, based on his breeding, provided he tested negative for HYPP. His tests showed he is free of this genetic disease that has caused suffering and death for so many horses.
Noble Mannerism is by Bally Hobo, the Mann's longtime senior stallion, and out of a mare of Desiertos breeding. This home-grown stallion is AQHA Halter Register of Merit, has 27 grand or reserve championships and has won four major futurities. He, too, has proved himself as a sire and is free of the HYPP gene.
The Farm and The Mann Family
Mann's Quarter Horses is the story of a family farm, one that began 1,000 miles away in Southern California. Gail's parents were show business people in vaudeville, but she says that her father, a Texas native, "had cow in him" and "every Texan has to have a ranch." They settled first in San Diego County and began a herd of polled Hereford show cattle. Mike Mann happened to live next door. He and Gail grew up as neighbors, competing against each other showing cattle. The competition must have been the friendly sort as it led to their tying the marriage knot. Together, they continued to help Gail's parents with the cattle operation and as a sideline, raised quarter horses.
High land prices and the necessity of trucking in livestock feed to Southern California drove the family to move to 580 acres outside of Scio, Oregon. Although part of the ranch has been sold, approximately 380 acres remain. Most of the land is in timber, and it supports a population of deer, bear, and a flock of 60 wild turkeys that sweep through the farm yard daily, looking for oats.
Originally the cattle helped pay to raise the family's Quarter Horses; then the tables turned, and horse sales had to support the cows. Finally, keeping show cattle no longer made economic sense. Gail says, "the saddest day in my life was the day the big trucks hauled the cattle away." Mike worked full-time for the Albany police department and came home to care for horses and to erect buildings. Now retired, he shakes his head in wonder at all he accomplished, often working from early in the morning until late into the night. Mike originally built the main barn for cattle. He later adapted it for horses, with 26 stalls and a riding arena in the center. He barely noticed his formal retirement. He simply hired himself full-time at the farm and now works harder than ever at what he loves. The Mann's son and daughter a former Youth champion both showed Quarter Hoses. Now, their daughter Shirley's sons, Mackenzie (Mack) and Mark, have decided that they, too, want to be involved with horses. On every bit of wall space in their home, tack room, office, and even in the barn bathroom, hang winning photographs of family and friends showing Champion Quarter Horses.
Gail keeps herself busier than ever by judging. She holds judging cards from seven different breed associations and teaches horse care classes at Linn Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon. Her busy life hit a snag three years ago when an injury called for a spinal fusion. Training horses and healing from back surgery are two totally incompatible endeavors. A good friend asked if Gail might need someone to help with the horses during her recovery. Her friend's granddaughter had enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis and liked to work with horses. "If I ever needed somebody, I need somebody now!" was Gail's response. In less time than it takes for a horse to swish his tail, Kelli Renfro started working for the Manns. They appreciate Kelli's quiet patience with the horses. "She's a godsend," says Gail.
The Influence of Bally Hobo
Every breeder knows that an exceptional stallion can cement a good reputation. The trick is to find such a special horse. For Mike and Gail, fate, not luck or research, guided them. On Christmas Day, 1969, Gail lost Lit' Bit, a favorite horse of hers. In his 30s when he died, Lit' Bit's unusual wide blaze always made him stand out from other horses.
The following spring, Gail and Mike often drove the road from Scio to Albany, Oregon. Someone had leased the big grass-seed field, where the road makes a corner, and had turned 50 broodmares out to pasture. They knew a church group owned the property, but who had leased it? Where had the mares come from? Who owned them?
On May 1, 1970, one of the mares in the big field dropped a colt with a face marking similar to Lit' Bit. Mike and Gail stopped frequently, and each time the curious colt would come to meet them at the fence. Then, one day in fall, all the mares and foals were gone.
The following spring, Gail decided to look for a stallion with some height to breed mares they owned that had been sired by Quincy Dan. The mares were certainly nice, but on the small side. Gail found an advertisement for a 16.1-hand stallion called Bally Beers, standing not far from them in Jefferson, Oregon.
Gail made an appointment to look at the stallion. She liked him, but what did he produce? Gail asked the owner if he had any colts by Bally Beers that she could see. Yes, he had a coming yearling colt in the barn. A broodmare had kicked the colt, so he brought him to treat the injury. The man led out the colt with the unusual white blaze. "My gosh! Where did you get that colt?" cried Gail. "Well, he's my colt!" The man replied. "Is he for sale?" The question flew out of Gail's mouth. She raced home to tell Mike. "You've got to come with me to see this horse we're going to breed the mares to, and you've got to see the colt."
They returned to Jefferson to make arrangements to breed the Quincy Dan mares to Bally Beers and to buy Bally Hobo, the colt with the wide blaze. "He knew he had me, hook, line and sinker," says Gail. "It didn't matter if it (the price of the colt) was $100 or $100,000.
"Bally Hobo gave us everything we have today. He was such a great sire. It was like he was destined to be in our barn."
At barely age three Bally Hobo finished his AQHA Championship and went on to make history as a sire. Mike says they were fortunate in that Hobo crossed well on the Quincy Dan daughters and on so many other family lines, particularly Snipper Reed bred mares.
Mike and Gail showed Bally Hobo; their son and daughter showed the stallion's offspring; and now grandsons Mac and Mark are showing Hobo's grandget .
He was the best friend," says Gail. "The best horse we ever owned. We grew old together; we grayed together. Bally Hobo lived with the Manns for 29 years and is buried on the farm. "Where he can keep an eye on everybody", says Gail.
Philosophy of Horses and Customers
Mike and Gail note that their original goal of breeding marketable horses with correct conformation and athletic ability still serves them well. The Manns sum up their remarkable ability to choose prepotent stallions by explaining that their stallions need to be kind and correct, with marketable traits and capable to stamping babies with their image.
Mike and Gail believe that their young horses deserve to be trained with skill and understanding, not force. Colts get experience outdoors on trails through forests and fields as well as by schooling in the arena. Bullying a horse into submission during training is not the procedure at Mann's Quarter Horses. Gail wants their horses to keep the ability to think on their own and to retain their individual expressiveness in presentation. Gail and Mike are happy to work with people who want to show, but whose bodies don't allow them to ride comfortably or well. Winning with a halter horse can provide pleasure and accomplishment to clients like Johnny, a dwarf, who enjoys showing at halter and even at the AQHA World Show. Another client had polio when young and later shattered his back in a fall. At 65, he walks with a cane, but he won an Amateur Grand Championship at his first show last February.
The Manns want their clients to know how to handle horses and to become involved with them. Clients, they reason, need to acquire their own horse-handling skills to cope with any situation. Customers are special people to the Manns. Gail says, "I feel the best part of the industry is the customers we've had. (They) have been friends, and they continue to come back and bring friends with them. We eat together, we visit together."
On New Year's Eve, they host a party for 85 to 90 people. Ninety percent of the guests are horse people: customers, competitors, and friends. What do Mike and Gail plan for the future?
"Winning and having fun one year at a time," says Mike. Gail elaborates, "We want to continue the shared experience between man and horse. It's always been out way don't think we're going to change in the future."
(Reprinted from the Cascade Horseman, April , 2001.)