American Paint Horse Association (APHA) founders and staff gathered on February 16, 2012, to honor and celebrate the official founding day of the 50-year-old association. The luncheon was held at the site of the former Curtwood Hotel, now a modern Chilis’ restaurant, where organizational meetings were held over coffee in the early sixties.
Stories and recollections filled the room, told by some of the founders themselves, including Rebecca Tyler Lockhart, the passionate horsewoman who organized and spearheaded the first meeting. Paint Horse showman and founder Junior Robertson also was in attendance along with Rosie Russell, who was only five years old at the time of the original meeting in 1962.
A framed memorabilia shadow box was presented to the manager of the restaurant and will be displayed to honor the original site where the breed organization formed its roots. APHA founders and staff celebrated over lunch and exchanged stories about the formation of the now second-largest equine breed association in the world. A historical marker is also planned for the site.
One of the association≠s first executive directors, Sam Ed Spence, talked about the humble beginnings of the APHA headquarters. “The phone would ring about six times a day, and three of those were from my wife,” said Spence. “When someone would call about Paint Horses, we would get so excited.”
Spence recalled how he was always on the lookout for Paint Horses to register with the newly formed association, telling how many times he spotted horses for possible registration while driving down the highway. Spence would often approach the owners of those horses for inspection and inclusion into the forming association. One such horse that he spotted was a beautiful overo stallion seen on top of a hill while driving with Ralph Russell on their way to a show.
“Ralph hit the first exit we could find and wheeled the rig around,” said Spence. “We were always on the lookout. There were a lot of Paint Horses around the country that hadn’t been registered yet, and you could tell from the highway that this was one good sucker. We drove up and crawled up on the fence, and there was Wahoo King.”
Although Spence found many unregistered horses in his travels, this particular time he had stumbled across an already-accomplished horse, having won grand champion in the first APHA show held and going on to become a world-class roping horse. Wahoo King was the first gelding registered with APHA. Good-looking and athletic, the gelding attracted many horsemen to the association after watching him perform.
The stories told during the Founders Luncheon focused on not just the horses, but also the people who had a vision for the association and a love of colorful horses. Former APHA Executive Director Ed Roberts held that title for over 25 years and witnessed massive growth of the organization.
“The association has always been about people to me,” said Roberts. “People own horses and make friendships that last a lifetime. What a privilege it has been just to be a part of this association.”
APHA is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, and has now registered over one million horses. Other celebrations planned for 2012 include an auction for the one-millionth registration number, first inductions into the newly formed APHA Hall of Fame and more.