The phone call came out of the blue, and it took a minute for the request to sink in for Paint breeder Kacey Brunner. Chinese buyers were on the hunt for a big, tobiano stallion to serve as the foundation for their Paint barrel racing breeding program, and they thought Kacey’s stallion, Mr Smokin Okey, fit the bill; would she consider selling?
“I had toyed with the idea of selling him last summer and ultimately decided not to,” Kacey said. “Someone was looking for big race-bred Paint Horses for Chinese buyers. I thought about it for a few days, and decided I was more open to selling him outside the country.”
With the barrel racing market growing rapidly in China, stock horses are becoming exceptionally hot commodities, and currently, importing quality stock is their only option. But buyers aren’t looking for just an average horse—their laundry list of “must-haves” is long and specific, Kacey says. Her buyers, for example, were looking for racing-bred Paints, under 10 years old, over 16 hands tall with dark coat colors and almost 50/50 tobiano markings—and that’s on top of meeting strict bloodwork and quarantine requirements, too.
“They wanted something to help get the barrel racing market in China a little better—they just started breaking into it,” she said. “Mr Smokin Okey will be one of the first Paints imported over there.”
A 2005 black tobiano stallion, “Crush” is by Okey Dokey Dale (QH) and out of Babes Squaw Jet, a mare who captured the 1993 Champion Running 2-Year-Old Filly title and daughter of top Paint racing stallion Sky Jet, the 1983 APHA World Champion Running Horse and 2014 APHA Hall of Fame inductee. Bred by Dallas Chartier, Crush was purchased by Kacey in late 2013.
“He was actually one of my first Paint stallions to buy. He was a great starter stallion. He had a racing accident and didn’t get to compete himself, and while he’s a great stallion, he just didn’t fit in our program as well as some of our other horses,” she said. “His babies are just now old enough to be hitting the futurities, and we’ll have plenty of frozen semen if he ends up making a name for himself.”
Working with David Snodgrass, owner of Unbridled China, the firm that connected Kacey with buyer Lan Jun of Beijing, Kacey was surprised at how quickly all the pieces of the transaction fell into place. With the deal finalized in late April, Crush headed to New York for quarantine in early May.
“I thought we’d have until the end of the breeding season—they were looking for two mares, and you need three horses to make a shipment,” Kacey explained. “But it ended up that someone was already making a load over there, and they had an empty spot. After 30 days of quarantine in New York, they’ll put him on the flight. It was all kind of rushed, but I guess it all happened for a reason.”
Energized by the fusion of West-meets-East, Kacey is excited about what the future might hold for Crush and the Paint Horse breed in China.
“I think it’s incredible, and I’m so excited. I think it’s wonderful that other countries are gearing up and getting excited about the horses like we are. I’m passionate about what we do and about the Paint Horses, and I think everyone else should be too,” she said. “They really want to open up the APHA market in China, and I think Mr Smokin Okey can help them do that.”
This article originally appeared in Flash, a publication of the American Paint Horse Association.