For the most fortunate of us, life is all about family - and tonight’s induction of the horse for the 2005 Hall-of-Fame is just that - all about family. It’s about a close-knit, diverse and driven family that helped shape a legacy for tonight’s inductee, a phenomenal stallion.
This year’s inductee into the Michigan Quarter Horse Hall of Fame is Custus Jaguar, a stallion whose sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters -- even his great grandsons and great granddaughters carry a heritage of grace and elegance, good looks and wonderful dispositions that benchmarked a tried and true nationally recognized breeding program, a program that began with vision - and good fortune - right here in Michigan.
Custus Jaguar was bred by Quincy Farms in Colorado - an own son of the great Jaguar and out of the good mare Leo Dale, an own daughter of AQHA Hall of Fame stallion, the immortal Leo - stellar beginnings for a breeding program which would grow and prosper at the O’Connor’s Wenloch farm in Ann Arbor. The O’Connors purchased Custus Jaguar as a long yearling upon the good advice of a dear friend to the quarter horse industry, Alice Gougeon. Doc spent time carefully grooming and fitting the colt for the spring shows at halter. The experience was to be the first for both Doc and his colt. Doc often told this story of his very first quarter horse show. Doc and Custus Jaguar were all lined up and standing like a statue when the judge motioned for him to move out of line. Seems Doc thought he was being excused - he quickly learned that the first nod went to the winner, yup Doc won that very first class and Doc never looked back from that first win !
One of the association’s youngest AQHA Champions, Custus Jaguar’s great disposition and athletic ability made quick work of the goal: to achieve an AQHA championship and then come home to establish the breeding program. Custus Jaguar performed “just as the doctor ordered,” earning 68 points in his brief show ring career - all that was needed as he was both beautiful to look at and versatile in his work. The brown stallion personified one of his owner’s most distinctive traits: his Championship and show career was “efficient and to the point.” He excelled, did what he needed to do, and went home to Wenloch Farm to stand at stud - precisely according to Doc’s plan for him. Custus Jaguar never had any other owners, only the breeder in Colorado and Dr. Gerald O’Connor.
Doc’s oldest daughter Kit, recently noted “We always thought Custus Jaguar could have been a national title contender, - but Doc had a plan for the horse and brought him home.” He came home to what is now a Michigan success story: Wenloch Quarter Horses. The broodmare band grew as Custus Jaguar was nearing his AQHA championship. But when he came home, he was, like so many of the truly great quarter horses that remain in our hearts, a part of the family.
Jerry Junior recalls one of his fondest childhood memories, he said: “ I will never forget the thrill of climbing on that stallion in my dad’s Price McLaughlin saddle when I was 10 years old and riding him for the first time.”
At just a four year old, Custus Jaguar was already happily at home and demonstrating his great disposition to all.
That’s the way the O’Connor kids were raised, at what would become nationally known as the home of the Wenloch horses. New colts have arrived each spring for nearly 50 years and more are on the way this spring.
Doc and Margaret believed that the best way to promote the American Quarter Horse was to offer the very best they could to the public at a reasonable price. The average horse owner was always the target market for the bulk of the Wenloch farm production. Many of the colts were never shown, going into the open show ring, or working on cattle operations across the nation. The fair price rule always applied when you did business with Doc - his colts, even the very best ones, were always represented as exactly who they were and the price tag was always more than fair - even a bargain on many, many occasions.
From the very first foal crop, the O’Connors recognized that they were fortunate, indeed, Custus Jaguar was going to be a breeding horse. And breed he did - racking up a remarkable record of AQHA champions, ROM performers, halter point earners, superior halter and performance horses, race ROM earners, stakes winners and more, even though Custus Jaguar had only 35 of his nearly 250 colts go to the AQHA show arena.
A total of 697 points have been attributed to Custus Jaguar’s get, which includes the great mares Jag’s Nifty Lady, Jag’s Paulette, Miss Sweet Success, Jag’s Miss Nifty and many, many more. He is the only Michigan stallion to sire a Congress Pleasure Futurity winner and has sired numerous Michigan Futurity winners, including high money earners and several get of sire classes. His get showed their versatility and great dispositions by not only excelling in a number of disciplines, but matched open class achievements with the most important achievements to all of the family - the youth class awards!
Jeannie Sharpe wrote to us recently to add her congratulations on this achievement for Custus Jaguar. “I remember how easily his colts trained and how good natured they were.” Jag’s Nifty Lady was a special memory to the Sharpes, noting “she came to us, we broke here, started her and took her to her first pleasure class all within two months time. She won that class - she was so trainable,” noted Jeannie.
For many,... a great horse who was part of the family and producing consistently showable and “sale” able colts would be just what the doctor ordered, but there was so much more to come -
Custus Jaguar’s daughters have made their mark on the history of the American Quarter Horse. Mares like Alias Allis - with 5 performers, Blue Chip Bikini with 4 performers, Fantastic Jaguar with two performers and a stakes winner, AQHA Champion, Jag’s Nifty Doll with 5 performers, an NSBA champion and a superior western pleasure horse, Michigan Futurity winner, Jag’s Paulette with one superior, two roms and five point earners. Jag’s Wenloch Lu produced a superior western pleasure horse and an rom earner, Willow Dell produced an NCHA money earner and Poly Croton Jaguar produced two performance rom earners and the list goes on... In all, 1149 performance points, 330 amateur points. 572 youth points and $31,300 in NSBA earnings are the result of his daughter’s offspring..
Just a minute - I think I’ve forgotten one mare - there’s another daughter of Custus Jaguar that we need to spend a little bit of time talking about, a mare named Fancy Blue Chip - she has EIGHT performers to her credit - SIX world or reserve world championships, NINE superior performance awards - SIX Honor Roll or reserve honor roll get . Amongst this impressive list of her produce is the “chip” of today’s pleasure horse industry, all time leading sire of pleasure point earners: Zip’s Chocolate Chip. Yes the best producing pleasure horse sire in the history of AQHA has as his dam a daughter of Custus Jaguar.
He will be forever remembered as the patriarch of a phenomenal female line of quarter horses.
Custus Jaguar’s remarkable impact on our industry is a tribute to a man with a vision, a horse with a bold and elegant way of moving, and a loving and involved family. The breeding program that grew out of the passion of a Dakota ranch boy, who was blessed with the talent to become one of our nation’s most respected orthopedic surgeons in sports medicine. He lives on in the hearts of his family, friends and the future of the American Quarter Horse - we’ll think often of the impact of the man - and of his horse.
Doc - I know you’re listening - thanks for sharing your knowledge and your foresight
The horses Doc bred in Ann Arbor, Michigan have made an indelible mark across the country and in the record books. We will be forever grateful for his dedication and proud of his contributions to the American Quarter Horse and the entire horse industry.
And now we place the sire of the legacy of the Wenloch horses, Custus Jaguar, in the Michigan Quarter Horse Hall-of Fame. Please join me in congratulating the O’Connor family.