//The journey of the Knipe Family & Vegaz\\

After years in the horse business, Ken and Susan Knipe had carved out a niche for themselves that they felt comfortable with. Their kids competed, they kept a relatively small group of high-quality horses, and they were happy with the successes that their family achieved. It seems that fate had something else in mind for the Knipes, though, and they began to get a glimpse of it when Shan and Chris Wilson and Leah Beth Boyd called to tell them about a horse named Vegaz that they had seen at an Addis Auction. “This colt came up and had a great hind end, and he appeared to have motion,” Chris Wilson says. “We thought he was pretty enough and necky enough; Ken could re-sell him at the very least.”

Ken agreed to buy the colt, then 2 years old, but it was quite some time before he saw the horse. When he did, however, he knew he had made the right decision. “When I first saw him, he absolutely blew me away with his talent and beauty,” Ken says. It was also quite some time before he told Susan that he’d bought Vegaz, as four months passed before she found the check stub. “I was just of the opinion that, ‘we have enough horses, we don’t need another horse,’” Susan says. “That was my mantra.” Ken and Susan both look back on the situation with a hearty laugh now, even though Susan says that she was definitely “not a happy camper.” All it took was for her to see the bay colt to make any upset melt away. “When I saw him, I was like, ‘Wow! We need to keep him!’ she says. “All was forgiven when I saw him and realized he was a great horse.”

The judges at the U.S. Nationals obviously concurred when they crowned him National Champion in the English Pleasure Futurity. That win brought Vegaz to the forefront of the minds of English pleasure enthusiasts in the industry, but the Knipes decided to let the colt have a year out of the limelight, and let him pass his fourth year without setting foot in the show ring. “We just turned him out, let him be a horse,” Ken says. “I thought it was good for his maturity and his mind.” At the same time, they were also gearing up to enable Vegaz to take the next step in his career—breeding.

More than 30 mares were bred to the promising young stallion, and now those foals are hitting the ground trotting. Chris Wilson says that the response to the youngsters has been overwhelmingly positive. “Every time that a person had gotten a foal by him, I’d call them, and their comments would be crazy good,” Wilson says. “I feel like this first foal crop is exceptionally good for a first foal crop, let alone any foal crop.” He adds that owners are seeing in the foals the same qualities that make Vegaz such an appealing individual—short backs, long front legs, low-set hocks, extremely upright necks and pretty faces with tippy ears and good expression. “There are strong qualities about this horse’s physique that allows him to have an open range of motion from his shoulder, and strength and balance from behind,” Wilson says. “He’s passing on all of those qualities that allow these horses to do what we want them to do.”

Both Wilson and the Knipes note that Vegaz’s pedigree is one that would be strong on its own merits, but that there are other factors that make it even more desirable. “When both his sire, Apollopalooza, and his grandsire, MHR Nobility, died, we thought, ‘These fabulous bloodlines are gone now,’” Ken Knipe says. Wilson adds that those lines have a very capable progenitor in Vegaz. “His pedigree is very deep, so it’s no accident that he’s breeding on and breeding true,” he says. “He’s the perfect outcross for so many kinds of mares—Afire Bey V, Baske Afire, *El Ghazi, Afires Heir, Huckleberry Bey mares, Zodiac Matador mares—and we’re particularly excited to cross him with the Mamage daughters.” In the pantheon of stallions available to breed to, Wilson says that Vegaz, because of the demonstrated quality of his foals and the indispensable value of his bloodlines, is right at the top. “He’s in the top five stallions to breed to, of all ages.”

Vegaz’s show ring fans will have the chance to watch him make another go for the rose blanket in English pleasure junior horse later this year. The Knipes and Wilson say that as much as they’re looking forward to that, the promise that this foal crop has shown is what they hope will define Vegaz. “Breeding is so exciting because it has longevity and it will carry into future generations,” Susan says. “So, I guess in a way, that may be the most important thing about what his legacy will be—producing champions of his own.”