//Vegaz: Supreme Show Horse, Superior Sire\\

The cheers from the crowd were deafening as the judges at the 2010 United States National English Pleasure Championship called for a work-off between the top two competitors. Vegaz had won the 2006 U.S. National Champion English Pleasure Futurity title and was also the unanimous 2008 English Pleasure Junior Horse. Going head- to-head against him was the reigning 3-time unanimous champion Afires Heir in his show ring finale. In a final round that is remembered as the best of all time, Vegaz pushed his nemesis to the limit and secured the title of Reserve National Champion. That 2010 work-off remains one of the most talked-about moments in Arabian show horse history. It was not only a display of awesome talent; it was a glimpse into the future, as both stallions have emerged as significant sires of national performance champions formed in their own image. With 553 registered foals, Afires Heir has an enviable pool to pull from. But, with only 185 get of his own, Vegaz can claim an equal or better percentage as a sire. Just one year after the memorable final, Vegaz (Apollopalooza x SMS Forever Bay) had his first national title-winner in CSP Mister Vegaz, the 2011 U.S. Reserve National Champion Half-Arabian Country English Pleasure Futurity horse bred by trainer Chris Wilson. That was just the beginning. To date, Vegaz has sired 23 individual horses who have earned 54 National Champion and Reserve titles (U.S., Canada, Youth). At times, his influence at the top is staggering.

In 2015, Vegaz dominated the Amateur Maturity division, siring the unanimous U.S. National Champion English Pleasure AAOTR Maturity horse, SD Graceland, as well as the Reserve National Champion, Man About Vegaz VA, and two more of the Top Five in the class. To top it off, he also sired the U.S. National Champion Country English Pleasure AAOTR Maturity winner, CP Dance Til Dawn! Fast forward to the 2019 U.S. Nationals—Vegaz get won five national championships and three reserves. Life Inthe Fazt Lane was the Reserve National Champion in open English Pleasure with CSP Adriana finishing right behind him in third place. She was also a unanimous section winner in the 40 & Over English Pleasure. Two of the national championships were earned by SD Graceland, who was listed by AHT as the “winningest Purebred English horse in 2018.”

Trainer Ryan Strand showed the Vegaz daughter Best of My Love to the 2019 U.S. National Champion Country Pleasure Driving title. “Vegaz has been a game-changer for my business,” he avers. “He adds a little more hind leg, a little more strength—things that the breed is in dire need of. As I travel to look at horses, I am also seeing extremely nice young horses from Vegaz daughters. The history books will show him to be both an outstanding sire of show horses and of the broodmares who produce them.”

During the nationals, Ken Knipe, Doug Schultz, and Chris Wilson began to develop a plan to form a partnership that would bring Vegaz back to the care of his former trainer, Chris. It was a move that cemented a longtime friendship between the three men. All three have been involved with the horse from the beginning and Chris is grateful to have Vegaz back home again. “This is a reunion of friends,” he says, “brought together through this special horse. We all love him and appreciate him.”

Doug Schultz explains, “Our wonderful friendship definitely is the story. I knew Chris, and when I bred my first mare to Vegaz in 2008, my friendship with Ken got started. We’re excited about the Vegaz offspring that are making their names as show horses. It’s been very rewarding for those of us who have been fans of his for a long time and he is the catalyst for why we put the partnership together.” Ken Knipe couldn’t agree more. “Because of this amazing stallion, I have had many great friends brought into my life,” he relates. “Our new collaboration cements two of my closest friends into a partnership, and now the three of us get to cheer on the Vegaz offspring at shows together. Nothing could be better!”

Doug recalls how a conversation between friends changed everything. “We were sitting together this year in Tulsa,” he says, “going over the possibilities of putting a partnership together and bringing him back home to CSP, not only for us to enjoy and to breed, but to elevate the awareness of what Vegaz is doing as a sire. Now that it’s a reality, I really can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed these last weeks,” says Doug. “The opportunity for the three of us to work together again is absolutely wonderful. It’s kept us smiling for a lot of days!”

No doubt as the next generations of his descendants hit the show ring, Vegaz will keep the three men, and all of his other fans, smiling for many years to come.

Article written by BY THERESA CARDAMONE