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In Honor of a Great Woman's Part in a Great Story

In my mind my aunt, Dorothy Kilbourn Wood, should get a great measure of credit in the story of Joe Reed II * (1936 - 1966) and Bert Wood *(1907 - 2001) . Why? Well I'm sure I'm just a little biased but simply due to the fact that behind every great man is an amazing woman. And I doubt Bert's path would have gone the way it had without a little help from his wife. That's all I'm saying. She's mentioned,quoted and seen standing by Bert's side in Joe's chapter in "Legends" (well and a few other books too) for a reason though folks!

I'm ashamed to admit that growing up I thought my dad was exaggerating more than just a tad when he'd tell me that his (much older half) sister and her husband Bert had a famous race horse back in the day. Or his stories about Mr. Ed, sired by said horse who was too pokey to race so this was the horse my dad as a kid got to ride around the ranch. My aunt didn't have the horses or much of the ranch anymore by the time I got to meet her as an adult. She was just an ordinary average person to me who was really wonderfully encouraging about the horse artwork. I loved dad but thought he was probably just a little mistaken about 'famous' and maybe even about the racing. It wasn't until I was buying an off track thoroughbred from a quarterhorse breeder when I decided for fun to ask if she's heard of their horse. "Have I?!" she exclaimed, and then pointed to a painting on the wall, saying that the horse in the print was a descendant of him. Since the internet was coming into being populated with information like this around this time so I researched and found out, well yes, they really did have a famous horse and one of the Mr Ed performers too. So this is me eating some crow now for being such a know-it-all whippersnapper back then, and acknowledging my elders were right! Please click on those links for Joe and Bert's names to read more about them. To me however, any Joe Reed II memorbilla sculpture I could do would be more in honor of my amazing aunt. A woman who inspired me, even without me believing they really had a famous horse.

Dorothy moved from upstate NY to Arizona as a young gal where she met Bert working on his parents ranch. Since she and her mother in law didn't get along, Bert decided to strike out on his own. The rest of his story is history. But what isn't so well known is that my aunt overcame some amazing personal challenges throughout her life to go on and most assuredly be a partner with her husband in making history with a horse.

Joe Reed II truly was the great all American Quarter Horse. His even temperament and trainability/gameness were admirable and many say it certainly stamped the Quarter Horse breed distinctly. If you have seen more than one quarter horse the odds are good you've met descendents of this foundation sire.

Joe had to prove his worth of course, his career is vastly more impressive than records and titles listed in the books. Joe was the ideal do-it-all ranch horse that early quarter horse breeders like Bert were aiming for. He felt at ease using Joe for every aspect of ranch life; he could put his kids on the stallion without concern, yet work cattle tirelessly. I hope soon to have converted to online some video footage to show Joe Reed in action doing some of that. Dorothy would always tell me how Bert simply broke Joe by putting a saddle on him, getting on and going off to work cattle (in contrast, I broke my own horse a bit like you might expect a Yankee girl would. I think Dorothy was trying to make a point with me by sharing that story of how easy Joe was to start.).. ;) I just can't emphasize enough how the hard life of ranching meant horses had to be more than a little leveled headed and of good build to cut it. It was simply a different era where horses had a real important job with ranchers earning a living for everyone. You read of Joe's records and titles online about these horses but to hear the stories told matter of factly really drives home the point that it wasn't about glamour, it was about survival and having a four legged partner to help you to survive. When I went to visit the ranch the first time I was pretty taken aback to learn it took 20 minutes on the highway by car to drive up to the end of where they grazed cattle. You can't use a horse with poor conformation to ride all day over the rough, rocky and mountainous terrain off of the paved roads.

After Bert's passing Dorothy lobbied tirelessly to get her husband as well into the AQHA Hall of Fame along side his pride and joy Joe. I was lucky enough to be able to attend Bert's induction ceremony in 2004. It was a wonderful recognition of a hard working rancher who felt his horse needed to put a stamp on the fledgling AQHA breed and campaigned him to do just that. And it was an honor to be able to witness my aunt's lifetime companion finally recognized for his achievement (no doubt helped just a little by her and indeed nominated due to her love).

My aunt is getting on in years but she still lives today on what remains of their ranch. I hope to do more to honor Joe, Bert and Dorothy in the future but in the meantime I really needed to light a fire under my own artistic tuckus and finish some other sculptures to commemorate Joe. I have to, it's my penance for not respecting my elders enough growing up! In all sincerity; thank you dear aunt Dorothy for being such an inspiration in so many ways.

* Bio panel pdf files used with permission of the American Quarter Horse Association

I need to thank Dave Rossi for converting my VHS footage of Joe Reed II so that I could paint this portrait of him. All 3 photos that I've seen in books and online do not show this view of him (they're 3/4 rearward views). Joe had the most handsome and quintessential "look" of the Quarter Horse. I look forward to being able to share more photos of him very soon!
BELOW: Close up of the bas relief tile - copies will be available this summer. Will be offered finished as below and a few will be painted in life-like color based on rare video footage of the stallion.