Technically, Toni Graybill Millirons horse shouldn’t be able to run like he does. But his current standings as an AQHA Reserve Champion Level 2 Junior Barrel horse prove that the right training and nutrition can make a good horse a great one.
Mightysmartbartender, aka Fonzie, was bred by Millirons’ mom, Karen Appleton, to be a cow horse. When he was born, Appleton gave him to Millirons’ son, Jaxson, who was excited to have his own ranch horse. While training another barrel horse, Millirons put Jaxson on his new horse to ride barrels, just for fun and watched the horse move so quick and smart that it became obvious he had a heart for running.
“I was in total shock,” Millirons says. “He does not have a lick of running blood in him, and he outran the horse I bought to run barrels. So we took him on from there.”
The Millirons live in northwestern Oklahoma, in the tiny town of Buffalo. Millirons’ mom, Karen Appleton owns a registered Angus herd and a commercial cow herd, and Millirons says her mom has raised ranch horses for years, always dreaming of raising a special barrel horse. And now they finally have him, though Fonzie was bred to be a cow horse.
Since March 2016 Fonzie has been ran by Kaela Haddon, Woodward, Okla., who started by taking him to an AQHA show last summer. The family was shocked again when the 5-year-old horse not only qualified for the World Show but also earned the Reserve Champion Level 2 Junior Barrel title. Since then there have been several offers to buy the little roan horse, but Jaxson does not want to sell Fonzie.
Increased performance from Fonzie also meant that nutritional requirements needed to be met. Millirons were first introduced to Vitalize® when they began using it on a horse at home that had colic. Millirons quickly discovered many other benefits and started Foznie on Vitalize Equine High Performance.
Millirons says they fed a standard ration of whole oats and grass hay to Fonzie then began adding Vitalize Equine High Performance to his daily ration. Millirons says his feet had not been trimmed for a while, and when he started on Vitalize his hooves looked great again. Now the High Performance product is given to every horse on the Milliron ranch, including the stud and two other barrel horses. She also gives her mares and cows the VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® Protein Block supplement.
“I love that everything Fonzie needs to be healthy is in the Vitalize Equine High Performance,” Millirons says. “I have other horses on High Performance and results are wonderful. I’m going to keep giving it to Fonzie because we are going to get him qualified for next year’s World Show.”
Millirons says Fonzie is a laid-back, calm animal, a major difference from a standard barrel horse. She says he is built like a rope horse, short and stocky, and walks into the arena with his head down. Then Fonzie explodes, Millirons says. After his race he walks out again with this head down, with no care in the world.
“Most barrel horses are on the muscle, with their head up,” she says. “I have video of him running in with his head down. But he is full of heart and loves to try.”
As a ranch family that enjoys breeding work horses and racing barrels Millirons says it has been very exciting to raise a quality barrel horse and watch him compete. She hopes the next year continues to be successful, and Millirons attributes Fonzie’s growth to nutrition, training and a little bit of luck.
“We usually just breed ranch horses and have sold cowboy horses all over,” she says. “They’ve been good working horses and now Fonzie’s turned into the great competitor. It’s a dream come true for mom and me.”