Appaloosa Stallion

Registration:  ApHC #T180530
Foaled:  April 13, 1973
Died:     August, 1994
Color:    Chestnut

Goer - "Ahead Of His Time"
(courtesy Appaloosa Journal)

{The following article originally appeared in the December 1993 issue of Appaloosa Journal.}

Even those who are familiar with the accomplishments of Goer and his place in the Appaloosa industry can't help feeling as if they are seeing a celebrity when the 16-hand chestnut is lead from his stall at O'Leary Farms in Kirkland, Ill., and his blanket is removed. Goer fans and those who simply like horses never fail to take a moment to study the horse and the conformation that has drawn attention since he was at his dam's side.

As the horse approaches 21, Goer's polished physique, expressive eye and youthful mannerisms can make it difficult to remember that he has been a major influence on the Appaloosa breed for the past two decades.

Goer, owned by Tom and Nancy Simmons of Herald, Calif., and Jim and Carol Nylund of Grand Junction, Colo., has an impressive set of credits to his name:  leading sire of halter champions, leading sire of medallion winners by the age of 10, a leading performance sire for more than 10 years and five National or World get of sire championships before being retired from that competition. At the 1985 World Championship Show, four of the five World champion stallions were either sired by Goer or out of Goer daughters.

A National halter champion himself, Goer's get have over 6,500 halter and more than 1,500 performance points. Goer progeny have also earned 1,657 points for youth competitors and 1,178 points for non-pros in events ranging from equitation and jumping to games and cattle events.

With 688 registered get, Goer is currently the all-time leading sire of Appaloosa foals and within months, the horse is expected to have his 700th foal on the ground. There have been 43 ROMs, 16 halter superior event awards and two silver medallions awarded to his get and there are 39 different Goer-bred horses with at least one bronze medallion.

When speaking with Dennis O'Leary, Goer's manager, about the statistics behind the horse, the respect the veteran horseman has for Goer is easily seen.

"You go through the breed," said O'Leary, who has been an Appaloosa breeder and trainer for 25 years, "and there aren't that many horses that have three or four hundred points. Yet, you go down Goer's list (of get) and you find several of them.

"His get have well over 50 medallions," he added. "Some of his horses have two or three, but if everything goes right, Goer should get his 40th different medallion winner this year." Such an accomplishment among his get would qualify Goer for the Supreme Sire Production Plaque.

With most of his foals' medallions earned at National and World championship shows, Goer has proven himself as a sire of champions. Although known for siring halter winners, including 1993 National champions Goin For Approval and Go To Impress, Goer has also had great success as a performance horse sire.

Horses like Impulsive, a 1983 ROM-earning gelding with open, youth and non-pro wins in trail, western pleasure and hunter under saddle, and Go For Me, a 1982 gelding with ROMs in youth western riding, youth hunter under saddle and youth and open trail, have shown that Goer foals are more than just pretty to look at.

"I've raised lots of his sons and daughters," said O'Leary, "and I believe there's no other horse that's done what he's done. I've always felt that way about Goer."

Tom Simmons became involved with Appaloosa horses in the mid-60s and while working as a salesman, he continually sought knowledge from more experienced horsemen about the business of breeding and raising champions.

"You had a lot of people tell you about a good horse and a bad horse as you tried to learn things," Simmons recalled, "but these were all guys that went out and bought a horse and then became a National champion. So, when I went to look for someone to learn from, I thought, 'I'm going to find someone that's made their living in this business and see what they have to say.' That's when I started hanging out with Ron Kavanagh."

At the time, Kavanagh, a longtime breeder and horseman, owned the stallion Go Bay Go, himself a very influential sire in the Appaloosa industry.

"Go Bay Go sired these exceptional babies," Simmons said. "Ron knew the types of mares to breed to him to get these foals. All of a sudden, you went from seeing these coarse horses they'd been using in those days to these horses with pretty little heads, long necks and pretty ways of moving. I thought, 'Man, I've got to have one of those.'" In April of 1973, Simmons brought a mare to be bred to Go Bay Go and caught his first glimpse of Goer.

"I was watching Kavanagh's foal crop and I first saw Goer when he was about two weeks old. I just knew he was the one. I watched him and by the time he was 30 days old, I knew I had to own this horse. So, I borrowed money and everything to get him and before he was weaned, I took him and his dam (Miss Bar Heels, a Quarter Horse mare by Wiggy Bar, a racing son of Three Bars) back to my place."

As a condition of the sale, Simmons had promised Kavanagh that the colt would be actively promoted and shown by top handlers. Beginning with his yearling year, Goer began a phenomenal halter career.

Handled by George Minic, Goer made his debut in the show ring at the Denver Stock Show, where he won his class. The young stallion went on to win at the Southwestern International, the California State Fair and the Grand National Livestock Show.

"He was really controversial when he first came out into the show ring," Simmons said, "because we used to hear comments like, 'He's too pretty to be a stud. Stud horses are supposed to be thick-necked and big-jawed.' Obviously, he was more than 20 years ahead of his time because here he is 20 years old and there are still very few like him that aren't related to him. He's just a one-of-a-kind horse."

In 1975, Goer returned to the arena as a two-year-old, claiming grand champion stallion titles at the Wyoming State Fair, GEAR, Kansas State Fair, Oklahoma State Fair, Tulsa State Fair, Mid-Con, Chicago International and Grand National shows with handler Ted Turner. At the 1975 National, Goer received two firsts and a sixth under the three-judge system of the time, resulting in a second place overall.

That same year, eight mares were bred to Goer, and among the resulting foals were Tony Lama and Old Goer, geldings that excelled in halter as well as youth and open performance. The success of this first foal crop would prove to be an indicator of Goer's future as a sire.

As a three-year-old, Goer continued his stellar performance as a halter horse, capturing grand champion stallion honors at the Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston livestock shows and the reserve title in Denver.

Simmons then brought the horse back home to California to stand at stud, and, as the 1976 National was approaching, received a visit from a prominent trainer. The trainer remarked upon Goer's conditioning and asked Simmons if the horse would be at the National. Simmons explained that he wouldn't have time to take the horse to Oklahoma City because of the commitments made to mare owners. "He said that was just as good since some other horse was going to win anyway," Simmons remembered. "Well, that just spurred me on."

Within days, Simmons had contacted all of the mare owners who still had commitments to breed to Goer and arranged for just enough time to get to the three-year-old stallion class in Oklahoma City and back.

"We pulled into Oklahoma City," he said, "and boom! Ted Turner won the National with him as a three-year-old."

Simmons' life reached a crossroads that year, providing him the opportunity to resign from his sales position and devote more time to the horses.

"That was the big year -- 1976," Simmons said. "That was the turning point for me in the horse business. I started working with the horses full time after ten years of playing with it as a hobby."

That same year, Dick Kennedy, a California farmer, purchased a half-interest in Goer and Simmons-Kennedy Ranches came into existence on some leased ground near Tracy, Calif. Soon after, Kennedy's wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Simmons became the primary manager of operations.

"You talk about times being tight and trying to operate on a show string," Simmons recalled with a smile. "I had this great horse and no money. One of the big decisions we had to make was whether or not to get a new pair of clippers for the horses. I remember thinking, 'Can we afford these?' This is a pretty major investment'"

At the end of the first year of operation, the ranch hadn't made much money, but no money had been lost. The second year, business was booming for the ranch and, after purchasing some land near Herald, the operation was moved.

Goer's reputation as a sire began to build beyond anyone's expectations as his early foals, including Gojak, Tony Lama and My Daddy's Tuff, captured National championships and wins at large halter futurities.

"We just started raising National and World champions," Simmons said. "It wasn't unusual to get two, three, four World or National champions at one show. Of course, the breeding contracts just started rolling in."

As Simmons-Kennedy Ranches grew and updated its operation, it seemed to Simmons a constant struggle to keep up with the popularity of Goer.

"I got out my 'Horseman's Guide To Promoting Studs," said Simmons, "and while I was on chapter one, this horse was on chapter six. He was constantly ahead of me. It has always been a case of trying to keep up with the popularity of the horse."

As Simmons learned more and more about the horse business, though, he began to develop his own philosophies about customers and winning.

"I've been the breeder of 13 or 14 National or World champions, but I've never owned one when it won," he said. "My philosophy is if you want to generate good customers, sell them a foal that will win a National or World championship and they'll be back to do more business. On the other hand, if you go all out and win it all and don't leave anything for the buyer, then he's not as apt to keep coming back to you."

Simmons realized that every time he sold a horse he was also selling opportunities for success in the show ring. With those opportunities paying off for his customers, his business, and Goer's popularity, reached unexpected heights.

"I've always felt that, being in the people business, you've got to make people happy," he said. "Going to a National Show and winning a medallion is a pretty exciting event that you don't forget in a hurry. Generally, when that happens, customers are back buying more horses and breeding more mares. For years we had more business that we could handle and in the horse business, that's quite a position to be in."

In 1984, Jim and Karol Nylund replaced Dick Kennedy in the Goer partnership. The Colorado couple had bred mares to Goer before becoming part-owners in the horse and had been involved in prior business dealings with Simmons.

"We'd known about Goer for a long time and we were planning on building our own place," Nylund said. "We didn't know exactly where or when, but we were looking at different facilities and different horses, wanting to find out more about both."

"When we saw Goer, it was love at first sight," recalled Jim Nylund. "We saw a number of horses and then we saw Goer. He just took our breath away. He seemed different than about any other horse we'd ever seen."

As the partnership was developing between Simmons and the Nylunds, a tragedy nearly ended Goer's career as a sire. At the age of 13, Goer was brought out of his stall to tease a mare. From within her pen, the mare turned to kick at the stallion, and, even thought he was safe outside the pen, Goer instinctively backed away and reared slightly, his left front leg making brief contact with a feeder. The result, an inch-long cut above the knee, turned out to be a broken leg. Goer was originally given a 50 percent chance of recovery, but luckily, a long term of confinement and a large leg splint resulted in a completely healed leg.

After standing for a time at the Nylunds' Rainbow Ranch in Grand Junction, Goer was sent in 1992 to stand at stud at O'Leary Farms, an Illinois breeding and training facility operated by Dennis and Mary Lynn O'Leary.

"Last season was his introductory year here and it was very successful," said Dennis O'Leary. "I think this horse is even better than anyone considers him. In fact, I believe he's the premier horse in our breed. I felt this way before he was in my barn. This is a sire. If you look the word up in the dictionary, that's him. There is no other horse that's done what he's done."

Such as reputation as a sire has led to an international following that is sometimes entertaining for those involved with the stallion. For example, not long ago, Nylund received a surprise from California trainer Grant Gibbs, who had just returned from Italy.

"It was an Italian postcard with Goer's picture on the front," Nylund said with a smile.

"He really has been a goodwill ambassador to the rest of the world for the Appaloosa breed," O'Leary said. "I get people from literally all over the world that come in here and they're the happiest people in the world if they can just touch Goer. It's almost like a cult."

Tom Simmons agrees that Goer's impact has been immeasurable, affecting the way horses look today and setting a standard in the show ring.

"Pretty, baby-doll heads, long and lean necks, clean throatlatches and pretty ways of moving -- he throws that with a tremendous amount of consistency on a wide variety of mares." Simmons said. "If I didn't own Goer, I'd be sending all my mares to him." The result of Goer's career as a stallion, he added, has been a change in the idea of what a horse is supposed to look like.

"Goer puts an extremely good head and neck on his babies, as well as a nice hip," Nylund said. "There's just a lot of prettiness. Often, we'll be at a show where we don't know anyone and we'll see a horse that reminds us of Goer. When we do a little digging, sure enough, it'll be a Goer."

"He stamps his babies," O'Leary said. "To me, he's just a horse that's so much ahead of his time that he's still producing horses that are modern and just very, very gorgeous."

The ability to pass on certain characteristics is a trait that Simmons always hoped to have in a sire. While some horses are terrific sires, he contends, you can't always tell which foals are theirs. With Goer, Simmons has found the opposite to be true, which has led to the horse's great success in get of sire competition, in which three of a stallion's get are shown at halter as one entry.

"Back then," explained Simmons, "it was different from the get classes of today where you have two or three entries in a class. I think there were 15 or 20 get groups from great sires in a class back then."

After earning National get of sire titles in 1980, 1983 and 1984, and both the National and World titles in 1985, it was decided to retire Goer from the competition. "We just retired him from that and haven't competed with him since," said Simmons. "We were always fortunate enough to have older horses available to compete and we didn't want people with younger horses to feel that they didn't have an opportunity."

Simmons admits having concentrated on producing halter horses because that's where his primary equine interest lies. The early demand for Goer progeny as broodmares and breeding stallions also kept many of his get from being started under saddle. Consequently, Simmons would like to see Goer recognized for his success as a performance sire.

"We've had a number of medallion winners in pleasure classes and Goer has sired several youth performance champions," Simmons said. "They've also had success in open cuttings. I'd like to see more of these people come out with their Goer horses and get into the performance events."

"They are good riding horses," agreed Nylund. "A lot of them are used working cattle and for cutting. They've proven themselves to be good using horses."

Simmons also believes that a return to get of sire competition may not be out of the question for Goer. "We have yet to return to a get class," he said, " and we may want to do that at some point. Just one time."

The overall goal for Simmons, O'Leary and Nylund is to continue what O'Leary calls "the legend of Goer."

"What I want out of Goer," said Nylund, "is to produce great horses that will produce great horses. Thirty years from now, I want people to be able to look at one of his descendants and say, 'I bet that's a Goer.' I would hope that for any great stallion."

For the "Goer family" of the Simmons, Nylunds and O'Learys, the prospect of another stallion taking Goer's place in the industry is not quite fathomable.

"It's going to be a lot of years before a horse comes along that is able to do what this horse has done," said Simmons. "We're talking about a horse that took a guy who had nothing and literally paid his salary for 15 years, built and paid for an entire ranch and kept me in trucks and trailers. He also did a lot of things for other people. His sons and daughters sold very well and he put a lot of other people on the map."

"He's really made his mark," agreed O'Leary. "He's just a great horse and I'd like to see him break every record the Appaloosa Horse Club has."

{This article, by A. J. Mangum, and accompanying photograph were originally published in the Appaloosa Journal, December 1993, Vol 48, No.12, "Goer Ahead Of His Time" and are used here by permission.}

{Added note:  In August of 1994, at age 21, Goer passed away due to natural causes at O'Leary Farms. He was inducted into the Appaloosa Horse Club Hall of Fame in 1994.}

Copyright © 1993 Appaloosa Horse Club. All rights reserved.

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