The legendary Secretariat, who was the first racehorse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years, was sired by Bold Ruler, a champion racehorse in his own right and winner of multiple stakes races, including the Preakness. The infamous Texaco, ridden by Trevor Brazile to numerous World Championships, has the likes of Dual Pep, Peppy San Badger, Doc Bar and Doc O’Lena in his bloodlines. Even the highly celebrated Seabiscuit, although he didn’t have the conformation of a champion, was a grandson of the acclaimed Man o’ War, who is widely considered one of the greatest racehorses of all time. These are just a few examples of horses that define the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron, the men behind Nichols Quarter Horses out of Waco, Texas, and owners of the accomplished stallion Frenchmans Fabulous, can attest to this. They did not just “luck out” when they purchased Fab, as he is more affectionately known, they knew he had the bloodlines to make a fairy-tale breeding stallion. He was a 7/8 brother to French Flash Hawk, better known as Bozo, who claimed four barrel racing gold buckles with his pilot Kristie Peterson; and PC Frenchmans Hayday, the stallion behind the esteemed Potter Ranch program, who has lifetime earnings of over $400,000 in both roping and barrel racing and has sired two World Champion barrel horses, Sherry Cervi’s Stingray and Hailey Kinsel’s Sister. Frenchmans Fabulous was destined to be a champion and his legacy is setting records with multiple Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) Qualifiers in the barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping and, hopefully soon, tiedown roping, along with champions for both youth and senior riders, mounted patrol and even mounted shooting. Fab has proven himself at all levels, in all disciplines. Barron explains, “I think it takes a special stud horse to produce at that level and across the board of events. We are very blessed that we were able to get Fab bought and that his babies continue to perform. It’s not a credit to us. It’s a credit to Fab, and it’s a credit to the people that got those horses and did something with them.”
“There aren’t that many studs out there other than Dinero and Fab that you can say have multiple horses make the NFR, do well and also be there in different events.”
— Kenny Nichols, Nichols Quarter Horses
When you meet Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron, who have been breeding horses together for over 30 years, you instantly feel connected to them and the feeling is mutual. Barron recounts, “I think the biggest thing in the breeding industry is the amount of friends you gain all across the U.S. and Canada. They truly become good friends because we want to keep up with those offspring. We want to know what they're doing, how they're doing, what you’re doing with them. It’s not an effort, it’s something we truly want to know.” These are the words spoken from true passionate breeders who pride themselves on being able to provide other horse lovers with good solid all-around horses.
The knowledge these two hold on Quarter Horse bloodlines is endless, and they enjoy sharing their passion with anyone willing to listen. Nichols’ knowledge is a family tradition as his grandpa owned Driftwood, a hallmark stallion in the rodeo and roping worlds that is now one of the foundation Quarter Horses that defines the breed as it stands today. Driftwood and Clabber, another Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee owned by Nichols’ great grandfather that was known for being a great ranch horse along with winning numerous match races, became the foundation behind the breeding program at Nichols Quarter Horses. Nichols knew from experience that the Driftwood and Clabber cross worked well for rodeo horses because they had the speed and mind to make great all-around horses. Since Nichols and Barron both rode and loved their Driftwood and Clabber–bred horses, that’s what they wanted to stick with. The challenge was finding those old foundation bloodlines in a young prospect, as most breeding programs were breeding out the Driftwood and Clabber lineage.
Frenchmans Fabulous had the personality and conformation Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron were looking for in a young stallion, along with the bloodlines of both Driftwood and Clabber that Nichols had grown up admiring and competing on. He was the horse that would take their breeding program at Nichols Quarter Horses to the next level.
Ivy Conrado-Saebens, above, competes on KN Fabs Gift Of Fame, aka JLo, who is by Frenchmans Fabulous and owned by Nichols Quarter Horses. JLo is one of four horses who competed at the 2019 WNFR sired by Fab. That year, Fab set a WNFR record by having two full siblings, KN Fabs Gift Of Fame and KN Fabs Mist Of Fame (Misty ridden by Cheyenne Wimberly) compete and win money in the same round at the world’s most elite rodeo event.
PHOTO BY BILLIE-JEAN DUFF
Nichols and Barron had partnered on mares since they graduated from college — they both just enjoyed riding and roping and wanted to raise good, quality horses. Barron recalls, “At that time, it was kind of just a small operation, just a couple of mares. We both had full-time jobs. When we got Fab bought, it kind of changed the whole scenario. I’m actually a civil engineer.”
Barron goes on to tell their story, “Kristie Peterson called us one day and said, ‘I’ve got a horse you need to go look at,’ and it was Fab. So we flew up to Bill Myers’ sale in South Dakota a few days early and looked at Fab. We liked what we saw of the horse, and since we were there a few days before the sale, we started checking up with the hands that worked on the ranch. Fab had only had a few babies at that time, but we got to talk to them about how his babies were.” At the time, Fab was a 5-year-old, and he had three babies on the ground. Nichols explains, “It was kind of a hand-picked situation. When he was a 2-year-old, Bill Myers, Kristie Peterson and Brian Fulton all picked one mare, and they bred him.” Everything Nichols and Barron heard that week during their investigation on Fab made them want to buy the young stallion even more. He had the personality and conformation that they were looking for, along with the bloodlines of both Driftwood and Clabber that Nichols had grown up admiring and competing on. He was the horse that would take their breeding program to the next level. The trick was going to be getting him bought at one of the largest and most expensive barrel horse sales of the year.
When asked how nervous they were during the sale that day, Barron responds, “About to die of a heart attack!” Barron continues, “Nobody in the sale really knew we were going in with the intention of buying Fab. We kept that between us. The only other people that knew were Kenny’s brother Glenn and Brian Fulton, and Brian told us, ‘If you don't get this horse bought, y’all are crazy.’ ” The late Brian Fulton, founder of Fulton Performance Horses and owner of the exceptional sire A Streak Of Fling, was a dear friend of Nichols and Barron who they respected and knew they had better take his advice. With a little help from Nichols’ brother Glenn, the winning bid on Frenchmans Fabulous that day went to Nichols Quarter Horses and so the journey began.
After the trio purchased Fab, they sent him back to Texas and started running barrels and roping on him. Sue Miller, a WNFR barrel racer, competed on Fab and won several futurities and barrel races, all while Nichols’ father, Nicky Nichols, was roping on him at the same time. Barron says, “We’re firm believers that the best thing you can do with a barrel horse is rope on them. I think they get bored with just the barrels. They enjoy doing something different.” Barron and Nichols quickly learned that Fab flourished under the philosophy and so his career began in barrel racing, team roping (both heading and heeling), tie-down roping, breakaway and goat tying. By the time Fab retired at the age of 16 years old, this mighty little horse of 14.3 hands had done it all. Nichols recalls, “Kelsey Lutjen took him to the National High School Rodeo Finals in the breakaway, and he was her head horse. And they heeled on him, too. Sometimes we had two and three different riders between the goat tying, the breakaway and the team roping. He’s just so solid. He wants to do stuff, always has. That’s been his deal, and I’m going to say he puts that in his babies, too.”
His determination and athletic ability to be an all-around horse aren’t even his biggest traits. Fab also comes with a larger-than-life personality. Barron states, “He’s smart. I think that’s one thing that I found is his best attribute. When we bought him, they said his nickname was Dennis the Menace because he was into everything.” Nichols jokes, “He plays with chains, unlocks the gates. Tons and tons of personality.” Thankfully for Fab, his owners find humor in his mischievous ways, and they are kept on their toes with a farm full of colts by the infamous Dennis the Menace. Barron laughs and says, “We probably get five to 10 phone calls a year from new owners telling us how their babies open their gates up or how they let themselves out. That’s Fab. That’s just their full personality. I’m not going to say every one of them, but in general, they love people. They like to be around people, and they’re willing to do anything you ask them to do. They’re nice.”
Along with his playful side, Fab also has a soft side. Nichols states, “I’ll tell you that Fab loves women and kids. He’ll snarl his nose if he gets near you, but kids, he just melts.” Barron goes on to tell a heartwarming story: “The main vet tech at the clinic where Fab stands, Renate Higgins, her son has special needs. She’s got horses of her own, but when her son wants to brush a horse, he gets in his western clothes, puts his hat on and they go up to the vet clinic and he brushes on Fab! And Fab doesn’t move a muscle when that kid is brushing on him.” Nichols adds, “Fab in the breeding pen, it’s just two people, Dr. T (Dr. Theresa Dwyer) and Renate that handle him, there’s no stud chain, there's nothing like that. It's just a regular halter that he’s handled with, and it always has been that way.” Most stallions could never be handled so easily, especially in the breeding pen or with small children — Fab is just that special, in more ways than one.
The philosophy on breeding at Nichols Quarter Horses is a little different than most stallion operations. Ironically, they focus on mare power. “We’re big believers in broodmares. We didn’t buy Fab because he was Frenchmans Guy. Guy wasn’t the name at that time. We got Fab because of who his momma was,” Nichols reiterates. Fab’s dam, Caseys Charm, has become a highly sought-after broodmare due to the foals that she produced. One of her most famous foals is French Flash Hawk, aka Bozo, who won the AQHA Horse of the Year five times and won four World Championships with his rider Kristie Peterson. Besides Bozo, Caseys Charm produced 13 other foals, many of which made names for themselves, including PC Frenchmans Hayday (the iconic stallion owned by the Potter Ranch), French Flash Frost (a champion rope horse and full brother to Bozo), Frenchmans Dox Dakota (WPRA Badlands Circuit Barrel Racing Champion) and, of course, Frenchmans Fabulous, to name just a few.
The focus on broodmares doesn’t end with Fab’s breeding. Nichols and Barron also take pride in handpicking quality mares to breed to Fab. Barron states, “I think mare power is probably 60 percent.” Then Nichols disagrees, “I’m probably going to say it’s higher. I’m probably going to say 75 percent. I know certain people go 80 percent on that.” Nichols continues, “For us, on our mares, we don’t look for one superstar. We want to see there’s consistency and there’s volume there with them doing something that’s not just, ‘Oh, there’s that freak runner’ or that one rope horse that just happened to get into good hands. We want to see some consistency. We want to see that mindset before we’re going to bring those mares to even cross on Fab.”
One such broodmare that has been instrumental to Nichols Quarter Horses is Mistys Dash Of Fame. The duo was first introduced to Misty when they purchased her first foal, Mistys First Success, at a yearling sale in New Mexico. After getting her home and getting her started, Nichols’ dad told them, “Look, I know it’s not one of your Fab’s, but this mare is something else. You’re going to love her.” With that, Nichols and Barron searched out the filly’s dam to add to their breeding program. Mistys Dash Of Fame only had three more foals after they purchased her due to a former injury. However, all three of those foals went on to become top-level barrel horses, two of which have qualified for the WNFR. Nichols praises them by saying, “In fact, it was pretty neat one year, we actually had all three of them qualify for RFD-TV’s The American and run at the semifinals in Fort Worth.” For a breeder, it doesn’t get much better than watching three full siblings all compete at one of the most coveted stages in rodeo.
The mindset behind Nichols Quarter Horses to cross quality, all-around mares on Fab has worked well for them. “There are not that many other studs out there other than Dinero (PC Frenchmans Hayday) and Fab that you can say have multiple horses make the NFR, do well and also be there in different events,” states Nichols. In 2019, there were four horses at the WNFR by Fab and a fifth horse, Famous French Bug ridden by Leia Pluemer, that almost made it, finishing 16th in the Barrel Racing World Standings. That year, Fab set a WNFR record by having two full siblings, KN Fabs Gift Of Fame (JLo ridden by Ivy Conrado-Saebens) and KN Fabs Mist Of Fame (Misty ridden by Cheyenne Wimberly) both out of Mistys Dash of Fame, compete and win money in the same round at the world’s most elite rodeo event. Now most stallions are lucky to have just one horse make the WNFR, so to have two full sisters there with different riders is downright unthinkable for their breeders.
The most incredible part about this fairy-tale story is that Nichols and Barron were never out to make WNFR barrel horses, nor were they out to produce a mass number of babies. They are just two team ropers looking to ride nice, good-minded horses. Nichols remarks, “This industry has been trying to streamline themselves on barrels. That isn’t our angle. Probably because we rope, we don’t run barrels. That might be some of it, but not every barrel horse fits every person’s style. We are believers in that and if you have a horse that can be a little multifaceted and can make a rope horse or a steer wrestling horse or whatever, besides just barrels, you haven’t lost your time and investment in them.” The beauty behind Fab’s babies isn’t just that pretty palomino color that he passes along. It lies in the fact that they can do anything. They have proven they can make top-level barrel horses and rope horses, but they also make great horses for small children, senior riders, high school, novice or any other level of competition. “We’ve got a good friend of ours, who is a barrel racer, and now she’s letting her kids and grandkids take over her horses. So now her barrel horses are dang near NFR steer wrestling horses. It just goes back in my opinion to the brain and willingness of that horse and his offspring,” Barron reiterates. Bottom line is not all riders are looking to compete at the WNFR, and Fab makes great babies for everyone to enjoy.
Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron cheer on their favorite team, Ivy Conrado-Saebens and JLo, who is one of Fab’s most accomplished daughters qualifying for the WNFR three times and currently sitting at the top of the WPRA World Standings for 2021.
PHOTO BY SPRINGER PHOTOGRAPHY
One of Frenchmans Fabulous’ most well-known champions, who is still owned by Nichols Quarter Horses, is KN Fabs Gift Of Fame, also known as JLo. This beautiful palomino mare with her long golden locks is a 3-time WNFR Qualifier, Reserve World Champion and WNFR Average Winner who made a monumental comeback this year. She leads the 2021 WPRA World Standings.
She and Ivy Conrado-Saebens are quite the team, and it is still up for debate on who loves who more. Dale Barron comments, “JLo looks for Ivy. She wants to know where Ivy’s at. There’s a special bond between those two. You’ve got to have that bond to make a great horse. They’ve got that. It’s equally on JLo’s part as it is on Ivy’s part.”
This past summer, that bond was tested when JLo was in a horrific accident. Kenny Nichols recalls, “Ivy takes care of her horses, and Platinum is a big part of that. You can see JLo’s color, her radiance. Even the vets told us, had she not been in the type of shape that she was in and the care she had been getting, she would’ve passed away this last summer. Besides the true heart and grit in that mare, they said they’ve never had a horse live through what that mare did. She lived just purely wanting to make it on her own. Literally the nutrition she was on and then what we kept her going on with the probiotics is what saved her.“ Hearing this from their veterinarians and living through such a tragic incident with JLo made Barron and Nichols even more firm believers in the importance of good nutrition. Needless to say, JLo will never be without her Platinum Performance® products, along with the rest of horses owned by Nichols Quarter Horses.
“There's a special bond between those two. You’ve got to have that bond to make a great horse. They've got that. It's equally on JLo's part as it is on Ivy's part.”
— Dale Barron, Nichols Quarter Horses
Nichols and Barron are the first to attest that they wouldn’t have a breeding program without good nutrition. They have such a wide array of horses they are trying to keep healthy, including their broodmares (young and old), performance horses, weanlings, yearlings and, of course, their 23-year-old stallion, and they have to ensure all of them are getting the proper nutrition. Platinum Performance® helps assure them their horses are getting everything they need, and they have been feeding it for close to 20 years. “Platinum is the backbone of our health and nutrition program,” Nichols states confidently. The duo was turned onto the Platinum products by their long-time friend and veterinarian, Dr. Theresa Dwyer. “She is big on nutrition, and she was just like, ‘You know, let’s see if you can start ordering,’ ” explains Nichols. At the time, Nichols and Barron were struggling with getting their older mares bred, and Dr. Dwyer believed that adding a comprehensive wellness formula would help support their reproductive health. Little did she know, she would begin a long-standing relationship between Nichols Quarter Horses and Platinum Performance®.
As the king of their operation, Fab has been on Platinum since they bought him 18 years ago. Now in his older age, he gets Platinum Joint Care and Healthy Weight to support his aging joints. Even during breeding season, you would never guess that Fab is 23 years old from the outside, and that is partly due to his owners’ focus on keeping him healthy from the inside.
On top of all the broodmares and stallions getting one of the foundation formulas, the babies are also supplemented with Bio-Sponge® and Platinum Balance®. Barron points out, “We don’t lose babies. We might get a really sick baby every three or four years if something bad happens, but you talk to some breeding operations and man, they lose three or four babies a year. We attribute that to the Platinum products, especially the Bio-Sponge®. We just don’t have that kind of problem, and we’re firm believers in the Platinum products.” Nichols goes on to explain, “Antibiotics are not going to be the first thing that we’re going to turn to. It’s going to be the probiotics we’re going to. The Bio-Sponge® and adding probiotics does wonders, so that’s the main part of our foal-raising program right there.” Speaking from experience, Barron and Nichols have been fine-tuning their foaling program for close to 30 years now, and they have learned that the key to success is supporting their foals’ digestive and immune systems with products like Bio- Sponge® and Platinum Balance®.
The beauty of modern technology is that even though Fab is getting older in years, Barron and Nichols have been able to start freezing some of his semen to use later on down the road, and these two have no plans of slowing down any time soon. You can still find them every morning out in the fields playing with the weanlings, handling them and looking for their next superstar. They are going to continue on with their small production, doing all of their own breeding, foaling and handling the babies just because that’s what they love doing and that’s what has made them successful. Nichols humbly concludes, “I think we’re the number six leading breeder for the decade and number seven all-time leading breeder. We’ve done that with a small number of mares. We’re not volume. Ours is a small little operation, but we believe in our quality.” And quality they have. Frenchmans Fabulous will go down in history as one of the leading producers of all time, but for now, he is just enjoying watching his babies make names for themselves. Those apples aren’t falling far from their tree.
Rider: Cheyenne Wimberly, 3-Time WNFR Qualifier in Barrel Racing
Rider: Blake Knowles, 3-Time WNFR Qualifier in Steer Wrestling
Rider: Stephanie Fryar, Currently sitting in fourth place for the 2021 WPRA World Standings
Rider: Taci Betts, 2019 AQHA Junior Barrel Racing World Champion
by Lindsey Stornetta,