Martin Black on Playlika Hickory, 10, is congratulated by AQHA Executive Director of Publications, Jim Jennings on his win “Top Working Ranch Horse”

GINNIN HANDLE, A.K.A “BLUE DUCK” was on a roll at the ranch horse show held during the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in November[2003] in Amarillo.  With the ease of an athlete, he carried his owner, Martin Black of Homedale, Idaho to wins in both the novice-horse and senior divisions.

His stablemate, Playlika Hickory, played second fiddle both times. The ranch horses perform reining maneuvers, then their riders box, fence and finally rope a cow. Normally, the first-place finishers in each division enter the runoff to determine the overall ranch horse champion.  But because Blue Duck had two first places, Martin gave one berth to “Hickory”.

As it turned out, Hickory exacted revenge during the runoff and beat Blue Duck by a whopping 22 points.  He bested the winner of the junior division as well and was named champion ranch horse.  What’s unique about these horses is that not long ago, neither one of them would have seemed to be a likely candidate for the winners circle. Martin describes Hickory as a cutting horse reject, and Blue Duck used to be a saddle bronc practice horse.  Working for a living on the ranch, though, they found their niches.

As far as which horse is the best, Martin said it just comes down to “whichever one feels better that day or feels more tuned up.  They’re pretty equal”. And, judging from their showing in Amarillo, pretty darned good, too.


Originally published in America’s Horse January/February 2004

The picture posted above is Martin Black on “Blue Duck” winning the Bridle Horse Class in Winnemucca, NV