Wellington, Colo., family has horses in their blood | TheFencePost.com

Wellington, Colo., family has horses in their blood

"What? Were you born in a barn?" That tongue-in-cheek expression, usually presumed an insult, is a compliment to Blair Petersen. In fact, every branch on the Wellington, Colo., woman's family tree seems, both genetically and by-marriage, to be surrounded by all things equine.

Petersen's paternal grandfather fled Denmark for the United States during World War II to escape the Nazis. His son, Howard, early-on chose horses as his life's avocation and passed that passion on to his children, Ric, Sandi and Judi. He raised them with Quarter Horses that the kids rode at rodeo events and American Quarter Horse Association shows.

Further, he told his youngsters that when they were old enough to get their own horses, he was going to switch to Thoroughbred racing. And, he did exactly that. Then already in his late 50s-early 60s, Howard Petersen began his second act in life.

He's raced at tracks all over the country, including Arapahoe Park in Colorado; Sunland and Ruidoso Downs in Albuquerque, N.M.; Turf Paradise, in Arizona; Canterbury Park, in Minnesota; as well as tracks in Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa.

Peterson has produced some noteworthy horses. Dancing Lady (1997 mare by Adancer and out of Lady Concorde) won a 3-year-old filly stakes race in 2000. Concordes Saint was the 2009 Colorado-Bred 3-Year-Old of the Year. That gelding, with Equibase earnings of $77,999-plus, is by Silver Saint and out of Concordes Dreamer. Petersen currently stands Silver Saint at stud and is proud of his stallion's successful offspring and $244,000 in Equibase LTE (Lifetime Earnings). (Equibase.com is the official source for Thoroughbred Racing Information.)

Even now, at age 88, grandpa Petersen continues breeding and raising magnificent animals at the family ranch north of Wellington. Meanwhile, his horses' hooves pound around the Sunland Park track in Albuquerque, N.M., where his trainer is located.

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RACING AND ROPING

It's hard to imagine any equine activity that's more unlike Thoroughbred racing than team roping, a western discipline that Howard's son, Ric, passionately pursues. Preferring to aim for the horn part of his steers, he serves as header in events that include the Reno Rodeo Invitational Team Roping competition and jackpots in Colorado and Arizona.

Ric Petersen's main mounts are Oakie, a 16-year-old grey gelding, and Dally (registered as Fritzwood Fox). The 9-year-old bay roan gelding, bought as a weanling at the annual KeSa Production Sale in Fort Collins, Colo., proficiently doubles as one of Blair Petersen's barrel racing horses.

Because, yes, as a third-generation Colorado Petersen, Blair just loves to run those upright spherical containers. While still a toddler, she and older brother Taylor rodeoed at Murray's Arena in Gill, Colo., and Foley's Arena in Wellington.

Plus every year at the Larimer County Fair Junior Rodeo both kids excelled as Mutton Busting and Barrel Racing champions. Each also won Ted & Mabel Thompson Most-Deserving Boy & Girl Awards, Taylor in 1993 and Blair in 1996.

Blair recalled one of her favorite titles bestowed in junior rodeo, however, was she and Taylor being dubbed "The Little Petersen Kids on Big Grey Horses." She said the well-known moniker stuck like glue. About five years ago, as she entered a Sheriff's Posse barrel race, the announcer welcomed her into the ring with, "I remember the Petersen kids on big gray horses." But sadly, by then just one of those two kids remained.

In 2005, Taylor Petersen tragically succumbed to complications of mono; he died shortly before high school graduation. Blair not only lost a beloved brother just two years her senior but also a riding/rodeoing buddy.

Time does not heal all wounds but it can serve as a soothing salve, as can continuing on in a heartfelt endeavor. Petersen avidly barrel races and, although Dally is her go-to horse, she purchased an 11-year-old Quarter Horse gelding this past Valentine's Day. Registered as SFW Signature Frost, Petersen just calls her big new buckskin "Hank."

She runs in jackpot races primarily from Castle Rock, Colo, to Torrington, Wyo., and is a member of Mile Hi Barrel Horse Association; Spicer Arena Barrel Racing Association; BBR (Better Barrel Races, a national association); is working on moving into the Colorado Professional Rodeo Association; and eventually the World Professional Rodeo Association events.

Natasha Thompson, her 17-year-old niece, and Sheila Brewbaker, Petersen's step-mom, are her current rodeoing travel partners. Petersen's parents divorced when she was about 2-years-old … out of diapers and into the saddle.

COACH, TRAINER, RIDER

Brewbaker is adept at all equine disciplines. She'd been riding and training from age 9 in dressage, reining, speed events, galloping race horses, and Sheriff's Posse Drill Team. So, to all those talents she added "Trainer of a Tiny Toddler Running Barrels." Brewbaker also trains the Petersens' young horses, including three of the five they currently have.

"She taught me to ride and pushed me, my niece and Taylor to be more skillful horse persons," said Blair Petersen. "We ride together three to four hours every night," she said. "She's our coach, our trainer … our everything."

That family tree surrounded by horses continues growing and adding branches and limbs. Petersen talked about her aunts, Judi Kapperman and Sandi Zitek (Howard's daughters). Kapperman barrel races with her and Brewbaker, while Zitek has draft-cross horses trained to ride and drive. Brewbaker's youngest granddaughter, 12-year-old Shyla Menard, is learning to ride and work barrel horses, too; all the fun is a true family affair.

Petersen's step-grandpa Fred Smith of Masonville, Colo., was also a rodeo guy. In 1986, he was Senior Pro-Rodeo World's Champion Saddle Bronc Rider. In fact, there used to be a prominent sign on the side of the Masonville Mercantile proudly proclaiming the title held by one of their favorite sons.

Perhaps Blair Petersen was born in a barn, or at least entered it shortly post-delivery as a babe in arms. But she also contends she was born at the T-Bar-Inn, an iconic Wellington landmark. Most members of her family (including her pregnant-with-Blair mother) have worked and/or eaten there for decades. Petersen/Brewbaker/Smith cowboy boots have lovingly contributed uncounted scuff marks to the inn's well-worn floorboards, which have also welcomed famous diners including John Elway, Denver Broncos No. 7.

Grandpa Howard is so enamored of the cozy, folksy place that, in honor of it and its owner, Brenda Thompson, he's named a couple of his Thoroughbreds "Silver's T-Bar" and "Danced for Brenda."

At just 29 years of age, Blair Petersen has many lifetimes of horsemen, horses and horsemanship watching her back. She eagerly anticipates a myriad of future equestrian accomplishments that lay ahead of her. One of her traditionally favorite events will be on Aug. 2, 2018. On that Thursday evening, she'll race at the Larimer County Fair when they 'roll out the barrels' for a Peterson kid on a big (albeit not grey) horse. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.