When Kathryn Phillips went on the hunt for a yearling filly at the 2016 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, she probably never expected to purchase a two-year-old stud colt. But what she found was something much greater than the unexpected; a talented prospect named Bet He Sparks, and a horse that Clayton Edsall says just gets better as the challenges get greater.
Bet He Sparks, aka Sparky, is a 2014 red roan stallion sired by Bet Hesa Cat and out of the mare Sparking Train. He was purchased by Louis Schuette and Edsall from Garth Gardiner as a long yearling, with a plan in mind to start the colt and sell him as a two-year-old at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity two-year-old sale in Reno. Edsall quickly found, however, that as the sale approached, he had some reservations. “I was really torn. I knew he was a special horse and I really wanted to keep him in my program”, he says. Phillips, a longtime customer of his was looking for something very different, but quickly jumped on the advice of world-renowned horseman Don Murphy (who showed Sparking Train), when he suggested Phillips quit looking at prospects she’d simply be gambling on, and instead buy one of the most talented colts going, and one that Edsall already had. From there, Sparky became part of the Phillips family, and has been in Edsall’s program for nearly three years now.
While it’s easy to look at Sparky’s show record and see how talented he is, Edsall says he’s special for a multitude of reasons. “He’s super laid-back, easy going, and rarely acts like a stud…he loves people, attention, and to be scratched”, he shares. But more than anything, the horse’s trainer says his greatest attribute is how fierce a competitor he always is. Edsall says Sparky loves being a show horse and made the horseman work hard to finally figure out that he truly strengthens as the competition does the same. “He’s so reliable…The harder things are in a show situation, or with a cow, the more he likes it”, he says. Once Edsall figured out where the stallion thrives, he saw it in action numerous times; one example being the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity show. “At the Snaffle Bit Futurity Intermediate fence work finals, we worked four cows”, Edsall says, “By the time they blew the whistle for a fourth new cow, I knew he was tired. Sparky still gave it his all, he never gave up or weakened. That’s what sets him apart, he will always try his hardest, no matter what.”
In addition to his grit, Edsall says he’s kind and has always been a barn favorite, even for their three-year-old son, Weston, who also loves to ride and spend time with Sparky. It’s no surprise that with an exceptionally kind demeanor and heart of a champion, the horse is also said to be very trainable and extremely consistent in the show pen. In fact, he’s so consistent that the trainer says he feels confident going into every event on him, but if he had to choose one, he feels like the stallion is a really strong fence horse based on his ability to read a cow and really stop. “He is always with you and always tries his heart out”, Edsall says.
If his demeanor isn’t special enough, Sparky has quite the show record, as well. He was the 2018 NRCHA Derby Open Reserve Champion and Intermediate Open Champion, as well as a finalist in multiple events and has even won some NCHA money. While Edsall says he hopes to give the horse “a big win that he deserves soon”, what he feels is more special is the fact that the duo has been so consistent and won a check or been a finalist at every show he’s been to. As for the future, Edsall and Phillips’ plans for Sparky in the show pen are not about to slow down any. Currently, he is being prepped for his first major NCHA outing, the El Rancho Futurity and Fiesta, where he will show in the derby. Following that, Sparky will return to the cow horse arena for the Hackamore Classic in Fort Worth, as well as the derbies next year. Edsall has no doubt that he will make a great bridle horse in time, as well. And his future in the breeding barn may be equally as bright, even though he’s not covered any mares to date, Edsall says that if things keep going the way they are, there is a possibility of a select few pairings in the future.
There is no doubt Edsall and his family feel fortunate to have a horse like Sparky in their program, but what makes it even more special is the relationship shared with the Phillips family. “I really can’t say enough great things about Sparky’s owners…The whole Phillips family are so much more than just customers, they are like family to us”, he says. His wife met Kathryn through work several years prior, and when the trainer first met her, she had very high-end dressage horses, in addition to always being a Quarter Horse owner, as well. Edsall shares that respects the owner’s approach to her horses as a business, adding that she really understands it from all angles, having had taken a one-semester hiatus from law school to work for a trainer on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma when she was younger. Deciding to invest in cow horses, Edsall says, brought Phillips back to her roots, and the trainer truly appreciates the family’s support through their journey together. “The Phillips’ have always been realistic with their expectations and supported us through both the wins and the losses. It’s a very special relationship that we feel blessed to have; and it feels really great to be successful on a horse that means so much to all of us”, he says.
It’s easy to see that Bet He Sparks is a special individual. Edsall calls him a “true competitor”, one that loves a show-pen challenge but can go all day in the branding pen and is gentle enough that a kid can ride him; it’s certainly not often that a horse like him comes along!