Focus: ‘From 4-H to the world’

Bryan Lee rode this 14-year-old quarter horse stallion, Lees Doc O Sunrise, to take fifth place overall in the American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Show in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on June 18-23.

Bryan and Chris Lee of North Platte are big into quarter horses, raising and showing them. They also have a big heart for children and passing down the learning they have gained along the way.

“There’s a lot of life lessons in showing horses,” Chris said.

The Lees have had a lot of success in world competitions. Bryan has been competing in the annual American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Show since it started in Denver in 2008. Bryan and their stallion Lees Doc O Sunrise took fifth place overall in that competition in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on June 18-23. Chris qualified in 2009 for her first world show in 2010.

“It really is a world show,” Chris said.

One regular competitor is from Argentina and leases a horse in the United States to show. International competitors are allowed to do that because of the impracticality of having to quarantine horses that are brought into the country. There were people from all over the country, too, Chris said, and it’s fun to talk with them. A woman from Maine paid to have her horse shipped, rather than drive a horse trailer all that distance by herself.

The Lees started their horse careers as children in 4-H, Chris in Grant and Bryan in Elsie. Both graduated from Madrid Wheatland High School.

As an adult, Chris taught hippology (overall horse knowledge) and conducted the horse quiz bowl in 4-H for eight to 10 years, while their children were in 4-H.

“The lady in Lincoln County who was doing it moved away and my kids were the age to get into it, so I agreed to take her place,” she said. “I learned right along with the kids.”

Chris also judged for 4-H at county fairs and the state fair.

“I took a team to national competition at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, in about 1996,” she said. The team of three took first place in the halter division. It consisted of their daughter Lannae (now Phelps), Emily Sexson (now Knezevich) and Nicole King (now Kissinger). The team actually had a fourth member, Tyler Sexson, but he was quarterback for the North Platte Bulldogs and stayed home to play football.

“We didn’t have a low four to drop,” but took first place anyway, Chris said.

The Lees’ other two children also participated in 4-H horse programs: Matthew, who passed away in 2002 from encephalitis caused by West Nile virus, and Mareesa (now Hasenauer).

The youth were also involved in high school rodeos.

“At times we had one rig going to a 4-H event and the other to a rodeo,” Chris said.

When their children were out of 4-H, Chris and Bryan decided it was their turn to compete in shows.

“From 4-H to the world,” Bryan said. “The work ethic and lessons learned carry over.”

They still have a connection with 4-H and youth.

“The kids rode mares in 4-H and we knew we wanted to raise colts when they got done with them,” Chris said.

They sell horses to ranchers, and “there are a lot of kids that use our horses” in 4-H. An area youth qualified for high school rodeo with a horse from the Lees’ ranch, and “a family in Wisconsin has purchased several of our horses.”

They also send their proven studs out to breed with customers’ mares.

Bryan is a certified ranch heritage breeder. To qualify, the breeder must have at least five brood mares and produce horses intended for ranch work.

Their prize stud, Docs Croton Lobo, and eight of his sons have competed in ranch heritage or versatility world shows. Docs Croton Lobo died June 7 at the age of 24 and is buried at the Lees’ ranch. One of the sons, Lees Doc O Sunrise, a 14-year-old stallion, will carry on his pedigree.

Chris rode 7-year-old Snip O Sunrise Lobo in the June competition in Oklahoma. One horse and rider compete in six events: trail riding, reining, cutting, ranch riding, conformation and working cow.

Bryan and Diamonds at Sunrise, a 5-year-old full brother of Snip O Sunrise Lobo, took sixth place in amateur ranch trail and seventh in amateur ranch riding. Lees Doc O Sunrise helped Bryan take sixth place in amateur ranch conformation. Bryan rode Snip O Sunrise Lobo to take fourth place in the 5- and 6-year-old ranching heritage working ranch horse competition. (He was 6 years old when he qualified last year.)

Back home, mares and colts feed on a pasture near the house.

“Most of the mares are ones our kids showed or their daughters,” Chris said. “They actually become part of the family.”

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