Desert Sands by Laura Behning

March 29, 2008

The following article about Desert Sands is written by Laura Behning and originally appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of The Rainbow Morgan Horse Association Newsletter.

In 1984 I bought my first Morgan, Reminiscing (Applevale Commander X Oklahoma Glory, by Desert Sands), a 1980 bay mare. Immediately I was consumed by “pedigree fever”, a condition I’m sure many of my fellow Morgan addicts will attest is highly contagious! In researching the dam’s side of “Marie’s” pedigree, I became entranced by her grandsire Desert Sands. Laura Algranti, who is always a great help to me, told me he had been a Rose Bowl parade horse; a few years later when I lucked into a collection of old THE MORGAN HORSE magazines, there in a California show report I saw a photo of him for the first time. The lovely head, the rounded form, the crested neck, and as icing on the cake, the color- here in one animal was, for me, the complete embodiment of What A Morgan Should Be.

I’ve long wanted to do an article on Desert Sands. For one reason after another, I kept putting it off.

Late in 1996, three young riding students of mine told me about a Morgan mare that had been donated to their 4H Club. The group was looking for a placement for her. The kids thought her name rang a bell, and taking matters into their own hands (!) told their 4H leader to hold her for me, and then came to me about the mare. “Her name’s “Glory, Oklahoma Glory”, they excitedly told me.“Is’nt she related to Marie?” I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I’d seen Glory once years before, at a show. She had been trained and shown as a park horse and had won much in her day. I may never see another mare I consider her equal. And now, to have a chance to own her! But I already had ten horses,and finances were extremely tight, as at the time we were trying to obtain a building loan for our farm; so I reluctantly decided I’d better not strain things any further by taking in yet another horse. I knew Rainbow member and fellow Georgia resident Chris Franklin was looking for broodmares, though, so I told him about Glory. At 26, she was quite aged, but I figured there might be a chance she could produce one more foal for Chris, and he agreed. Unfortunately, despite being pastured with the stallion, Glory did not get in foal. So in early May 1998 Chris contacted me and asked me if I wanted Glory. I was quite torn about what to do (not being very much better off financially by then), and decided to give it a few days of thought; the Dixie Cup Morgan Classic was that week and I had out of town house guests who were attending it with me, so I was busy as well. On the Saturday night of the show, we headed home early because a nasty thunderstorm was blowing in, and I wanted to get my horses into the barn. The next day I had an email from Chris. Glory and another of his mares had been hit by lightning out in the pasture sometime during the night.

Guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

{mospagebreak}And that, my friends, is what finally spurred me to write this article. It is dedicated to the memory of a beautiful golden stallion and his very first offspring, Oklahoma Glory.

Palomino Morgans certainly had a hard row to hoe in the late 60’s and early seventies. Palominos were considered by many to be “un-Morgan-like”; some folks went so far as to believe the dilution gene was a sure-fire indicator of impure or outside blood. Into this era was born a 15.2 hand golden stallion who would overcome prejudice to make a name for himself – not only in his eventual home state of California but in the hearts of those who were privileged to know him and his offspring. Desert Sands was foaled the property of Steve Reeves, then of Jacksonville Oregon, on April 24, 1965. The late Mr. Reeves was an actor, and he bred many beautiful golden Morgans, including the well-known stallion Dickie’s Pride (sire of Mary Woolverton’s famous Prince of Pride. Desert Sands, or “Sandy” as he became known to his friends, was sired by Jeanne Mehl’s wonderful stallion of Mabel Owen’s breeding, Merry Warlock (Merry Knox X Conniedale, by Lippitt Croydon Ethan). Warlock sired 32 offspring, all chestnuts with the exception of Sandy and SR Gold Nugget, a gelding out of Honey Gold. Sandy was out of the palomino mare Lady Sungold (Dickie’s Pride X Linn’s Lu, by Dapper Dan). Lady Sungold, also bred by Steve Reeves, won multiple championships in various pleasure divisions for her later owners the Higuera Morgan Farm of San Jose, California.

Desert Sands’ first foray into the show ring garnered him the Grand Champion stallion title at a show in Reno, Nevada when he was a coming two year old. About this time Lou and Nancy Lake, of Valley Center, Ca., visited Mr. Reeves’ farm and spotted the young palomino stallion. It was love at first sight, and Desert Sands would remain with the Lakes for most of the rest of his life (in 1972, the Lakes, under financial pressure, sold Sandy to Harold Harper. Nancy was devastated. In 1978 she bought the horse back, putting him under her maiden name of Nancy Verville so that if a decision ever had to made about selling him due to finances again, it would be hers alone).

As a five year old, Sandy won the Senior Champion and Grand Champion Stallion title at the Los Angeles County Fair. This was just one of many championships Sandy would win over the years, in halter as well as performance events as diverse as park, western pleasure, english pleasure and driving. His forte, though, and perhaps the one he would become most noted for, was as a parade horse. Desert Sands was invited to appear in the annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade an unprecedented seven years straight. Clearly, he left an impression on all who saw him!

That impression is echoed in the sentiments of those who knew the horse. Sandy’s disposition mirrored his stunning good looks. It is felt that this one attribute of Sandy’s sold more Morgans for the Lakes than anything else they could have said or done. Sandy was regularly used as a lesson horse. Jeannine Smith of Golden Morgan Farms, Woodland Park, CO, lived in California until the early 90’s. For a year and a half Sandy was her “teacher” in riding lessons at the Lake’s farm. She recalls that each time she would arrive there, Sandy would greet her with a whinny as she entered the barn. On one occasion she had shipped a mare in to be bred to Sandy and watched as the mare was covered; after a brief rest, Sandy was ready for Jeannine’s riding lesson that day. No muss, no fuss, all business, whatever the task at hand. That was Sandy.

{mospagebreak}Jeannine bred her two Shawalla mares to Sandy seven times, getting palominos five times and chestnuts twice. In 1985 when Sandy was 20, the Lakes allowed Jeannine to borrow him for six weeks at the early part of the breeding season, in order to breed her mares back after they foaled. Jeannine had reservations, never having handled a stallion for breeding before. The Lakes had no such qualms, and told her to trust the horse, as he knew his job. Their faith in Sandy was not misplaced, as the breeding process was calm and quiet for all concerned, and both Jeannine’s mares produced foals by Sandy the following year!

This outstanding disposition was passed on to Sandy’s foals, as, in many cases, was his color. Out of his 24 offspring, 15 were palomino. A complete list of his progeny is as follows:

019711 1970 M Brown OKLAHOMA GLORY (out of CRESTA’S SILVER LEAF)
24541 1972 G Palomino THE VINDECATOR (out of TROPICO VALENTINE)
030759 1976 M Palomino REGENCY CANDY KISSES (out of FAIROAK JULIE)
66744 1978 G Chestnut TRIDENT TEMPEST (out of TRIDENT TIFFANY)
72145 1978 G Palomino ATMF DESERT MYRIAH (out of MACKINNON’S EMBRIN)
069723 1978 M Palomino JGW CRYSTAL LEE (out of SAN DE CONTESSA)
78360 1980 G Palomino RAISING KANE (out of KELLYS KANDY KANE)
79128 1980 S Palomino COLONEL SANDS (out of SKAGIT ALETA)
87296 1981 G Bay SHATONA’S VINDICATOR (out of IODETTE)
083634 1982 M Chestnut JF DESERT PROMISE (out of SAN DE MISSY)
099015 1984 M Palomino GOLDEN DESERT SANDS (out of SHAWALLA GERRI)
94966 1984 S Chestnut PROMISE OF GOLD (out of SHAWALLA STORMY)
0100721 1985 M Chestnut SILVERWINGS TREASURE (out of SHAWALLA GERRI)
99240 1985 S Palomino GOLDEN SONFIELD (out of SHAWALLA STORMY)
0107884 1986 M Chestnut STAR OF GOLD (out of SHAWALLA STORMY)
0108139 1986 M Palomino SHATONAS EMPRESS (out of ECO DEBONAIRE)
0110757 1986 M Palomino GOLDEN SUNSHINE (out of SHAWALLA GERRI)
111067 1987 G Chestnut INDIANA AZTEC (out of VIKING MASTERPIECE)
0108140 1987 M Palomino SHATONAS IRISH LASS (out of DAMITA DE BLANC)
0115303 1988 M Palomino GOLDEN SONSETTE (out of SHAWALLA STORMY)
118199 1988 S Palomino SHATONAS SANTANA (out of DAMITA DE BLANC)
122469 1990 G Palomino SHATONAS DESERT STORM (out of TKB SAMANTHA)
0119836 1990 M Chestnut SHATONA’S SASSY LADY (out of DAMITA DE BLANC)
0124011 1991 M Palomino ASJ WILDLASS ERIN (out of DAMITA DE BLANC)

Probably the most well-known of Sandy’s offspring is the many-time regional and national park champion, Shatona’s Vindicator, owned by Debbie Uecker of El Cajon, CA. Shatona’s Empress has been an excellent producer for owner Roxanne Riggs of Sunshine Farm in Michigan. The most prolific producing daughter of Sandy, so far, is Oklahoma Glory with eight registered offspring. Jeannine Smith’s stallion Golden Sonfield may be the best bet for this line to continue in any numbers in a direct sire line. It seems a pity that Sandy was not used to any greater extent. Perhaps someone out there in Rainbow land will help preserve what few lines to him that are left. Too many other threads of Morgan gold have already been lost.

The author wishes to thank Elaine Hickman and Jeannine Smith for their assistance in the preparation of this article.

Laura Behning