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Hickory's Country Gold

"The Life of Country Gold - A Fox Trotting Trail Horse Legacy"

On April 25, 1983 a new colt was born at Indian Creek Equine Center. He was named Hickory's Country Gold after his sire Golden's Red Hickory Star and his dam Amy's Country Sunshine. Little did his owners realize the impact that this little one would bring to trail riding competition. Time passed and the colt grew strong showing great promise with his fox trot gait and willingness to perform.

In 1987 and 1988, Country Gold began his career with the North America Trail Ride Conference (NATRC) by competing in five novice rides and received three firsts and two seconds. In 1989, Country Gold went open and won sweepstakes (high point open horse) for his first ride and completed the year with five firsts and one third for a total of six rides.

Hickory's Country Gold and Bill Hinkebein
1991 Arkansas Traveler
(creek crossing)
NATRC Competitive Trail Ride, Dover, Arkansas

Click photo for a closer view.

When Country Gold began his career he was surrounded by many good Arabian horses. Having a Missouri Fox Trotter horse compete was considered an impossible task since Arabians were believed to be stronger with more endurance. This soon proved to be untrue and Country Gold quietly moved into the winning ranks. There were times his rider had to convince the judges that his horse was not lame and what his horse was doing was a fox trot. Now that is never a problem because most rides have many Missouri Fox Totters and judges understand the gait.

Country Gold competed in open for nine years and during this time of competition he won all of the awards that NATRC had to offer. He has nine National Championships in nine years with a record of 43 firsts and 22 seconds out of 80 rides. He accomplished this when points were deducted for pulse and respiration counts above 12 and 6 respectively. Now pulse and respiration thresholds are more lenient at 12 and 9. Country Gold achieved five top six Bev Tibbitts Grand Championship placings winning it in 1991 when he had six firsts and six seconds and winning again in 1995 when he had five firsts and five seconds. Country Gold won the President's Cup (Sweepstakes Award) in 1994, along with the Jim Menefee Memorial Award (combined horse/horsemanship), National Overall Heavyweight horse, the National Overall Heavyweight Horsemanship (Bruce Becker Memorial) and National High Point Missouri Fox Trotter in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994. He won the first Championship Challenge ride in 1995. In 1996, Country Gold was inducted into the NATRC Hall of Fame Horse; the only stallion presented this award. Over the nine years of competition, Country Gold also won three top six Polly Bridges Memorial Awards (high average), four top six National Overall Heavyweight Horsemanship awards (Bruce Becker Memorial), three top six National Overall Heavyweight Horse awards, one Region 6 Linda Tellington Jones (high average) award, one endurance ride Best Condition, and the first NATRC All-Around Championship along with numerous Region Six honors. At the end of the 1997 ride season, Hickory’s Country Gold was retired. His miles in competition totaled 5050.

Hickory's Country Gold and Bill Hinkebein
Illinois NATRC Competitive Trail Ride

Click photo for a closer view.

Country Gold and his descendants have achieved 41 National Championships. Eighteen horses with Country Gold breeding have finished in Championship Challenge Rides with two firsts and two seconds. It is common to see twenty to twenty-five percent of Region Six year end awards being given to descendants of Country Gold.

Along with NATRC showing, Country Gold also pulled a carriage in weddings and showed in many parades. A special Christmas parade was when he was a "reindeer" pulling the sleigh carrying Santa Clause. He was a "reindeer" because he had a ten-point antler attached to his bridle.

On July 5, 2010, Country Gold showed signs of colic, and his vet was immediately called to the farm. He was examined and treated; all day and into the evening he showed signs of improvement. On the morning of July 6, 2010, Country Gold had passed away due to a twisted intestine.

This great horse will no longer be running in his pasture with his golden sorrel color shining in the sunlight. He will no longer come running up to his feed bucket for his special ration. However, his descendants will carry on his winning tradition. It is said that a man is lucky to be able to ride one good horse in his lifetime. Since Country Gold's retirement, his offspring living at Indian Creek Equine Center have achieved 12 National Championships with 20 additional championships earned by offspring that the Center has sold. Country Gold has a heritage that will continue for years to come.

There is something about the magnificence of a horse that is good for a man's soul. Country Gold has filled this magnificence by being a horse of a lifetime.

Photos Included are both of Hickory's Country Gold and Bill Hinkebein. They both were taken at NATRC competitive trail rides. The standing one was taken at an Illinois ride and the creek crossing was at the 1991 Arkansas Traveler ride near Dover, Arkansas.

Country Gold 1996 Hall of Fame All-Around Champion and Bill Hinkebein (11991 bytes)Country Gold was the 1991 and 1995 NATRC Grand Champion. To earn this recognition, horse and rider must compete on eight 60-mile rides in two different states or one out-of-region ride, accumulating the highest point average of all competing horses across the nation. There are six regions in the United States for competitive trail riding. Hinkebein's region is Region 6 and includes 12 rides in five states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Country Gold retired in 1997. His foals show tremendous endurance and make excellent competitive trail horses. Indian Creek Equine Center is proud of the awards won by Hickory Gold, a sorrel stallion (A-I available) and the additional awards won by our other Fox Trotters.

For a complete list of Hickory's Country Gold's accomplishments, click here.

Bill has been featured in "Western Horseman" magazine with his award-winning stallion:

  • October, 1992 - MFT Breed
  • February, 1994 - MFT Breed
  • December, 1995 - "Picking the Perfect Horse"
  • October, 1997 - MFT Breed
  • February, 1998 - MFT Breed

He appeared in "Gateway Magazine" in September, 1992, and January, 1993. The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Promoters also featured Bill in one of their videos, "Trail Riding Your Missouri Fox Trotter for Pleasure and Competition." You may order the tape by visiting their web site or by calling Gene Moeller at 417-732-2213.

Most recently, Bill was included in the book, "Missouri Horses... Gift to a Nation," Volume One, by Joan Gilbert (Chapter 42, "Two Famous Faces," pp. 367-369).

NATRC 1996 Horse Hall of Fame

Hickory's Country Gold was inducted into the NATRC Horse Hall of Fame during the 1997 National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The prestigious Hall of Fame Award is presented to horses that exemplify the standards of excellence in NATRC. A horse truly worthy of the Hall of Fame would include the outstanding accomplishments of the majority of the horse's career. The criteria are very detailed and include national, regional, high point, national championships, sweepstakes, mileage, and other achievements. Country Gold had 43 first places and 22 second places on 80 rides. Country Gold is the only horse to achieve winning all the major awards. He became the NATRC first all-around champion.

Country Gold is a 5th generation stallion over a 40-year span that has been selected for performance, attitude, willingness, trail sense, gait, and speed. Hickory's Country Gold, a Missouri Fox Trotter, was the 1994 National Sweepstakes Championship, the top prize of the North American Trail Riding Conference. Originated in 1993, this award replaced the President's Cup and represents total points for a maximum of 16 rides. Due to teaching commitments, Hinkebein was unable to make the 15th and 16th rides, so his good friend, Frank Keeran, was dispatched to do the honor. Frank rode Country Gold on the final two rides and accrued enough points to lock in the win for 1994.

It might also be noted some consider it perhaps more difficult to win the "big one" as a Heavyweight. There are different classes for Lightweight and Heavyweight. Lightweight usually has a larger class. However, more often, Heavyweight classes are not filled, allowing fewer points than in full classes. Although Hinkebein and his heavy stock saddle, weighing in at 250 lbs., clearly put more stress on the horse's back and legs than that of other competitors, Country Gold frequently won the Sweepstakes award over all classes. Hinkebein, the rider, placed first in the nation in Horsemanship in 1994. He received the Linda Tellington Jones Award of Excellence for High Average in Horsemanship in Region 6 in 1995. Country Gold was the 1991 and 1995 NATRC National Grand Champion. To earn this recognition, horse and rider must compete on eight 60-mile rides in two different states or one out-of-region ride, accumulating the highest point average of all competing horses across the nation.

Each year since 1989, Country Gold has earned National Champion status. This award can be achieved by winning first place in two states and receiving a total of 75 points. Country Gold had a total of nine National Championships, 5030 miles, and retired in 1997. In 1995, Country Gold won the championship challenge ride. Eighteen of the top NATRC horses were present. Hickory's Impressive Chickory, a national champion, placed 6th in the lightweight class. Hickory's Chillicothe Express, a National Champion in 1996, placed 6th in the heavyweight class.

Hickory's Country Gold is an athlete in a sport that requires more conditioning than in his everyday existence as a trail riding pleasure horse. What makes this horse so impressive is his attitude and ability to be consistent year after year. The parents of Country Gold were selected for their ability to travel long distances at a fast 5-10 mph pace. These horses have flat, angular, Arabian or thoroughbred type muscles. These are endurance muscles that contain oxygen-burning slow twitch fibers, meaning they are aerobic-functioning only in the present of a steady supply of oxygen. Horses are born with a predetermined proportion of these genetic-inherited muscle fibers.

NATRC's Best... N.A.T.R.C. Horse Hall of Fame...

Training Tips

We start young horses at the age of two or three, depending on their maturity and size. Riding the young horse 30 to 60 minutes three to four days a week will help develop the basics needed by any trail horse. This stresses the young horse on the small scale without causing failure. We train for 30 to 60 days, followed by a 30-60-day rest, than another 30-60-day training session. This schedule continues through the 5th year. During this time, we must remember the horse is growing: bones, muscles, feet - the total system is maturing. Developing this young horse slowly over a period of time will keep this horse going over 20 years. We teach side passing, open/close gates, control speed walk to extended walk, backing, standing while being mounted, and other maneuvers and techniques to be used later. During the training time, we will increase the speed and later the distance for endurance. Strength of the horse will follow. We check the progress of our horse by studying his actions. The horse's daily attitude, the puffiness in legs, his appetite are all signs of how well the training program is progressing. The first three years of training are the most critical for your horse. If you use the long, slow distance training properly, you will be well prepared for the beginning training of your trail horse. When the horse is five years old, he is mature and ready for extended trail riding of 30 to 50 miles per day. He is ready for open competitive trail riding or endurance.

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