S W E E T
Nearly everyone connected with the gold-medallion-winning mare
has fallen under her spell.
BY NELLA PATERSON
I can resist everything but temptation. -- Oscar Wilde
Jan Steiner of Plainfield, Ill., learned that her 10-year-old mare Sirpent crossed the finish line of the 25-mile Illinois Jubilee Oct. 6 in Tremont. Elation lifted her mind and spirit. Completing the rail ride meant several things. First, her mare had accumulated 350 open miles since the summer began. To get a medallion in competitive trail riding, a horse and rider are required to complete that many miles. But the medallion Steiner and Sirpent would receive was not a bronze. It was a gold.
As Steiner contemplated her mare’s recent achievement, she may have paused to look back on Sirpent’s record. She has her history memorized by heart. A bronze medallion in 1982 at the National Show for winning the 2-year-old fillies class. A bronze SAC for heading the same class at the World Show in the same year. A 1984 silver medallion at the World Show for riding to a top finish in junior western pleasure. Another bronze SAC in halter for winning the broodmares class at the 1987 National. And now the gold. What more could she do? Apparently, continue to make her owner of almost four years very happy.
"She’s an awesome mare," Steiner says. "Anyone who see her always says that. There are a few great ones in the breed, and she’s definitely one of them. She’s an absolutely elegant mare. Definitely graceful. I don’t know what the word for her is. Regal, maybe."
Steiner purchased Sirpent from Joe and Julie Powell of Sanger, Texas. She heard the mare was for sale and moved quickly. In fact, she says if you look at the mare’s ownership papers, it reads like a Who’s Who of the horse industry. Terry Sartain found her when she was still with her breeders, Joe and Jan Bard. From Sartain, she went to Ted Turner, then Crown Center Farms Inc., then Joe and Julie Powell and finally to Steiner. To say that owning Sirpent is a real pleasure for Steiner is an understatement. Sirpent’s transfer of ownership to Steiner will be the last.
"She’s like a fantasy horse. You don’t ever think one like this exists. She has no bad habits. You can let anyone rider her. You can do anything you want with her. As soon as I saw her name, I bought her. I’d heard about he since I first got in the breed. She has quite a reputation."
Since her purchase, you might say Steiner treats her like she is royalty. She pronounces the mare’s name Sir-PENT; asked why, the owner says because the mare looks nothing like her namesake. She’s also not one to have a nickname; somehow a pet name is beneath Sirpent’s dignity. But the kid-glove treatment doesn’t seem to spoil the mare; Sirpent is durable and ever patient, no matter the long hours and many miles to haul her across the country over the years for halter, pleasure and distance competition.
"She can take whatever you throw at her. With some horses, you kind of nurse through easily. She’s just a survivor. She always has been."
Just how well the mare survives can be best measured by her attitude last August when a tornado touched down on Steiner’s place. It came an eighty of a mile from the house.
"It didn’t faze her," she says. "Nothing fazes her. I just can’t imagine anything ever bothering her. She got a free shower from (the tornado). She’s in the first stall in the side of this one barn, and the wind came in and washed the walls of the whole barn with rain."
"She’s just a cool mare," she says. "She has at least half a dozen ardent admirers. They don’t come out to see me; they come out to see her. My goddaughter announced the other day she was going to allow me to ride Sirpent this spring. Everyone just loves her. You see her one, and you’re a fan for life."
The mare produces as well as she performs. The baby Sirpent foaled when Steiner bought her, name Fatal Attraction, followed in her mother’s footsteps and won her bronze medallion in 1989 for a year-end high-point win in yearling fillies. Sirpent’s offspring have also inherited her color, style and conformation, Steiner says.
She is expecting another foal very soon. Steiner speaks proudly of Sirpent’s endurance while she was in foal during the pair’s pursuit of the gold medallion last summer. Not that her condition bothered her any. The mare completed the 350 cross-country miles from as far north as Minnesota and as far south as southern Illinois with no mishaps, problems or complaints.
"Not bad if you’re not pregnant and pretty impressive if you are," she says with a laugh. "I’d hesitate to think I could do that pregnant."
She as special from the day she was born. – breeder Jan Bard
Sirpent was the April 1980 result of Joe and Jan Bard’s first breeding in Maple Valley, Wash. They had just purchased a national-caliber 2-year-old sire and grandson of Prince Plaudit, Sir Wrangler, and they bred two mares to him. Sirpent was out of one of them, a 19-year-old Quarter Horse range mare named Katy Kay Hicks. The couple gave the unusual name to the filly because it, first, would reflect on her sire’s name; Sirpent began the Bard tradition of christening Sir Wrangler’s top foals with a part of his name. But when Joe and Jan looked upon the newborn foal for the first time, they noticed a snake-