Trail Legend: Design By Leaguer

Trail Legend: Design By Leaguer

The quirky black gelding knew when to shine.

A black horse crosses a pole in a trail course while carrying a rider who is holding an orange sack. Journal file photo

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By Larri Jo Starkey

Like most great horses, Design By Leaguer has been described as “quirky.”

But “athletic,” “careful” and “brilliant at trail” are also part of his legacy. He thrived on pressure and carried open and amateur riders through difficult trail courses no matter their experience level.

“He wasn’t a fun horse to show at the small shows – he was a fun horse to show at the big shows,” says AQHA Professional Horseman Jason Martin of Pilot Point, Texas, who showed Design By Leaguer to many of his 1,546 open trail points. “The harder the course, the better he was. If a course was super hard, I would know he was going to do well. He was great in training and would really step up, especially at a world show. He really shined.”

The 1993 black gelding by Ina Different League is out of Sweet Booger by Booger Niner. He was bred by Melinda Minnis of Windermere, Florida.

“Bevis” carried six amateurs to 1,006 amateur trail points: Monique Borruso, Caroline Gunn Rogers, Jane Humes, Steve Gunn, Johnan Ratliff and Cole Gower. Kade Gower, Cole Gower and Sarah Ratliff earned youth points on him.

Monique, who lives in Cotati, California, earned 729.5 of those points with Bevis. She started training him when he was 4 and sold him when he was 13.

“He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” she says. “I started him in western pleasure, but I love trail and have since I was 12.”

Trail was Bevis’ favorite event almost immediately. Monique could take him to almost any show, knowing he would perform. They both enjoyed the class, so they kept collecting points together.

In 2001 and 2002, they were the year-end high-point amateur trail team. Monique sold Bevis in 2006.

“I knew Bevis when Monique had him,” says Jason, who at the time was training in California and saw Bevis firsthand. “My goal was to try to keep him as good as she had him.”

And good he continued to be. Jason and Bevis were reserve world champions in senior trail in 2008 then world champions in 2011.

In 2012, Design By Leaguer was world champion in senior trail with Jason Gilliam and in amateur trail with Caroline Gunn Rogers. He set the AQHA World Show amateur trail high score with Caroline – 238.5.

“He was just careful, smart and very aware of his feet,” Jason Martin says. “The trickier obstacles – he just always figured out how to do them. I don’t know if he knew when the stage was set for him, but he was the type of horse that always rose to the occasion at the big show.”

He had 14 year-end top-10 finishes in amateur, open and youth trail. During his show career, he earned five Superiors in trail.

He earned more than $140,000 in his career.

In 2012, Brenda Gower of Lloydminster, Alberta, bought Design By Leaguer for her sons to show in trail.

“Both my boys, Cole and Kade, were novices when they started showing him in trail,” Brenda says. “It was his class, something that he loved doing. He loved that class and took care of them.”

Even in his older age, Design By Leaguer knew what to do with his feet.

“He just knew where to put himself to make it work,” Brenda says. “Kade would put him in not very good spots, but Bevis just did his own thing and said, ‘I have to be over here to make it work.’ And that’s what he did. He was very good at his job.”

Kade took Bevis to the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show in 2016, and that was the horse’s last show. He finished his career with 2,770.5 points in all divisions.

“We retired him and brought him home,” Brenda says. “He gets pampered. We’re in Canada, so it gets cooler in the winter, and we have a heated barn. He goes out in the day and has free range of a big pasture. He still loves going in his stall at night. He’s a really good bodyweight and has a beautiful hair coat and mane. He gets lots of treats and peppermints.”