Ocala, Florida is horse heaven, boasting an abundance of breeding and training farms. For halter horse fanciers, one star shines especially bright: Classic Acres.
Devoted to breeding and selling quality halter horses, the operation owned by Roger, Cathy and Brandon Perry has seen remarkable success in less than a decade. Classic Acres has stood two of halter's most influential Quarter Horse stallions, built a phenomenal broodmare band and continues to breed World and National Champions on a regular basis.
Elegant brick barns house the stallions and training horses. Lofty varnished pine ceilings in the breeding and foaling barn add a classy touch. A dramatic bronze of three horse heads is mounted on the stallion barn, while two other barns feature horses uniquely depicted in carved brick. Immaculately detailed landscaping graces every area of the farm, enhancing the natural beauty and lay of the land. The mare motels accommodate broodmares and foals in style. Paddocks and pastures are spacious, giving horses ample access to the limestone-rich grass, for which Ocala is famous.
Beyond the elegance and gracious details lies a practical, well-planned facility. Classic Acres is the Perry family's no-holds-barred approach to improving the caliber of Quarter Horses in the world of halter competition.
Roger and Cathy met in high school and married in 1969; their son Brandon was born in 1971. That year, after graduating from college, the Perrys started a feed business with partners from Columbus, Ohio. In 1981, the Perrys had bought out the current owner of Weisheimer Pet Supply, the old-fashioned pet store and warehouse located in downtown Columbus. By 1984, they had phased out the wholesale side of the business and gone strictly retail, renaming the store Pet Food Supermart.
Soon after the nation's first pet superstore opened in Las Vegas, Roger and Cathy opened their own superstore. They chose a suburb of Cleveland, figuring this location would make a good satellite warehouse for their main store, should the superstore idea not fly. They needn't have worried.
From 1987 on they were opening several new stores yearly throughout the Midwest. Since the name Pet Food Supermart was considered too generic to trademark, in 1993 they officially changed it to Petzazz. By 1994 their pet superstore empire had expanded to 31 Petzazz stores.
PetSmart inquired about the possibility of buying them out just as Petzazz was about to go public. At the end of 1994, the Perrys closed the sale to PetSmart. After 14 years, they were ready to start the next chapter in their lives.
Until this point, Cathy and Roger's job had been their life. Roger's family had horses when he was a child, and a business with horses seemed an intriguing option. After traveling throughout the country, the Perrys decided Ocala was right for them. They purchased the property in 1994, a small farm with one existing barn. The operation has expanded to 267 meticulously-maintained acres with nine barns and a total of 198 stalls. Todd Zimmer serves as farm manager, while receptionist Lora Householder takes cares of the office. Jeff Ison was hired as head trainer this year.
The farm's focus has evolved as the Perrys have become a leading force in the world of halter horses. "Our first interest was Appaloosas, not Quarter Horses," recalls Brandon, who is entrusted with overseeing Classic Acres' daily activities. "We bought a few Appy mares and then acquired Dreamfinder. We were doing great in the Appaloosas, but the Appy market didn't create a lot of revenue."
Turning their focus to Quarter Horses, in 1995 the Perrys bought halter sire extraordinaire Kid Clu, who had two successful crops on the ground. They began building a band of top Quarter broodmares, phasing out their Appaloosa mares in 1996. They still own the breed's perennial top sire, Dreamfinder, who continues to breed outside mares.
In 1996 the Perrys bought the highly regarded Quarter Horse, Mr. Conclusion, when he was leading halter sire. Adding color and flash to the mix, that same year they purchased a yearling Paint colt, Socketts Sensation, who has already been ranked Number 2 and Number 3 on the Leading Paint Sire List. Socketts Sensation was World Champion Aged Stallion in 1999 and is the sire of multiple World and Reserve World Champions in 2000. Totally Mister, a 1997 son of Mr. Conclusion, joined the Classic Acres roster in 2000, the same year he was Reserve Congress Champion and Amateur Reserve World Champion.
The family hopes to increase their future stallion roster with homebred colts who excel in the show ring.
Classic Acres has already achieved remarkable status by owning perhaps the two best Quarter Horse halter stallions that ever lived: Kid Clu and Mr. Conclusion, as well as leading Appaloosa sire, Dreamfinder. With the untimely deaths of Mr. Conclusion in 1998 and Kid Clu in early 2001, the Quarter Horse halter world lost two highly influential sires.
The Perrys focus on breeding halter prospects to sell and own some 50 broodmares. "As halter breeders we have one of, if not the best, band of halter broodmares in the country," says Brandon. "With these mares being bred to top stallions, we hope to improve the quality of the finished product by breeding the best to the best."
Most are sold as weanlings, but there are always some yearlings and two year olds available. All of the Perrys' broodmares are Quarter Horses, except for a handful of Paints. A few foals from each crop are reserved for the Perrys to show, with the intention of later adding those individuals to the breeding program. Both Roger and Brandon show as amateurs.
Among the top horses bred by Classic Acres are The Finest Kid; Image of Kid, multiple champion; Can't Fool Patty, Congress Champion; Kids St. Patty, World Champion; Kids Star Attraction, World Champion Yearling Mare; Kidding Me, Multiple Reserve World Champion; and numerous others. Tru Blu Clu was recently named 2001 World Champion Two-Year-Old Breeding Stock Filly at the 2001 Paint World Show. Remarkably, Tru Blu Clu placed first under all five judges.
The Perrys are optimistic about the future of halter, but believe more needs to be done to support and grow the amateur interest in owning and showing halter horses. "We would like to see a halter association develop," says Roger, "to further the interests of the halter horse owner."
And should the general public consider outstanding Quarter Horse halter horses synonymous with Classic Acres, that would suit the Perry family just fine.
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