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Katie Van Slyke Purchases Royally Bred Stallion Prospect First Thingz First

Congrats to Katie Van Slyke on the purchase of First Thingz First. Katie has big plans for this outstanding stallion prospect. Find out what all she has in store for his future.

Congress Champion breeder Katie Van Slyke of Running Springs Quarter Horse & Cattle Co. has been making waves since purchasing VS Code Red last August. But, she was making a name for herself long before then with her social media empire, which features daily ranch life – from animal husbandry to breeding to the joys and heartbreaks of horse ownership. 

Recently, she teased that she had added another animal to her farm, and her followers waited with bated breath for more details. Was it a miniature horse, a show horse, a goat, or, yes, there was even speculation she’d purchased a capybara from Highpoint Performance Horses.

Last week, Katie put the rumors to rest, announcing that she had purchased the three-year-old stallion First Thingz First (RL Best of Sudden x VS The First Lady), aka “Denver,” from Kevin and Amy Smith of Capall Creek Farm. 

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Van Slyke introduced Denver to her followers with a quick riding video, and she set tongues wagging about his future show career under the guidance of Aaron Moses Show Horses and his potential as a breeding stallion. We spoke with Katie to get the scoop on her plans for this promising colt’s future.

The Perfect Pairing
The best way to look to the future is to understand the past. And Denver has quite the pedigree power behind him.

The Smith family bred him at Capall Creek Farm in North Carolina. While his sire, RL Best Of Sudden may need no introduction, his dam, VS The First Lady (aka “Kennedy”) is also an incredibly accomplished mare in her own right. She is by VS Code Red, now owned by Van Slyke, and is out of the great-producing mare, Cool Lookin Lady.

Kennedy won the AQHA Congress Masters Western Pleasure with Aaron Moses, and then the Smiths purchased her from Kristen Galyean for their daughter, Paige, to show. Paige and Kennedy found amazing success together, becoming AQHYA Reserve World Champions. Kennedy won over $50,000 in her career, and Amy says it was a “no-brainer” that RL Best Of Sudden would be a fantastic cross with her.

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Amy gushes, “Denver was special from day one. He was a big, beautiful colt with loads of personality and was easy to work with. With his conformation, talent, demeanor, and pedigree, we knew that he was destined for greatness.”

The Smiths are continuing to breed a limited number of quality Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle prospects, but are reducing their pleasure horse operation in favor of emphasizing their cutting horses. As a result, they decided to offer Denver to someone who would make sure his potential was realized.

Match Made in Heaven
“I had previously purchased a horse from the Smiths, and I have a lot of respect for their breeding operation,” Van Slyke tells us. 

“I had seen a video of Denver as a two-year-old online, and it blew me away,” she laughs. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s a really nice colt. I’ll have to keep an eye out for him in the pen.’”

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Fast-forward a year, and Katie was scrolling her social media feed when she saw that Amy had posted a video of Denver saying he would be available to the right buyer. 

“I saw that Denver would be for sale, and I had a strong gut feeling about him. I wasn’t actively looking for something like him, but I knew I had to inquire about him. I mentioned it to my husband and contacted Amy that night with my interest.” 

Katie smiles, “The whole process didn’t take long because we were ordering a pre-purchase exam for the following morning.”

Van Slyke believes this was meant to be because, without even knowing it, Denver (pictured right as a weanling) had a very special connection to her breeding program beyond his grandsire, VS Code Red.

Van Slyke explains, “Denver’s grand-dam, Cool Lookin Lady is a full sister to my mare Im Cool Lookin (“Cool”). Sadly, we lost Cool and her foal this year to foaling complications. She was carrying the baby by VS Code Red, making it a full sibling on paper to VS The First Lady – Denver’s dam.”

She continues, “What’s crazy is, I didn’t know that connection when I first had an interest in Denver, but once that became apparent, I knew it was meant to be.”

Amy believes Denver couldn’t have found a better home to let his light shine. “I hope Denver goes on to become an amazing show horse. We trust that Katie will put him in a position to find the success we believe he is capable of. We know she loves her horses, and, more than anything, I want a happy life for all my babies, so this was a win-win.”

2024 Show Season
Van Slyke says we will see Denver’s maiden voyage into the pen this year. 

“Our overall goal is for him to show in the Three-Year-Old Pleasure Versatility Challenge at the AQHA World Show. He has such a beautiful lead change; he is great over poles, and we expect him to do well in the performance halter.”

Denver will remain with Aaron Moses Performance Horses, which Moses admits was a hope for him as he loves working with him.

“I could tell Denver was special from the first time I saw him. He’s one of those horses that you know he’s gonna do something great before you know what it is,” Aaron told us. “Kevin and Amy Smith are so supportive and great to work with. They let him develop at his own pace, and I’m so excited that Katie bought him and decided to keep him with me. He’s a fun horse, and I’m looking forward to watching his future unfold.”

Future Stallion Career
Van Slyke intends for Denver to stand to a limited book of mares in 2025, as she hopes to continue showing him next year.

“I want to be able to show him myself,” Van Slyke exclaims. “I’m a non-pro, limited rider and have never had a show horse of this caliber before. I want to get the chance to be a part of Denver’s career from the outset and as he moves into a career as a stallion. It is a dream come true.”

“I know I’m new to stallion ownership,” Van Slyke admits, “But I feel so blessed and confident to have the team at Highpoint Performance Horses guiding me on this journey. They have been instrumental in my ability to continue managing VS Code Red successfully, and I know they will also be an incredible resource for managing Denver. I cannot thank them enough, and I certainly wouldn’t put myself in a position to own a young stallion without them.”

Van Slyke is already a believer in Denver, not simply due to is obvious talent and dashing good looks, but she is mostly in love with his attitude. 

She says, “I was with him all week, walking him around without a chain, grazing him with mares in the field nearby, and riding him with mares in the arena. I haven’t ridden in a while, and I haven’t ridden a green horse in even longer, but he was so honest and a gentleman. They told me he was sweet, but he is like a puppy dog.” 

“Some people overlook a stallion’s mind in favor of their talent and flashiness. And, while I love a good-looking stallion, I refuse to own one that isn’t easy to be around. I want something that is amateur-friendly and will sire amateur-friendly babies.”

She continues, “I feel like Denver has all the pieces of the puzzle to set him up for success. He’s very striking with his dark roan coat and correct conformation. He’s incredibly kind and talented. And I think he will make a phenomenal show horse, particularly in Western Riding. It’s just a matter of proving that in the pen. I know this is the beginning of something great, and I can’t wait to share him with the world.”


About the Author:  Megan Rechberg is a World Champion pleasure horse enthusiast who works as a full-time mom, part-time litigation attorney, and owner/operator of Bred N Butter Equine Management – a company that focuses on social media management for stallions, consulting, and sales and breeding contracts. She currently shows her APHA filly SmoreThanA PrettyFace under the guidance of Double A Performance Horses.
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