GoHorseShow is heartbroken to report the passing of the legendary western pleasure horse, Light Cruiser. The beloved gelding was euthanized due to complications associated with old age--he was 30. The 1982 grey gelding by Ima Cruiser and out of Debby Lynn Cole was a multiple AQHA World and Congress Champion in western pleasure and was inducted into the NSBA Hall of Fame in 2005. He also amassed over 900 points in the western pleasure.
Light Cruiser touched many trainers' and owners' lives including Candace Rego, Michele McNulty, May Evans Walton, Laura Gilmer, Tom Powers, Rick and Heidi Cecil, Cleve Wells and Shane Dowdy.
"What a great one! Probably the template for all the modern great lopers," says Tom Powers, who bought Light Cruiser for a customer in the '80s. "I never owned him but managed him for several years. He was third at the youth world when I trained him and very hard to beat anywhere. I saw him at the Congress when Mike Hay owned him as a three year-old and fell in love with him. Shortly after, I drove out to Iowa on Dianne Eppers' recommendation and bought him for a customer. He didn't look like much. Small flea bit grey and cocky. He would run off every time if he was not longed for a long time. Though, when properly prepared, he was a joy to ride and show."
Multiple World and Congress Champion pleasure trainer Shane Dowdy will always remember Light Cruiser. Dowdy won his first AQHA World Championship in 1993 in the Senior Western Pleasure aboard Cruiser who was 11 years old at the time.
"I was working for Cleve Wells at the time when Light Cruiser was purchased for his customer, May Evans Walton," Shane recalls. "I saw this short speckled grey gelding with a cribbing collar on and wasn't that impressed, but I quickly changed my mind after riding him. He was unbelievable to ride. I was just an assistant trainer at the time, and I won under all five judges at the AQHA World Show. It is really rare for an assistant trainer to do that---so that says a lot about his talent. When you walked in a pen with him, you definitely stood out and I learned how to be a great showman from him."
Dowdy, who choked up while talking about him, says that Light Cruiser is still the best horse he has ever shown. "He is still my favorite. He was a damn good loper and he would get better when you asked him. Some horses have limits and you can only push them so far, but with Cruiser, he just got better."
His former owner, Michele McNulty, was the first to put him on the map when she placed third at the 1989 AQHYA World Show in the Western Pleasure. It is during this time that he got the nickname "Pepe".
"He was such a character and not only loved peppermints, but got the name Pepe from Tom Powers--who was referring to his cow hopping style like PePe Le Pew when he was fired up. He could be a royal stinker!" McNulty remembers.
Candace Rego, who won the Congress and 1992 AQHYA World Show in the Western Pleasure says she will never forget how Light Cruiser changed her life.
"It was 20 years ago this month that he and I won the AQHYA World Show in the Western Pleasure. Our fellow horsewoman, Erin Brown, was the presenter and she took his bridle off, and we loped around bridleless. That was the best ride I ever had on him," Rego remembers. "He will always be remembered as one of the most talented western pleasure horses AQHA will ever see. I am a lucky girl to have known him." (pictured top left)
His last owner, Laura Gilmer, put him to rest and buried him next to her other all-time favorite horse--Son Of A Rebel. "I had always respected Cruiser ever since I laid eyes on him when I was a young girl, and I believe many trainers in the industry loved and respected his talent as well," says Laura, GoHorseShow.com's Senior Writer. "He was always a crowd favorite, and I know he was loved by many in the industry."
Trainer, Cleve Wells, who always made a point of checking in on Light Cruiser after his retirement, also had a special place in his heart for this talented gelding. "He had a good life--such a special horse, he made us all look better than we really are."
When Tom Powers came to me and my wife and daughter, and said that he had a great horse for us to buy, I wanted to see him work. Tom rode him in a class, and I noticed that he would over step his front feet in a walk, but had his head at a great angle. So we bought him, Michele then went on to put over 250 points on him in the next couple of years. A love affair of great magitude. She and he were one in the ring, and unseperatable out of it. My wife Pat, still to this day, has a special part of her heart for that horse. They were all a team. Tom's wife, Cindy was a great mentor and guide for us, she was also ellegent on him. We have not only fond memories of those years, but consider them a special part of our lives. We will definately miss him. I still have the buckles that were made for the team when he went superior. Thanks Pepe for making our lives special. Tom McNulty
I am so sorry and very deeply saddened to learn this news. He was truly one of the greats in the industry. Our animals become members of our family; it is hurtful to lose them. Unfortunately, we don't get to have them all of our lives... only all of theirs. He was blessed to have you, Laura; undoubtedly you were the best kind of friend to the end. Please know you are being held very close in thought and prayer during this painfully difficult time. Heartfelt condolences and many hugs.