If ever there was a horse who lived up to his name, it was Impressive. Foaled on April 15, 1968 he was destined to change the American Quarter Horse for both better and worse. His curse was also a blessing, but no one knew for years.

He was a linebred Three Bars (TB) stud with fabulous muscle definition. He won halter classes as a yearling, but didn’t start winning consistently until Blair Folck started showing him in an Arabian show halter.

Impressive was already sending a message to the Quarter Horse world. Dean Landers bought him after seeing him win another AQHA show. Impressive went on to win twenty consecutive shows. Although he earned only 48 points, he won numerous championships, grand champion titles and, in 1974 at the AQHA first World Champion show, he became the first Aged Halter World Champion Stallion.

He also made a brief appearance on the racetrack, but he was too heavy to compete well even though his pedigree showed he should have had some run in him. It was probably a blessing in disguise as we will see later.

In 1975, he debuted as the second leading AQHA halter sire, with Two Eyed Jack as the leader.
Impressive became a successful sire, commanding a $25,000 stud fee at one point. His colts had that Impressive stamp; heavy, beautifully defined natural muscling. He sired 38 World Champion Halter horses and a substantial list of other accomplishments.

I used to hang around some friends who showed Quarter Horses. One year, I was going through the horse barns at a show and we stopped to look at one particularly nice horse. He was a chestnut, like his sire Impressive, with lots of chrome. The white, or chrome, made him particularly flashy, but he could have been mud brown and still stood out from the crowd.

“This is a beautiful horse,” I said, in a true understatement.

“He should be,” Tommy replied. “They paid $30,000 for him.”

“Why would anyone pay that much for a crooked legged gelding?”

“Because they want their kids to win whatever the cost and no one wins now days without an Impressive horse.”

Beautiful as he was, the gelding had a crooked right front foot. It was plain to see in the stall, but he was also well trained and in the show ring, the girl tapped his front hoof with her boot toe until he stood square. Eventually, they worked with him enough he stood straight on his own and traveled straight, but he was still naturally a defective horse.

I don’t care for halter horses. I think the AQHA goes through fads, as any breed organization does, and at that particular time they wanted big horses with massive muscle definition and tiny feet. Horse with that much size should also have a good foundation. At any rate, Impressives were the breed standard and everyone wanted one.

Rumors floated around for a long time something might not be quite right with these wonder horses, however. Some seemed to develop colic or “tie up” with a temporary muscle paralysis more frequently than they should. Some horses simply dropped dead after one of these attacks.

More rumors. A famous stallion was about to be scandalized.

In 1996, AQHA amended the rules to require horses descended from Impressive to be tested for hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). It is a genetic disorder causing muscling twitching ranging from imperceptible to the eye to seizures causing death.

And so, the secret to the Impressive muscle cuts was discovered. The systemic “firing” of the muscles was like a permanent electronic work out. Unfortunately, heavy use, like racing, often stressed the heart enough to kill the horse.

The thing that made him famous, was also his downfall. The mutant genetic disorder was traced directly to his bloodline.

Even amongst this tragedy, there is a lesson to be learned. His get were sought because they, knowingly or unknowingly, “practiced” all the time. The tiny little charges causing the muscles to twitch refined them. A little at a time, over a long period of time, they accomplished what many trainers and horses worked endlessly to achieve.

A horse trainer may spend hours backing a horse dragging a log to build up the inside gaskin.

Is there perhaps a secret here for writers?

Sometimes we need to do that heavy dragging and those long hours riding in hills or arena work to get a horse where we want it. Others have that little twitch going on all the time to build those muscles.

We go on these writing spurts and convince ourselves we need to write furiously for a week or month. Perhaps the muse is with us and we’re afraid she will forsake us if we stop. Maybe we have a deadline, either real or self imposed. I’ve been there. I finally realized it was more important to produce a quality product than one whipped out by a certain date.

I think the success to anything is steady practice. Regardless of what we aspire to be; it will take lots of practice.

Professional athletes watch other athletes who do things right to see how they do it. So should it be with us. Read. Read some more. Read always. But, read things that are well written. Your mind soaks in their techniques. It notices how a plot evolves. It plays with the words and tumbles through the wordscapes with them. It strolls with characters, marveling at how alive they are and how much we want to live with them and share their adventures.

But we must go beyond the watching and actually enter the arena. We need to write. Not when the mood strikes us, or when the muse likes us. We must write always. Even if it’s just those little muscle twitches, we can achieve great things.

If you lose two pounds a week, by the end of the year you are one hundred pounds lighter.

If you write two hundred fifty words a day, at the end of the year you have a novel. If you write four hundred fifty words a day, you have a Julie novel.

I would challenge you at the beginning of this new year to commit, even if it’s just to twitch your way to a novel.

Write daily.

Read daily.

Find a blessing daily.

Be a blessing daily.

As they say, this is the first day of the rest of your life. What will you do with it?


  1. Julie, what a fantastic post. I never knew that about Impressive.

    And it makes a great analogy for writing.

    [If you write four hundred fifty words a day, you have a Julie novel.]

    And if you write 9,600 words a day, you have…

    I can’t say it.

  2. Although Impressive colts dominated in halter, they never really did much in the performance classes. All brawn, no brains, and a tendency to buck. Which is why the only rodeo person I know who has Impressive bred horses is a stock contractor.

    How that applies to writers, I couldn’t say, but someone who’s had more coffee could probably have some fun with it.

  3. Yes, Impressive was a very odd mixture of blessing and curse. Even if a horse tests negative, I would refuse to breed it. Impressive blood needs to be bred out of existence in my opinion.

    What I find really interesting is he was so intensely Three Bars (TB) bred and yet was a massive horse with no speed or athletic ability.

    Beth, yes, but Knife Giver is going to be the exception to the rule. Mark my words.

  4. Kari, I don’t think they did anything athletic. His colts earned a grand total of $1,658 on the track combined. There were very few points earned in any performance event, but I’m too lazy to look it up.

    He was totally unlike Three Bars (TB) who affected both racing and performance Quarter Horses as well as producing halter horses.

    Impressive couldn’t compete to earn his way out of appendix registry due to pedal osteitis and navicular. AQHA inspectors had to earn him a permanent number. So, he never had a chance one way or the other to prove he could do anything, but his offsping sure proved it. Pretty to look at, but not much good for anything else, though several did compete as pleasure horses.

    We’ll have to work on the bucking Impressives a bit. I haven’t had any coffee either.

    A barrel racer friend has an Impressive bred horse she adores, but she’s the only one I can think of.

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