March 2007
The man behind the reins of                    

Priefert's Texas Thunder           
Jason Goodman and Priefert’s Texas Thunder
The Man at the Other End of the Reins


    The man behind Priefert Ranch Equipment's flashy team of six black Percheron Draft horses comes from a horse background few can even imagine in their wildest daydream.

     Jason Goodman, the driver for Texas Thunder, has been working with draft horses his entire life driving his first team at the age of 10.  He grew up in Northeast Wyoming, in the small town of Clairmont, Wyoming.  The Goodman ranch had Belgian Draft horses, 75 sows, 25 head of horses, mules, milk cows, chickens and goats. Unbelievably the Goodman ranch had no running water and they hauled the feed and water every day, with teams of horses. 

    As a young boy, Goodman attended the National Western Stock Show in Denver regularly with his family. That's when Goodman first saw Dick Sparrow's exhibition with the Coors Belgian 6-horse hitch…wide open.  

At that time, Goodman told his father, “Some day I'm going to do that.”  Little did he know at that time that he would do that, but also that his life would be intertwined with Dick Sparrow and his family.

During his last 2 years of high school Goodman worked as a wagon train outfitter for a few years along with driving teams at home doing chores.  While outfitting he met R.J. Walker, the Head Equine Manager of the Kentucky Horse Park.  Walker also broke and trained his own horse and his wife was a harness maker.  As soon as Goodman graduated from high school Goodman he went to work at the Kentucky Horse Park and moved in with R.J. Walker and his family.  Goodman worked for 2 years at the Kentucky Horse Park driving 4-hand teams of Hackney and Gelderlanders (Dutch Warmblood Coach Horse) and also 4-hand teams of Belgians and Percherons.  He drove in many of the park parades and tours…making $5.25 per hour with no overtime.

    The World Championship Belgian Horse Show was held at the Kentucky Horse Park where the top Belgian breeders and teamsters would be in attendance.  Goodman applied for a job with Dick Sparrow of Sparrow Farms in Zearing, Iowa.  Sparrow was well known for breeding and training Belgian horses gained a reputation as the nations best driver of draft horses, and in 1976 earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records driving a 40-horse hitch.

Goodman secured a job with Sparrow Farms and hit the road immediately as the lead outrider for the hitch to the Kansas City Royal, National Western Stock Show and 22 parades for Margi Gras.  As the lead outrider, Goodman’s job was to keep the people back from the hitch and have to lift any reins that became misplaced.
The first summer he worked for Sparrow Farms, Goodman drove the Sparrow's 40-horse hitch twice as he in line to be the backup parade driver.

Goodman explained that with a 40-horse hitch he had 5 lines in each hand with teams 4-horse abreast and 10 rows.  Goodman had lines to teams 1, 2, 5, 8 and 10 and the other teams were secured with bucklines and bit-to-bits and lead lines.  

“When you drive enough, it's like driving a vehicle, you don't even have to think about which reins to use,” said Goodman.  “It's like driving a car if someone slams on the breaks ahead of you, you don't have to look down to see where the break pedal is, you just react and do what you have to do.”

In 1997 Goodman married Rose Sparrow, Dick Sparrow's youngest daughter.  After they married they moved to Fort Collins, Colorado.  Goodman worked as an outside yard manager for a lumber yard, while Rose worked in a bank.

The Goodman’s went around to the area Draft Horse Shows helping show horses.  Around that time Goodman started shoeing draft horses and was shoeing 4 different competition hitches.  One of the hitches they helped was the Brookheart Lumber hitch.  Brookheart had a Percheron team that made the rounds to their 9 stores for advertising.

In the Spring of 2002 Brookheart Lumbert put their hitch up for sale and Bill Priefert bought the Brookheart hitch and moved them, Jason and Rose to Mt. Pleasant, Texas to the Priefert Ranch.

When Priefert took over the hitch, the right-hand wheel horse was Goliath, a 19.1 hand.  Goliath was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest horse in the world.  Goliath subsequently came off the hitch and separately toured for Priefert.

In 2004 the North American Belgian Championship Show in London, Ontario held the World's Largest Horse Contest.  The horse that won that contest was Radar standing at 19 hands, 3.5 inches and owned by Double Tail Farms in North Carolina.  When Radar was measured and certified as the largest horse in the world, Priefert started getting calls about this new horse that was bigger than Goliath.  Goodman and Nate Priefert headed to Double Tail Farms to take a look at Radar.  They asked the owner if Radar was for sale.  The owner said the Radar was only for sale with his hitch-mate, Dan  – so Priefert bought the pair.

Radar went into the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest horse in the world.  Goliath now enjoys a life of leisure at the Priefert Ranch as Radar takes over the tour Largest Horse in the World circuit for Priefert.

When Texas Thunder started, the first thing Goodman did with Priefert was hire Jamie Sparrow, Dick's oldest grandson – Jamie could shoe, drive an 18-wheeler and drive the hitch.  So with Jason, Rose and Jamie and one other employee they hit the road.

The Priefert Texas Thunder hitch officially hit the road on May 1, 2002.  Goodman had 10 days to get ready for the their first exhibition in the Stevensville, Texas rodeo on May 10th.

    Priefert knew they had to come up with a different nitch…something different One of the biggest things Goodman and Priefert wanted to do with Texas Thunder was to have both flash and a speed exhibition.  Those fast figure 8’s are really something with 19 hand, 2,200 pound horses that can side pass and jump that quickly.  They found their nitch.

The first year Texas Thunder hitched 82 times in full dress, the next year 98, the next 119, the next year 159 and this past year 161 times.

    This year Goodman received his PRCA Specialty Act Card and will be Roman Riding with the Percherons…another skill he learned while at Sparrow Farms. 

    With the Sparrows Roman Riding was part of the show with the 40-horse hitch – one son would roman ride, one would drive a team, then they would drive a 4-horse hitch, then a 6-horse hitch. and Dick would close the exhibition with the 40-horse hitch.

    Fall before last Alvin going through the computer saw a guy roman riding 4 horses. 

“I can drive 8 and I can ride a pair,” said Goodman to Alvin.  “Go get 4 horses out and let's see how hard it is.  Alvin opened the gate and away we went.  I drove out of the barn and came back in.”

Goodman set a goal that he wanted to Roman Ride at the World Percheron Congress in Lexington, Virginia.  Just before the show…a week before the show, Goodman started Roman Riding on a team of 6.  On the main night of the show, he Roman Rode a team of 6 to open the show. 

    Texas Thunder hasn’t hitched a whole lot in Texas.  As far as marketing, Priefert is very well known within the Texas.  Most of the Texas Thunder exhibitions are located in Montana, Wyoming and other western states to get the Priefert name and products better known outside of Texas. 

    In December Texas Thunder performed at the National Finals Rodeo – there have never been any draft horses at the NFR – a first for Priefert.

    The arena was black housed with dense fog back lighted at the entrance to the arena.  The audience could only see the fog and heard the wind and sounds like a storm blowing in.  There were 4-6 machines in the ceiling of the arena blowing out bubbles and 2 microphones hung low on the horses…so the audience heard the rumbling, but didn't know what was coming.  The first 2 horses popped through the fog, then the next two, then the wheel horses and the wagon.  Needless to say, Texas Thunder blew away the crowd at the National Finals Rodeo.

    “That was huge Priefert, Texas Thunder and the Percheron breed,” said Goodman.
   If you missed Texas Thunder at the 2007 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, you can see them again
at the George Strait Team Roping at the San Antonio Rose Palace March 23-24, 2007.
 To view the tour schedule for Priefert’s Texas Thunder or Radar, the World's Largest Horse,
visit www.Priefert.com or call 800-527-8616.
   
   

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