Royally bred, exceptionally athletic, and gorgeously made, Ebony Shines was born belonging in the upper echelon of reining horses. Shown only a handful of times herself, she earned $25,399.36 in the show pen under the guiding hand of National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Professional Jerry Fowler for then-owner Howard Mann. Now 23 and a veteran broodmare at Sterling Ranch for NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner Rosanne Sternberg, her track record as a proven producer of money earners has only served to cement her place among reining royalty.
The 1999 palomino daughter of Shining Spark out of Ebony Whiz, a daughter of Topsail Whiz, officially made history in 2018 when she became the first-ever NRHA One Million Dollar Dam.
We know that breeding horses can be a bit of a crapshoot,” said Sternberg, who purchased the mare from Howard Mann in 2008. “Some mares can be really good individuals in their own right, but not produce. Ebony Shines had a limited show career. But she was a very quick-footed, pretty, and balanced mare. And she has passed that on. When you’re choosing successful mares, you have to look at the pedigree, but also how the horse itself is made, how it behaves, and what its performance capabilities are.”
In training and in the show pen, Ebony Shines was extraordinarily sensitive, but in the right hands, that sensitivity became the spark she needed to excel. According to Sternberg, that spark is present in many of her money-earning offspring – and it’s the key to their greatness.
“Like Ebony Shines, Shiners Chic, her son by Smart Chic Olena, is a very sensitive individual, and several of her other foals are the same way. But once you convince them to remain focused while showing, the rest is history. They’re fiery horses, but during showing, they can become phenomenal,” Sternberg said.
Glimpses of Greatness
NRHA Professional Jerry Fowler of Florence, Montana, counts Ebony Shines as one of the horses who forever altered the way he trains horses.
“Howard Mann brought her to me to train, and when I got her, she was electric,” Fowler recounted. “Any little thing could set her off and she’d get worried. Her head was always in the air. She was a feely mare. It took me two months just to get her to lope a circle without worrying.”
The trainer quickly realized that training a horse as sensitive as Ebony Shines would require a different approach, and it was an approach that would take a lot of time and patience.
“When Howard came and asked me what I thought about the mare after a couple of months, I told him, ‘I believe this mare has more talent than any horse I’ve ever ridden. I think I can get her, but it’s going to take me a year and a half before she’s ready to show,’” Fowler said. “Howard looked at me and said, ‘Do it.’”
With Mann’s blessing, Fowler got to work.
“The only way I got her trained was that I didn’t trust in my own abilities,” Fowler said. “I’m a Christian, so I asked the Lord what I needed to do to train this mare. And He showed me that I should train her on the days she wanted to be trained, and to give her free time on the days she didn’t want to be trained. On the days that she wanted to work, she’d give me glimpses of greatness. I just knew I needed to gain her trust to access that.”
Training Ebony Shines that way took time, but it was time well spent. When Fowler and the palomino mare finally made it to the show pen, they showed the world just what she was capable of. At the 2004 NRHA Derby, they won the level (L)2 Open Championship as well as taking home an L3 Reserve Championship and an L4 Top Ten Finish. They also competed in the National Reining Breeders Classic and the South Country Derby. At age six, Mann decided to retire Ebony Shines to the breeding shed.
“Royally bred as she is, Ebony Shines is an incredible individual,” Fowler said. “The beauty of what makes her great is that all her foals seem to have her athletic lock-and-load capability without all the flee. That’s what makes them great. When you call on them, they’ll go above and beyond.”
The Future is Bright
In addition to becoming the NRHA’s first Million Dollar Dam, Ebony Shines is a 2016 member of the NRHA Hall of Fame and an Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Producer. Some of her most notable offspring include Shiners Chic, Shine N Spook, Shine Chic Shine, Hang Ten And Shine, Shiners Whizard, and Smart Shiners Spook. She lives at Sterling Ranch in Aubrey, Texas, in what Sternberg calls the “Million Dollar Mare Paddock,” along with several other mares of her age group.
“Now that intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has become a major breeding tool, we’re fortunate to be able to get more than one foal out of her per year,” Sternberg said. “We’d like her to become a $2 Million Dollar Mare someday, and we think that she will. She’s got quite a few foals showing around the world, and another ten that will come up to show age this year. In fact, one of her three-year-olds this year is called The Future is Bright. If you can buy a foal out of Ebony Shines, you should go ahead and do it. This mare is incredible, and when we do offer foals out of her for sale, they sell very quickly.”