BY Ann Bullard

“I knew he was special the day he was born.”

That’s the way Robby Lanier speaks of the reigning Two-Year-Old World Grand Champion, PGA. Robby and Jimmy Bratcher, are partners in Extra Leading Lady, PGA’s dam. They took the mare to the always-exciting, big – and big fronted – stallion, Seve. The colt is exactly what he was bred to be.

PGA spent the first year of his life on Lanier’s farm in Mansfield, Ga. His natural talent, combined with his personality, convinced Robby and Jimmy they had one that could go all the way.

“He always was rambunctious, tearing something up. Cocky is a very good word to describe him. Yet he never gave a minute’s trouble,” Robby said, adding the colt’s mischievous attitude led him to tear down ceiling fans and stand on his back feet to look over the top of the stall to see what is going on around him.

Robby believes in spending time with his four-legged youngsters. “A lot of people say you can spend too much time with them; that they need to be a little on the game side. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t go in the barn and put my hands on him or in the pasture to visit with him.

“All our babies have an orange traffic cone in their pens. PGA would run, buck, take and throw it over the fence. There were days I would go over there six to eight times. I think he did it so someone would come see him,” Robby said. “I wish I had taken some really good pictures of him as he was growing up.” He always loved horses…

Robby spent weekends and summers on the family farm in White Plains, Ga., where his father has a cattle operation. Walking horses were the preferred mount when they hunted quail. It was here that he developed a long-time friendship with Allan Callaway, who was training at nearby Rail, Ga.

“I was probably 17 or 18 when I bought two spotted colts for pleasure horses. When they were old enough to ride, Dad checked around and found out about Allan. The colts were delivered to Allan to be broke to ride.”

Robby continued to develop his interest in Spotted Saddle Horses. A trip to the SSHBEA World Championships convinced him this was something he wanted to do. The next year, he bought a colt and placed it in training.

“I got hooked and bought two or three more. By the end of the year, I had two or three in training with Bruce Hankins; things evolved from there. I started buying walking mares to breed to spotted stallions and to raise spotted colts,” he said.

Still, he liked the big-going walking horses; four years ago, he refocused his interests to the padded breed, while still maintaining and showing some spotted horses. He and Jimmy spent a great deal of time discussing options before deciding to have Extra’s Leading Lady be one of the first mares bred to the popular red stallion.

They couldn’t have hoped for anything better than what they have.

Life goes on…

While PGA was growing up in the fields, Robby was making some changes in his life. The family’s real estate development business kept him busy – and, most importantly, he formalized his relationship with Camille Banks, a young lady raised on a farm about 10 miles away from the Laniers. They married in October 2003.

Camille had ridden as a child, so being immersed in the walking horse business didn’t come as a total shock. Like Robby, she fell in love with PGA.

“I’d already had two horses in training and sold by Allan. When I called him, I told him, ‘I’ve got a colt I want you to start. And I’m telling you, he is the one,” Robby recalled, adding Allan’s sole response was “bring him up.”

“Camille and I had talked about it for some time,” Robby said. “In February, I decided that I would have an opportunity the next day; I told Camille, ‘let’s get up in the morning and make a turnaround trip. We’ll take him to Allan and get him started’.”

“We got up about 4:30 and got ready. The lady who feeds for us could have gotten him on the trailer; to my knowledge he’d never been on it except possibly one time to look around. We hooked up the trailer – and he walked right out the door and onto it like he knew it was time to go somewhere.

“We got to Allan’s about 10; unloaded and watched them work a couple of horses. We watched a couple more after lunch – then got back in the truck and started home. As we went past the Celebration grounds, Camille said, ‘I’ve been thinking, how long will he be up here before he can come back home’.” She was quiet when Robby replied, “The goal is for him not to come back home.”

John Allan Callaway stepped up on the colt under his Dad’s supervision. Camille and Robby made numerous trips to Tennessee to watch them work.

“It took so long to get some kind of excitement out of Allan. Finally, he told us, ‘he’ll be all right,’” Robby said.

All right indeed!

As a fall colt, PGA had a definite advantage, according to Robby. “It gave us the opportunity to take our time with him. He didn’t have to be rushed to the show ring but could spend four or five months just getting good and broke.

“The first few shows, he had a lot of mental maturity to achieve. He was still a toddler, going through the terrible twos. He was difficult to handle at times,” Robby added. “At the barn, he is just docile and laid back [although insatiably curious about what is going on around him.] The shows bring him to life. I think he likes the competition in the ring. He just blows up and blooms.”

The team made their debut April 3 at the Alabama Walking Horse Ladies Auxiliary Show in Decatur, Al. He was judged the best of five 2-year-old stallions. Gallatin, the Fun Show, Tony Rice and Dickson: he was defeated only once, tying reserve to Winky Groover and A Sensational Dumas, a team that would be reserve to PGA in the Celebration qualifier.

While Robby might be called the ‘managing general partner’ and the owner the public connects for the most part with PGA, Jimmy has been there every step of the way. “We talk over the phone a lot about the decisions I make related to Lady and PGA,” Robby said. “And I don’t think Jimmy has missed but one show this year. On days we didn’t have time to drive, we flew in to watch him. He and his wife, Elaine, love PGA as much as we do.”

In looking over the young stallion’s career, Robby summed up some of the reasons things have worked so well.

“The important thing about this colt is that he was bred, raised and still is owned by me and my partner. He was started, shown and still remains at Allan Callaway Stables, not bounced around from barn to barn. He has had some stability; we have had the faith in him the whole time."

“We knew this one was not for sale even before we started him. We always knew he would be great and wanted to see how far he could go. His natural talent combined with his love for his job make him a unique horse,” his proud owner said.

PGA went to the International and the North American Championships in Perry, Ga., to put on an exhibit. “John Allan rode him Saturday morning at the International and had him standing in the cross ties. He stood real tall and still like he was hanging out with the guys. I’m telling you, this horse knows he has done something great! It’s amazing how much he has matured mentally over the last 120 days.”

After exhibiting at Perry, this fall, Robby had the opportunity to step up on his colt. “It was quite an experience,” he said.

As for the future, PGA will remain just where he is, pointing toward his three-year-old year. Robby and Camille have a farm to run, foals to raise and mares to breed. PGA’s dam is back in foal to Seve as is one other of their mares. They purchased a full sister to Extra’s Leading Lady at the Celebration for their broodmare band. They also have some Dr. Elmer mares, half sisters to Seve, they have bred to Silver Dollar and other stallions.

Then there is an interesting two-year-old in the pasture, ready to be brought to Tennessee and the Callaways. Just wait ‘til next year.