LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


A very exciting announcement was made on January 17 in Oklahoma City as the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) named Jon and Donna McPherson’s Grant Farms LLC as 2018 AQHA Champion Breeder.

Their farm in Pineville, Louisiana, has produced excellent Quarter Horses for decades, but their results in 2018 were incredibly impressive. Grant Farms bred Pilot Points Moon, Badhabit Jess and Moonflash Numbers, finalists to the $3 million All American Futurity (G1) at Ruidoso Downs and Jon and Donna McPherson bred MpShinning, the winner of the richest racing in Louisiana, the LQHBA Louisiana Million.

It was the first time in history that a Louisiana breeder topped the list dominated by noted breeders including Ed Allred, Vessels Stallion Farm LLC, Bobby D. Cox and Jerry Windham.

“I thought the numbers were there,” she said. “But, I wasn’t sure how the voting would go as some were in our name and others listed under Grant Farms. But, this was the best crop we had ever raised; more colts than fillies, and they went to good owners and trainers.”

The Growth of Grant Farms

The success of the McPhersons and Grant Farms is built on a rich history and impeccable attention to detail. The farm was originally called LJ Farms, founded by Donna’s father, Louis P. Harrell. Sadly, he was attacked by a Simmental, one of the largest cattle breeds, in a tragic accident in 1994; the 69-year-old sadly lost his life in that accident.

“Daddy was more of a businessman than a cowboy and should not have been by himself that day,” said McPherson. “His death was a terrible tragedy, but it was very important for us to continue, especially for mama (Jerrine).”

McPherson explained that the property was renamed as Grant Farms for tax reasons and the family forged on, not just with breeding, but with the continuation of CCI, a company founded by Harrell. CCI is a healthcare organization, which offers which offers skilled nursing facilities, geriatric behavioral healthcare, hospice care and nurse practitioners among its services. Donna McPherson serves as its President and Chairwoman, overseeing its 2,000 employees. It’s exhausting to image what a typical day is like for McPherson, but then she wraps it up with a fascinating nighttime ritual. She heads to bed with a list of mares and her stallion register, studying intently in search of the next perfect cross.

“So many mares; it’s something I work on year-round,” she said.

But the lack of sleep is worth the joy McPherson has when each precious foal is born.

“My favorite thing is seeing those foals and what the cross ended up looking like,” she explained with pride.

With a full-time staff of seven and more help during foaling season, there is no detail that goes unnoticed by McPherson and her husband of 44 years, Jon.

Natalie Montgomery, DVM, who has bred several finalists for the LQHBA Louisiana Million as well multiple LQHBA champion and AQHA Champion Stallion, Open Me A Corona, has enjoyed a long term association with Grant Farms.

“I have done their vet work for 15 years and cannot say enough good things about Jon and Donna,” said Montgomery. “They are really dedicated and have an excellent team, that no matter how bone tired and weary they are, will always go the extra mile.”

There is tremendous joy in the healthy newborns and incredible sadness when tragedy occurs during the birth.

“I believe I have more nurse mares on the farm that anyone in Louisiana,” explained McPherson. “The babies do so much better nursing than bottle-fed.”

She smiles when she mentions one of her best nurse mares, affectionately referred to as “Bossy.”

“She has feet like big pancakes, and was one of the best investments I’ve ever made,” said McPherson. "

All American Derby and Futurity

Grant Farms bred several horses who qualified for the finals of both the All American Derby and Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. In 2013, Point Break Dash, who they bred and owned, was the third-fastest qualifier to the All American Derby (G1). The next year, they set the fastest time in the rich race for 3-year-olds with Big Dashing Perry, who they co-owned with Tommy Hays and Bobby Barnett.

“It was very exciting,” said McPherson. “You dream of breeding quality horses, but sometimes it seems like an impossible dream!”

McPherson openly says that she is “not big into racing” and gets nervous watching her homebreds run. However, she has no qualms about mentioning favorites and following their path to success. Jest Famous, a son of Mr Jess Perry out of the Corona Cartel mare Famous Corona Lady, fit that bill. McPherson paid $170,000 for Famous Corona Lady as she wanted a Corona Cartel mare in her broodmare band. The cross worked well and McPherson saw Jest Famous develop into a big juvenile for owner MRB Racing LLC and trainer Blane Wood.

“I called Blane and told him the horse looked too skinny to me,” recalled McPherson. “Blane replied that he was a big horse and he was trying to keep his weight down. We joked back and forth all year about that horse; Blane knew he was kind of my favorite.”

Jest Famous made seven starts in 2018, competing in trials for four futurities and finishing the year with a nice score in the $150,000 Southwest Juvenile (G1) at Zia Park.

"At the beginning of the year, we felt this horse was in the top four of all of our 2-year-old prospects,” said Wood in the post-race interview. “This horse is huge and he's just now figuring it out."

Louisiana Success

Grant Farms is a strong consignor each year in the LQHBA Yearling Sale, and have bred runners who have been prominent in the richest race in Louisiana, the LQHBA Louisiana Million. Past finalists have included Marcys Prize Dashing in 2013 and Patriot Heart in 2014.

However, their finest showing in the LQHBA Louisiana Million came last December when fastest qualifier Mpshinning drew off impressively in the December 15 final.

The son of All American Futurity champion Mr Piloto out of the First To Shine mare, Shinningperrydash was foaled on January 19, 2016.

“He stood out and kind of caught your eye,” recalled McPherson. “He was a very good weanling and matured nicely as a yearling.”

Larry Boudreaux, an oil and gas inspector who resides in Sulphur, Louisiana, has owned Quarter Horses since 1990. He had some prospects on his radar at the 2017 LQHBA Yearling Sale, but Mpshinning was definitely one of the ones he wanted.

“I liked what I saw,” recalled Boudreaux. “He was a big, strong colt; already over 15 hands as a yearling. Donna and Jon would have bought him back if he didn’t bring $25,000 and they have bred some pretty nice horses.”

Boudreaux purchased Mpshinning for $27,000; he completed his 2-year-old campaign with a record of six wins from eight starts and earnings of $591,654. To date, Mpshinning stands as the highest money earner bred by Grant Farms.

“I congratulate the McPhersons on the success of their breeding program,” said Boudreaux. “Even at the sale, all of the yearlings looked good and you could tell that they had been well cared for and handled.”

Tony Patterson, executive director of LQHBA, adds his congratulations to Jon and Donna.

“Grant Farms has continued to breed quality Quarter Horses and our association is incredibly proud of them for this honor,” said Patterson. “Their commitment to Louisiana breeding and racing is very special and to be recognized as the nation’s top breeder is a remarkable milestone!”

The Next Generation

Jon and Donna have three daughters. Donna delights when talking about her 12-year-old grandson, Jon Louis Schneider, who already has a passion for Quarter Horses. However, he might need a little more experience dealing with one important facet of the breeding business.

“We sold one of his favorites last year and about broke his heart,” recalled McPherson.

Some lessons are harder to learn than others, but young Jon could not have better educators than his grandparents.

We congratulate the McPhersons on their outstanding achievements and look forward to the next crop from Grant Farms!

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.