Scottie Johnson is no stranger to fast horses. A lifetime of love, or some may call it obsession, has landed the veteran equine enthusiast where she is today with one of the best breeding programs in the country.
“We always had horses growing up, I’m pretty sure for my whole life the only time I didn’t have them was in college,” Johnson explained. “I started on the race track at the bottom as a stall mucker, but my aim was to ride races. I was one of the lucky ones and got to fulfill that dream and it was amazing! I was privileged to ride with the likes of Julie Krone, Donna Barton, Bill Shoemaker, and some other greats.”
Injuries would eventually force Johnson down another path, including training and raising her own race horses, and a real job at FedEx for 12 years.
“Thoroughbreds were my first love,” Johnson explained, “I had a couple of thoroughbred mares at the breeding farm where Judge Cash stood, and they were along my route when I worked for FedEx as a driver. I would stop on my breaks and they’d let me watch them work; I am a lab rat at heart and was fascinated by the repro stuff. That fascination drew me from the thoroughbred side of things to quarter horses, and that is how I wound up with Judge Cash.”
Johnson was the steward of the prolific sire, Judge Cash, for nearly 17 years. He is a household name in barrel racing bloodlines that needs no introduction and was the beginning of the breeding program Johnson continues to grow today.
Self-taught by trade, Johnson managed to become proficient in standing her own stallions as well as her clients’; collecting studs, freezing semen, breeding the mares, and eventually doing her own embryo transfers.
“All of the breeding processes is a total adrenaline rush,” Johnson said, “it’s so exciting, it’s such a big deal to do it from start to finish and get the final product when the baby hits the ground.”
Though she had tremendous success with Judge Cash, it was just the beginning of her Cross Country Ranch breeding program. She knew she would eventually need a junior sire to take the Judge’s place and fill the very large shoes he’d leave behind. That was how Johnson found Mulberry Fame.
In 2016 Johnson came across a sale advertisement posted for the 2012 liver chestnut stallion. He was owned by Minnesota natives, Staci and Pat Fruth, at the time.
“We wrote back and forth to each other for a while,” Staci said, “weeks later she called me and said she’d picked me out of all the people who had been interested in him, and now through owning Church we have become great friends.”
Church, as Mulberry Fame is affectionately known, is what Johnson considered the epitome of the best bloodlines in the barrel racing industry. Sired by the legendary Dash Ta Fame, and out of the equally legendary Mulberry Canyon Moon, both are tremendous producers in the barrel racing arena.
“He has the best pedigree there is on paper,” Johnson affirmed, “but when I flew out to see him the first time, what really sold me is how good his feet and bone were. He had a big deep hip, and a good mind, the kind of stuff that really impresses you.”
But other than his designer breeding and good looks, there is an even cooler story about this special stallion and his very special barn name, Church.
To understand, we have to travel back in time to Minnesota and the Fruth family, Church’s previous owners.
Staci Fruth’s daughter, Chloe, was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of two. For the majority of her life, Chloe would battle this terrible illness, beating it several times, and still managing to be one of the best youth barrel racers in the country under the guidance of Kassie Mowry. Chloe was a champion, winning titles at AQHA congress and many other barrel racing events. But she didn’t just win inside the arena, she won outside too against the cancer multiple times, and served as a bright and shining light to everyone around her.
Sadly, Chloe would lose her ongoing battle with cancer at the age of 16.
“Church was bought out of a Texas yearling auction,” Staci Fruth explained, “Kassie Mowry was my agent, and
we didn’t even have a bidding number when we decided to try and buy him. After the auction was over, we both realized that Church was born on the day that Chloe died.”
Surely this beautiful stallion was a sign from Chloe in heaven to her mother, a shining star after so much sadness.
“I was honored that Scottie believed Church was the junior sire she needed to follow the great Judge Cash,” Fruth added, “I named him Church because—at that time in my life after losing Chloe—I truly needed some faith, and only the fastest girls sit in the front pew.”
Church is in many ways a reminder that we can find faith, hope, and love even in the darkest times that we face. Chloe’s legacy remains strong, and Johnson is determined to help carry it on with Church. Chloe’s family also continues to honor their daughter with Chloe’s Courage Fund; created to impact children and families facing a life-threatening illness by promoting courage and celebrating bravery.
“Chloe was an incredible person inside and out,” Johnson said, “even when she was sick she was finding ways to encourage other kids who were in the hospital. That’s how Chloe’s Courage Fund came about.”
Chloe Fruth recognized the power that the promise of a trophy could grant after having been awarded one by her favorite nurse as a remedy to her struggles with chemotherapy when she was 4. It gave her the strength to complete the intense and painful treatments and “win” the trophy. Years later, after her cancer returned, it was Chloe’s dying wish that her dream of sharing trophies with other children courageously facing treatment be carried on. In fact, Chloe’s dream was for her courage fund to support kids nationwide, and today it does.
It really is incredible how horses can bring so many people, from so many walks of life, closer together for a cause much greater than themselves. Thanks to Chloe’s love of barrel racing, and Staci’s love of her daughter, Church wound up in the capable hands of Johnson where he will hopefully continue to shine as a sire for many years to come. In his own way, continuing Chloe’s legacy in the arena through his colts and the people who love them.
For more information about Chloe’s Courage Fund, you can visit their website: www.chloescouragefund.org
For more information about Cross Country Ranch and Scottie Johnson’s tremendous lineup of stallions (Mulberry Fame, Flingin Dinero, Pieorities, and Judge Cash) you can visit the ranch’s website: crosscountryranch.com
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