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Rugged Lark
Written by Presley White

Where do you begin with a horse that was as amazing and versatile as Rugged Lark? He was truly an amazing athlete competing in events in western and English. A two time AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) Superhorse, and the only superhorse to sire a super horse, but how did this amazing animal come to be? Well here is his story.

Rugged Lark was born in 1981. His sire was the thoroughbred Regally Rugged, by Roughn Tumble winner of the Primer Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. His dam was the brilliant Alisa Lark, she was World Champion (1978),Reserve World Champion (1977 & 1978), Top Ten World Show (1976 & 1977), Superior Performance (1977 & 1978), AQHA High Point Performance Horse (1977 & 1978), AQHA Champion (1976 & 1978), ROM Performance (1974, 1977 & 1979), and a Performance Point Earner. Alisa Lark was by LeoLark who went back to the great Leo. Alisa Lark’s dam went back to the stunning Joe Hancock. Rugged Lark definitely had the pedigree for greatness, and he lived up to it.

When his owners, the Striegels, bred Regally Rugged and Alisa Lark they were hoping for a filly so they decided that it would be best to sell the colt. Alisa Lark and her colt were being kept at Carol Harris’s ranch the Bo-Bett Ranch. Harris had been searching the country looking for a future outcross stallion to breed to her mares. One day while she was looking out into the paddock at the bay colt the realization hit her that the horse she had been looking for was right on her own farm. He had a great conformation with a fine head and neck and large eyes.

The next morning Harris called the Striegels and told them that she had found a buyer who would pay what they were asking. When they asked who it was she informed them that it was Harris herself who would take the colt. Harris had used her own instinct and in the long run it would most certainly pay off.

When Rugged Lark was two, the two trainers of the Bo-Bett Ranch, Mike Corrington and Lynn Salvatori Palm, broke him and began training him. As a two year old he was lightly shown in western pleasure, but this would only be the begging of a very memorable show career.

Corrington believed that Lark’s true calling was reining. He was proved right when Rugged Lark won the pre-futurities in Louisville, Kentucky. He instantly became the favorite to win the reining futurity at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, he was also, by Harris’s instinct was also entered into the hunt-seat futurity. While doing his reining pattern he over spun, which disqualified him, Harris was devastated. His sliding shoes were removed and his mane was platted, he looked like a completely different horse in only one hour.

Lynn Palm was to ride the horse in the Hunt seat futurity. He looked and acted as though the only thing that he had ever known was being a hunter. The judges loved the performance and gave him the winning score in both go-rounds of the competition against two hundred of the best hunt seat three year olds of the time. This was the highlight of Lark’s young career.

Harris was quoted saying, “Lynn fell in love with Lark on that day, so I let her take him home with her after the show." Palm took Rugged Lark to her home in Bessemer, Michigan where she along with him founded Royal Palm Ranch. Palm taught Lark to be an all around performer by using dressage skills that she had previously learned. Palm’s training obviously worked, because in Larks four year old year he qualified to the AQHA World Show in six events!

Competing against the best American Quarter Horses, he brought home the world championship in pleasure driving, a third place in junior reining and fifth-place finishes in the junior trail horse, junior hunter under saddle, junior hunter hack and junior working hunter classes. All of which earned Lark the title of Superhorse, an honor given to the horse * the highest number of points in the most events at the World Championships every year. Palm stated that the Superhorse win was her best victory because Rugged Lark was still so young.

In 1986, Lark would have been in the AQHA World Show but, Harris his owner was judging, deeming him ineligible to compete in it. But in 1987 Harris entered Lark into the AQHA World Show to attempt the unprecedented second Superhorse Title. Once again her instincts were correct, for in the 1987 World Show Lark scored higher than he had in 1985, and won a second Superhorse Title.

"It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life," says Palm. "I knew that Carol would retire Lark from showing after the World, and when I rode forward to accept the award, I was just bawling. Carol had given me six years with this horse-the horse of a lifetime. I was overcome with emotion."

Suddenly, Palm slipped off Lark’s bridle and rode him to receive his award. The crowd stood up in applause. Lark was retired from competition immediately after receiving his Superhorse Trophy. He did, although, continue entertaining audiences at exhibitions and was later named the AQHA Ambassador to the United States Equestrian Team.

In the years after his retirement Rugged Lark became the only Superhorse to sire a Superhorse when his son. The Lark Ascending. won the award in 1991. Then. Rugged Lark sired another Superhorse, named Look Whos Larkin, who won the Superhorse title in 1999. Rugged Lark was euthanized on October 26, 2004 due to complications of colic at the age of twenty-three. He was later inducted into the AQHA hall of fame in 2006 only two years after his death. Rugged Lark will remain in the hearts of owner Carol Harris and trainer Lynn Palm, and in the hearts of all AQHA members and horse lovers all over the world.