Born to race

Sunbeam residents breed, train quarter horses

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In the 1980s, horse racing was still a big part of Northwest Colorado, with a fair circuit holding races in Craig, Rifle, Rangely and Grand Junction.

Vernal, Utah, Rock Springs and Casper, Wyo., had circuits as well.

That was helpful for Colleen and Veldon Behrman, residents of Sunbeam, a small town six miles north of Maybell.

The Behrmans breed racehorses on their ranch, and the nearby races gave them the opportunity to race on weekends.

"From June through the last race in Grand Junction in early October, we raced on the weekends," Colleen said. "We did really well."

Even though the races have been gone from the valley for almost 20 years, the Behrmans' love for the animals and the excitement of racing has never wavered.

Veldon was born in Vernal, Utah, and he moved to Salt Lake City at age 16. Colleen is from Salt Lake City and Murray, Utah.

The couple met, married and moved to Sunbeam in 1973.

After they showed appaloosas for a time, friends in Salt Lake City got the couple interested in racehorses.

Colleen and her husband have been breeding quarter horses since 1980.

The horses are sent each summer to Evanston, Wyo., where parimutuel betting continues at a racetrack operating there.

A matter of horse sense

Colleen said it's difficult to tell which horse will develop into an animal fit for the track.

"They've got to have a good mind. Every horse is an individual," she said. "You've got to start them and see what they're going to do. Sometimes you think you have a runner, and they turn out to be a dud."

Currently stabling four racehorses -- two 2-year-olds and two yearlings -- at their Sunbeam ranch, the Behrmans begin training the animals for races at about 2 years old.

"They go from being broke on a stock saddle to a flat saddle," Colleen said. "When they're broke, they start on the racetrack. In about 120 days, they're ready for their first race."

If the horses run, they stay up at the track through the race meet, lasting from July through Labor Day.

If they don't run fast enough to be competitive, they are sometimes turned into barrel racing horses for Colleen and her daughter, Julie Haskins.

When their horses are at the track and scheduled to race, the Behrmans head north to attend.

"We've had some nice runners. Rascoon set a 1,000-yard record there," Colleen said. "Our 2-year-olds will be going back as 3-year-olds next summer."

What's in a name

Racehorses often sport names that sound as fast as the animal itself.

C.B. Secret Fortune and Rackum Back Jack each have done well for the Behrmans.

"We had a filly here in 2002 that won three futurity races," Colleen said.

During summers at the track, the horses receive a special diet of grain mixtures and vitamins. They also work on exercise programs with trainers.

Although it's hard sometimes to sell horses she has become attached to, Colleen needs to look no further than the corrals out her window to see the future.

While Sir Runs A More sticks in Colleen's mind as a successful runner, she has a hard time naming a favorite horse after all of the horses they have raised over the years.

"I can't pick out one," she said. "We've had so many nice ones."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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