The huge statue sitting in the walkway of the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas of Benny Binion on his horse, Trece, has […]
2022 PRCA Vet of the Year: Gregg Veneklasen
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
There are many royal bloodline mares living at Timber Creek Veterinary in Canyon, Texas. And thanks to the work of Dr. Gregg Veneklasen, great geldings like Harry Vold’s Bobby Joe, have been cloned. Match that gelding daddy to the eggs of the amazing royalty of mares and the resulting embryos are producing horses truly born to buck.
Gregg, or Dr. Rodeo, Veneklasen received his DVM from Colorado State University in 1983 and headed to Texas on a bet by one of his teachers. “They needed a vet at the 3 Bar D ranch in Canadian, Texas,” he explained. “I didn’t even know where that was. I wanted to be a wildlife vet.”
Glenn Blodgett was the veterinarian for 3 Bar D ranch and his lifelong dream was to go to the 6666s. “He hired me to be the vet on the ranch. He stayed with me for six weeks.” Dan and Jolene Urschel, owners of 3 Bar D, were looking for a veterinarian and that first year, Gregg (who had never foaled out a mare) foaled out over 200 mares. He bred over 250 mares the first year. “I bred all the living world champion race mares that first year.” He also did all the racetrack lameness on the ranch. They had just syndicated Special Effort for 15 million. “I was a little guy from Colorado State University and Dan and Jolene took very good care of me. It was a ‘deer in headlight’ feeling.
“Little did I know that the good Lord was showing me my journey. You can have lots of stuff and still have nothing.” He left 3 Bar D and spent two breeding seasons with Joe Kirk Fulton. “Between those two jobs, I met my wife, Peggy. She had worked with me at 3 Bar D and we decided to do this thing together. She had a daughter, Jennifer, and I adopted her.” They had three more children, Carolyn, Andrew, and LG – Little Gregg, all born and raised in Canyon, Texas. “A classmate, Jeff Young, and I came back to Canyon and leased this clinic (Timber Creek Veterinary).” They bought the clinic in 1993. “We were truly a rural mix practice, trying to make it work.”
That’s when he met Brenda (Binion) Michael. “She had a great cutting horse and was tired of going to Weatherford from Amarillo for all her vet work, and I told her we could do it, including embryos.”
Brenda and her daughter, Mindy, and son-in-law, 4x World Champion Saddle Bronc rider, Clint Johnson, introduced Gregg to rodeo. “I was never really ate up about rodeo until her. Brenda and I went to every rodeo there was and pretty soon I was hooked – she always put me in the front row with Clint and Mindy. I would not be where I am today without Brenda Michael. She introduced me to Clint and Mindy Johnson, who have been my dearest friends for 30 years. I have done this because of Brenda.”
Gregg became proficient at diagnosing lameness issues with the timed event horses as well and helped a lot of the NFR contestants along the way with their horses. His clinic continued to expand in the cutting and cow horse world with the arrival of Metallic Cat. “In 2008, Alvin and Becky Fults brought him to me.” He’s the all-time leading working cow horse sire at $5 million and approaching $60 million in progency earnings as a cutting sire.
What Gregg enjoys is genetics and he has devoted quite a bit of time to the bucking horse pedigrees. “We were all taught that bucking horses were wild animals that bucked. I thought geez – I’d been involved with all these great running horses, and all of a sudden, we were doing bucking horses also.” Clint would point out great bucking horses and say ‘his mother did that, or his brother did that.’ “Genetics is powerful. The stock contractors believe that and that’s why they are here. I didn’t pioneer this – people like Winston Bruce and Harry Vold get the credit. We are all taught about pedigree, but the end of the story is about conformation and all the things involved in bucking – pedigree doesn’t equal genotype.” Pedigree, DNA, and Genotype will be explained in a future issue of Rodeo News
“I had a really nice mare I wanted to do an embryo transfer,” explained Clint Johnson about meeting Gregg. “He was the only one doing that kind of work around here. Gregg likes people a lot, but he is passionate about horses. He’s a workaholic; veterinary work is his life. He’s either doing it or thinking about doing it.
“He’s a progressive thinker, super intelligent and well read,” continued Clint. “He’s got a large network of professionals he draws from and gives of his own experience freely. He’s not trying to hoard his knowledge. He’s outside of the book by now.”
“Every time a veterinarian gets bored, something gets thrown in your lap,” Gregg said with a laugh. “I didn’t know you could clone a horse. This was 19 years ago.” Royal Blue Boon, the first commercially cloned horse, has lived at the clinic all of his 18 years. “I met a guy named Jason Abraham in Canadian, Texas, in 1984, and we became dear friends, we went down to Austin and met with ViaGen and we ended up foaling out clones for them. We foaled out Adolfo Cambiaso’s cloned polo horses. We foaled out a lot of clones of all the Gold Medal jumping horses – we even foaled out Pablo Excabar’s Paso Fino horse. Blake Russell, Shawn Walker, Jason and I were quite a team and still are.”
“The first bucking horse that we know of that was cloned was Air Wolf in 2009,” said Clint. “Go Wild came in 2010. Winston had given me the horse after he retired. He was around 33 years old. It was a project that ViaGen and Gregg did – my part was I had the original horse. Winston felt like it would be an excellent horse to clone. So ViaGen cloned the horse and I ran the recipient mares and colts, weaned them and handled them.”
Gregg’s company, Timber Creek, and ViaGen cloned Bobby Joe Skoal, PRCA World Champion Saddle Bronc 1991-1993 and 1991 NFR Champion Saddle Bronc. “That’s how I met Harry Vold,” said Gregg. Bobby Joe Skoal was bred on the Tooke Ranch and born on the Vold Ranch. “I got to be with Harry the last part of his life. I would never have met Harry if not for cloning. Harry came every month for two or three years and he told me story after story and he was very serious. When Bobby was born, Harry cried. He said, ‘That’s him – he’s back.’ Painted valley, Lunatic Fringe, Tiger Warrior – they all came through here and the people that came with them were teaching me.”
Gregg gives a lot of credit for his success to his family and the staff at the clinic. “It’s a bunch of 25-year-old women, two of my kids, and Petey,” he says, of the staff at Timber Creek. “We do stuff nobody does. My world is amazing, and you can hardly wait for the next day. These embryos are going to buck and it’s going to be fun.
“I don’t know where I’m going but every day is a journey. I’ve got a lot to prove with the bucking industry. Selecting of traits is far more important than looking at pedigree. There’s nobody having more fun than I am.” Bucking horse embryos make up only 10% of what the clinic does, but horses in general are Gregg’s passion. “I just love horses. I walk through the barns at night talking to them.”
Gregg will be recognized at the PRCA Awards Banquet at the South Point Hotel, Casino, and Spa in Las Vegas on Nov. 30.