HIGHLAND -- They aren't your typical horse, they are the hot house flowers of the show circuit world.
Kept under lights 18 hours a day in a heated barn and blanketed against chill and to prevent winter hair from growing, the five paint horses in Scott Schuetz's show string are pampered and well-fed.
Just one year after beginning to compete heavily on the national halter horse show circuit, Schuetz Farms in Highland has now two world champion paint horses in the barn.
"I've had horses my whole life," Schuetz said. "We moved out here and got serious about showing. It took us about three years of research to determine what was going to win."
And the Schuetz's chose the paint horse, particularly, a big-bodied, muscular line that traces back to the world champion quarter horse, Impressive.
"Why have a plain brown horse when you can have one with spots?" Schuetz said of the breed. "You get a little more flash with a paint. We like the paints because of their color and because of their ability."
The two horses owned by Schuetz Farms, CL Check Me Out, a 2-year-old filly, and Mr. Casanova, a 2-year-old gelding, both topped their classes at the Color Breed Congress horse show in Tulsa, Okla., in November.
CL Check Me Out earned the coveted Champion of Champions title and Mr. Casanova placed over three world champion horses to take Grand Champion of 2-year-old geldings.
Scott and Brandi Schuetz traveled around 30,000 miles this year taking their show string to shows around the nation, including Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
"I could not be more pleased to receive this title and to know that my wife, Brandi, and I personally work our horses and did not use a trainer makes it that much more special to me," Schuetz said. "This is really a family accomplishment and that makes it pretty special."
Schuetz said he spends about three hours a day working with the horses and caring for them, on top of a full-time job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He and his wife do all of the training, fitting, grooming, hauling and showing of their show string. But they had a lot of help from other halter horse enthusiasts getting to that point.
"When you get into the halter industry you have to forget everything you know about horses because what we do with them is unnatural," Schuetz said, referring to the heated barn, lights and high-calorie diet the horses are fed.
Halter horses are preferred to be bulky while they show, but care has to be taken to balance the feeding program with exercise to keep the horses from becoming too fat. Neck sweats and acupuncture are used to prevent fat deposits on the neck and throatlatch of the halter horse while keeping the rest of the body bulky, but defined. Halter horses are not working horses, they aren't expected to be able to perform athletically, they are judged on how they are put together and judged against an ideal example of the breed, Schuetz explained. The goal is balancing the feeding program with an exercise program to show what a young horse would look like mature and heavily muscled.
Schuetz said he'd really like to develop a breeding program at his farm and work with the young horses that are a result of that program.
"That's where the joy is," he said. "Seeing that horse do well and knowing I picked the right match and the right mare and the result was a success."
Schuetz already has another potential world champion in his barn learning how to be a halter horse. Six-month-old Sheza Priceless Star has already won the Illinois Breeders Futurity as a weanling and her show career begins in earnest in January.
More than 4,800 horses from 41 states and three countries competed at the Color Breed Congress show in Oklahoma.