FORT WORTH-When officials at the Fort Worth Zoo needed a horse to take up residence in their new $40 million Texas Wild! exhibit, they naturally turned to their neighbors at the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). They asked the Fort Worth-based association, which has registered more than 612,000 American Paint Horses since it was formed 39 years ago, if it could come up with a horse that would be an icon of the West, and Texas in particular..
Ollie Oops, the American Paint Horse at the Fort Worth Zoo's Texas Wild! exhibit, has quickly become a favorite with children.
After an extensive search for just the right horse, Jim Kelley, APHA assistant executive secretary, found one in nearby Weatherford, Texas. The easy-going, loud-colored gelding, which goes by the name Ollie Oops, was a standout. On behalf of APHA, Kelley acquired it and donated it to the zoo as a gift from the association.
"Besides Ollie's great looks, he had all the qualities we and the people at the Fort Worth Zoo were looking for," said Kelley. "This horse was born and raised in Texas. Most recently, he was being ridden by children in horse show competition, including our World Championship Paint Horse Show last year. He has accumulated show points in Trail and Western Pleasure, and his quiet disposition and fluid motion fit in perfectly with that type of riding.
"Also, something that was very important to us is that this horse has a history of being great around children. He's very gentle, and we felt he was the perfect fit for interacting with youngsters and people of all ages at the zoo."
Michael Fouraker, executive director of the Fort Worth Zoo, agreed.
"Ollie is sure to be a favorite among visitors to Texas Wild! With his beautiful coat pattern and great disposition, the zoo will be able to use him in a capacity not typically associated with zoo animals. We hope to have horse care demonstrations in our Texas Town, and the public will be able to watch his keepers practice good horse husbandry.
"Paints are a great representation of a Texas horse breed," said Fouraker. "The breed's combination of color and conformation has made Paints popular among Texans and throughout the country. We are proud to house a Paint Horse at Texas Wild!"
The exhibit, which covers eight acres and includes more than 300 animals indigenous to the Lone Star State, is one of the largest such displays of a state's flora and fauna. Throughout the exhibit, guests discover amazing animal facts, the role of man as a steward of the land, and our society's successes and challenges in the area of conservation.
Ollie Oops is located in the heart of the exhibit in an area called the Texas Town. The 1890s frontier town serves as the information hub of the entire exhibit.
Visitors will also be able to experience geographic areas of Texas that include the hill country, the high plains and prairies, the pineywoods and swamps, the Texas gulf coast, the brush country, and mountains and deserts.
The exhibit debuted June 15 and more than 1.5
million people are expected to visit the zoo this year.
More about the American Paint Horse
Membership in the association has also experienced dramatic increases over the years and totaled more than 100,000 Paint enthusiasts at the end of 2000.
The Fort Worth-based non-profit association employs 165 people and maintains an operating budget of more than $15 million for activities worldwide.
For more information about APHA or APHA programs, call (817) 834-2742, extension 788, or log on to www.apha.com.
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Updated: October 2005.