For most people the name Deptford immediately brings to mind David and Sarah of Sovereign Quarter horses, in March, Cambridgeshire, but when you visit Sovereign you will often see a tall handsome man wearing a baseball cap, or cowboy hat in a pick up or riding around the farm, and this is Henry Deptford and he has been a stalwart supporter of the AQHA UK and the American Quarter Horse in the UK from the 1960’s.
The son of Albert Deptford, a name famous in the horse showing world in the 1960’s and 1970’s. (Albert bred the famous show pony Holly of Spring and owned another famous show pony Pretty Polly as well as also breeding Suffolk Punch horses.) Henry grew up around horses, he admits that his father had the knack of breeding good horses whatever their breed and he’s often said that his son David has that knack as well. There are photos of Henry as a young man showing ponies and some AQHA UK Members who also grew up in the Show Pony world remember him showing, but as he grew up, he became fascinated with western horses.
Britain’s introduction to Quarter Horses came through a member of the Royal Family, HRH Prince Philip was introduced to them on the Douglas Lake Ranch in British Columbia and subsequently the Canadian Cutting Horse Association was invited to give a series of demonstrations at major British shows in 1964. In 1970 a team of riders and American Quarter horses travelled the County Shows in the UK promoting western riding. Henry knew that a demonstration team would be coming over and he visited with AQHA Judge Pat Faitz in Pennsylvania, who was going to be accompanying the horses and riders in the UK, he was looking for a cutting horse and he bought Hollys Strike, who came over with the team and was loaned to them for their demonstrations. Henry took her home after the demonstations.
With the lack of pure bred quarter horse mares in the UK and with Henry’s family background in breeding horses, it was inevitable that he would start breeding. As pure bred mares were imported in, one of them, Chunky’s Cutie became the foundation mare for the Sovereign Stud that Henry and David set up whilst David was still a youth rider (one of only two youths riding western in the country!) Chunky’s Cutie proved to be an exceptional broodmare, especially as a broodmare dam. Her two daughters by Mucho Bueno Lynx, Muy Bueno Sovereign, and Lynx Cute Sovereign are both dams of AQHA Superior earning horses (Jays Dene and Docs Summer Sky)
Henry proved an great competitor over the years with different horses, (Chunkys Sovereign, Cosa Linda, Windy Splendor, Muy Bueno Sovereign, Snipalong Reed, Snippers Heirogance, POQUITA DE NADA, Muy Bueno Snipper, and Snipper Istocat) competing in his final AQHA class on 21st September 2001 at Arena UK. Western Pleasure and Trail were his favourite classes and he was known for having a “helping hand” in the trail classes by drawing the pattern on his hand! Henry remembers when there was only one AQHA show in the UK each year but there were foreign breed classes at County shows, as well as promotional demonstrations of the breed that he along with others helped set up. Although Cutting has never been an AQHA event in the UK, Hollys Strike (an AQHA UK Supreme Halter Champion) was a trained cutter and there are some fabulous photos of Henry and Holly cutting that were used for magazine adverts
Retired now from showing, he is out trail riding most days around the farm although he is known to ride into the arena when there is a trail course laid out, show everyone how it is done and then ride off again! Most amusingly when David was being interviewed for TV and was talking about his father, the camera caught Henry and his horse Duke loping across a field, they lingered on the scene, as David commented that his father just always wanted to be a cowboy! He did achieve this ambition to a degree by many visits to Montana over the years riding on the TX Ranch.
A founder (and life) member of AQHA UK (or BQHA) as it was known then, his son David has memories of being very young and attending an AGM at the Catherston Stud in the New Forest. Quietly in the background this modest man has been promoting western riding and American Quarter Horses for decades. With his son, he set up one of the most well known and respected Quarter Horse studs in the UK, although he hasn’t been involved in the business for many years, it is his foresight and enthusiasm for the American Quarter Horse that has helped put the breed firmly on the map in the UK.