Ranch Horse Legacy ... The Blue Valentine Story

                                        by Baru Forell Spiller
Ranch Horse Legacy ... The Blue Valentine Story, by Baru Spiller

     "He is the best steer horse in the arena this year," was the statement made in 1970 by Everett Shaw about Blue Valentine to Hyde Merritt. Shaw was flagging the tripping that year at Cheyenne Frontier Days when Hyde roped his last performance there on Blue Valentine. Shaw's comment was not to be taken lightly. Inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 and National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1980, Shaw's roping career spanned half a century. During the three decades from post-war 1940's to the 1960's, he earned six RCA Steer Roping Championships. By 1970, his reputation among ropers and the world of rodeo was legendary. So, an endorsement from Everett Shaw should be enough for Blue Valentine to confirm his rightful place among great arena horses.
     Blue Valentine was foaled in Cochise County, Arizona in 1956 out of Beauty's Dream, a daughter of Valentine. His sire was Red Man by the legendary Joe Hancock.

Red Man
      Red Man was without a doubt, one of the best sons of the great Joe Hancock. He was foaled in 1935 at the Burnett Ranches in a West Texas blizzard. The resulting frostbite cropped about 2/3 of his ears off. Byrne James, a professional baseball player for the New York Giants, purchased him as a yearling and took him to his ranch near Encinal, Texas. Red Man was ridden by James Kenny as a three-year old and then sold to Balis Harris and spent the next few years taking him and other great ropers of the time to the pay window, including Ike Rude, Troy Fort and Buckshot Sorrels, to name a few. Sorrels won the calf roping at Cheyenne Frontier Days on Red Man in 1943.
      Around 1941 he was sold to Kenny Gunter of Benson, Arizona. In Arizona, he was raced extensively, hauled to ropings, and built his reputation as a great sire, many times doing all in the same weekend. At eight years old, he earned his AQHA Racing Register of Merit and at seventeen, his Performance Register of Merit.
      Red Man sired some halter winners in spite of his own odd appearance with his cropped ears making his long head look even longer. World champion steer roper, Clark McEntire, of Stringtown, Oklahoma was an admirer of Red Man and some good Hancock horses were key players in his success. Commenting on that famous "Hancock" head, Clark said: "You could always spot a Hancock by their looks, but that Hancock head didn't hurt 'em any. They might not win a halter class but they were good in the arena or the pasture; they were smart and you didn't have to tune on 'em too much. There is such a thing today as breeding too small of a head on horses, where it doesn't hold enough."
      Some of Red Man's most famous get include: Wampus Kitty, Worryman, John Red, Johnny Cake, all with racing ROM's and track records to their credit; Apache Agent, racing ROM, futurity and handicap winner, who outran Mr. Bar None, World Champion running stallion; Booger Red with NCHA earnings of $51,324; Lady Hur, NCHA money earner and open performance ROM; Red Wood Man, open performance ROM; Cibecue Roan, open performance ROM and 1965 High Point Steer Roping Stallion. Red Man's 125 AQHA registered get accumulated 119 halter and performance points, 20 race or performance ROM's, over $85,400 in earnings plus an enormous unknown amount in arena earnings. Among the last dozen of registered foals Red Man was to sire, Blue Valentine would establish a ranch and arena horse legacy in his own right.
      When James Kenny was riding Red Man as a young horse for Byrne James in 1938, he had the chance to buy Red Man and pay for him 'a nickel at a time'. "Red Man was big and stout and would break on all four feet, run, stop and get back better than any horse he ever rode. He would do anything you asked of him," Kenny said.
      But he got crippled that year so Kenny passed on the offer. Kenny, who also said "the cotton fields of West Texas made a cowboy out of me," has ridden many great horses in his lifetime. As a young man he rode horseback from Texas to Arizona, was a champion calf roper during the 1930's and 40's and won the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity in 1968. He competed until the age of 84, when his eyesight got too poor. Obviously well mounted most of his life, James Kenny, now 88, believes Red Man was undoubtedly one of the best horses he ever rode.
      Jake Kittle leased Red Man from Kenny Gunter in the 1950's and was instrumental in the establishment of the Hancock/ Driftwood cross that has been considered the magic formula for performance horses for the past half century. Jake was good friends with Channing and Katey Peake, the owners of Driftwood. They had several daughters of Driftwood they were saving to breed to Roan Hancock, Red Man's full brother. They had purchased the stallion but he had gotten injured in the journey from Oklahoma and shortly after he arrived in California, he died. So they sold these Driftwood mares to Jake Kittle and he bred them to Red Man. Redwood Jake, Red Wood Man and Cibecue Roan were the results of this arrangement.
      Kittle, now of Patagonia, Arizona, described Red Man, "His colts were gentle, he would do anything you asked of him and anyone could rope off him. He was classic; the eye, the head, strong back, arched neck; he had the presence of a great gentleman."
      At the time when proper nutrition, rest, health care and hauling comfort were not even discussed, suffice it to say that Red Man defined true versatility in the American Quarter Horse. He died on Kenny Gunter's Cochise county ranch in his late twenties of old age.

Beauty's Dream
      Blue Valentine's dam, Beauty's Dream was a 1938 black mare bred by Edward Holcak of Victoria, Texas. Her sire, Valentine by Lone Star was well known with prominent ropers in Texas. Among others, Toots Mansfield roped on a Valentine horse. Les Amour, of the Amour Packing family dynasty, owned the mare most of her life in Arizona. Jake Kittle remembers the first time he saw Beauty's Dream at the fair in Sedonia, Arizona. She was entered in a race and won it.
      Les Amour and Kenny Gunter were real good friends and sent Beauty's Dream to Kenny's ranch for him to keep and breed to Red Man. In trade, Kenny would get some of the colts. Between 1951 and 1956 Beauty's Dream foaled five foals by Red Man. Three fillies from 1951-1953 and two roan stud colts: Mr. Jack Daniels in 1955 and Blue Valentine in 1956.

Dell Haverty
      Another good friend of Kenny Gunter was Dell Haverty, a champion rodeo competitor in the 1950's. Descended from an Arizona pioneer family, Dell was a great athlete and had a full scholarship to play football for the University of Arizona in Tucson. He thought he could go to school and rodeo on the weekends, but he was making $600 a week roping and he decided he could not afford to go college. Dell was a champion competitor throughout the 1940's and 50's, working both ends of the arena: bareback riding, bull riding, calf roping, bull dogging, steer roping & team roping. Prior to the formation of the PRCA, in 1951 he was the youngest man ever crowned the International Rodeo Association All-Around Champion. Throughout the 1950's he won championships at nearly all the major rodeos, including Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, the Cow Place in San Francisco, Pendleton Round-up, Houston, Denver, Salinas, Scottsdale and won the coveted Calgary bronze four times.
      Clark McEntire thought enough of Haverty to name his son, Dell 'Pake' McEntire, after him. The admiration is mutual. Dell said Clark was one of the few ropers that could enter the calf roping and steer roping on the same horse and win both events. Haverty was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1996. His family and cowboys that know him personally revere him. Dan Taylor, of Doole, Texas at 81 years old has been to Cheyenne Frontier Days either as a competitor, judge or chute boss for fifty-seven years and counting. Dan sums up Dell's status among his peers with probably the highest compliment bestowed on a cowboy: "Dell Haverty is a cowboy's cowboy."
      Dell grew up in Arizona around Kenny Gunter and was quite familiar with Red Man's reputation as a roping and running horse and his ability as a sire. By the mid 1950's, Dell was in the market for a roping prospect and he was looking for a colt by Red Man. One of the best calf horses he had ridden was a daughter of Red Man called Mary Jane, whom he had used, among other places, at the Pendleton Roundup. Dell wanted a Red Man colt and was familiar with Apache Agent. He knew was owned by WWII hero and movie actor, Audie Murphey, so Dell made an offer to buy Apache Agent. But Murphey liked the horse and did not want to sell him.
      Dell had also read about roping in Texas where about fifteen of the top ropers were riding Valentine horses. He knew the great Toots Mansfield, whose calf roping world championships spanned three decades from the 1930's to the 1950's. Toots rode a good horse by Valentine.
      Dell rode a lot of horses for Kenny Gunter and for a nominal fee, was offered the pick of Kenny's colts in 1957. He knew Beauty's Dream was a Valentine mare and saw both Mr. Jack Daniels, then a two year old, and Blue Valentine and knew this was the pedigree he had in mind.
      Kenny Gunter's brother, Virgil, stood Mr. Jack Daniels for a season or two before he was sold to Kern County Land & Cattle, a British owned company headquartered in Bakersfield, California owning several ranches in Arizona and New Mexico including the Gray Ranch. Mr. Jack Daniels made his mark at the Gray Ranch as a ranch stallion, well known for throwing the roan color and siring excellent ranch horses. Unfortunately, very few of them during this time were ever registered. At nineteen, Mr. Jack Daniels was purchased by Walter Greeman, then of Deming, N.M., later moving to Oklahoma. At age 22, Mr. Jack Daniels sired Likker Keg, a race winner, performance ROM earner, 1985 World Show Finalist in Working Cow Horse, and at 24 years, was still a working ranch horse.

A Family Affair
      Dell Haverty's wife, Connie, was the daughter of 'Buster' Hayes of Thermopolis, Wyoming. The Hayes Brothers, Buster and his brother, Laurie, were interested in a Red Man stud to breed their mares by Texas Blue Bonnet, another son of Joe Hancock. So Dell took Blue Valentine up to Wyoming to the Hayes Brothers ranch and sold them half interest in him. Blue bred his first mares at the Hayes Ranch the following spring as a two year old in 1958. Both Buster and Laurie were top hands and made excellent horses. They had an excellent set of ranch horses of every color in the rainbow and a stallion battery that included some of the greatest Hancock blood in history on one ranch: Blue Valentine, Texas Blue Bonnet and his son, Plenty Coup. Buster's philosophy was that good horses were not made in the trailer, and always rode his horses to the pasture they were working rather than hauling them. When he was old enough to start riding, Dell took 'Blue' (as he became affectionately known) back to Arizona to break and started training him for calf roping as a four year old. The next year he trained him for team roping, team tying and finally steer tripping as a six year old. Blue excelled at all of them but was especially good at tripping.
      During the Hayes/ Haverty partnership, Blue would be hauled south in the late summer for Dell to use at the fall and winter rodeos in the southwest and for the early breeding season in Arizona. He would then be hauled back up to the Hayes Ranch at Thermopolis, Wyoming for the late spring breeding season and to rope on at Cheyenne Frontier Days and other Wyoming rodeos in the summer. Laurie's son, Vince Hayes said he realized Blue was becoming a legend in his own time when the announcer at Cheyenne Frontier Days one year said, "Here comes Dell Haverty on the great Blue Valentine."
      In June of 1963, Vince went with Clark Jackson to the All-Wyoming Steer Roping in Douglas, Wyoming. He had just gotten Blue back from Arizona. He roped his first steer in 16 seconds and his second steer in 17. He was setting 2nd in the average. But Vince was a green kid at a big roping. He got nervous and broke the barrier on the last steer, costing him the roping.
      Dell & Connie Haverty's four children grew up in Arizona and spent many of their summers on the Hayes Brothers ranch in Wyoming. During the annual Casper, Wyoming pro rodeo, an all-girl competition was held during the day. In 1968, Dell's oldest daughter, Kathy, had entered the barrels on a good Hayes Brother horse, Shiner. But good horses always being for sale, Shiner was sold to Bill Spratt, before the competition took place. Then without a barrel horse, Kathy saddled Blue Valentine. He had never been trained for barrels, but Kathy made a couple practice runs and took home a third in the competition!
      On another occasion, Connie Haverty entered Blue in a women's queen contest during the Ranch Days Rodeo in Wilcox, Arizona. All the entrants were wives and mothers in their thirties. At the time, Blue was the only horse Haverty's had that was dependable enough to use in the competition.
      Connie Haverty's sister, Buster's other daughter, Dede, was married to Hyde Meritt, who also tripped steers on Blue Valentine. According to Hyde, Blue started out of the box quicker and could catch cattle easier than any horse he had ever ridden. Hyde & Dede's son, Chip roped calves on Blue when he was in high school during the 1970's. Calf roping at that time was in transition. Ropers were starting to come out of the box without hanging on to the saddle horn, as had been the tradition. Chip couldn't do that on Blue because he was so powerful and broke so hard, he would throw him back on the cantle.
      Over the years, many members of the Haverty, Merritt, and Hayes families would take their turn at competing on Blue Valentine. With Dell Haverty's rodeo schedule slowing down in the sixties, Dell sold his half interest in Blue to Hyde Merritt. The Merritt ranches in southern Wyoming could breed earlier in the season than the Hayes Brothers' ranch in Thermopolis. So Hyde used Blue to breed to his mares early in the season and then sent him up north for the late breeding season. Blue Valentine had already established his place in the rodeo arena. With the Hayes/Merritt breeding program, he would become one of the greatest sires in foundation quarter horse history.
      Blue, like his sire and grandsire, was good-minded and gentle. He could be caught in the pasture and once saddled, rode like a gelding, even around mares. Kathy Haverty Ivory recalled a time when Blue was in a pen next to the house at the Hayes Brother ranch. Her little sister, Shannan, about five years old, and younger brother, Mike had climbed up on the fence and crawled up on Blue, without even a bridle and were riding him around the pen. The mares were directly across the fence in the pasture but Blue took care of those kids.
      In a 1980 interview, Hyde Merritt told Jim Jennings of The Quarter Horse Journal, "We sure like the Hancock horses, especially old Blue's colts. They have a mild disposition and I have never known one to try and buck you off. They're good cow horses and they have a lot of speed."
      Chip used Blue to jingle in the horses in the morning and would ride out to feed cattle on him. In the winter when the snow was too deep to drive through, he fed from Blue using a rope to drag a sled of 6-8 bales of hay.
      Through his sire, Red Man, Blue Valentine inherited the great Hancock feet and bones. In the same interview, Merritt stated, "These horses are good anywhere you put them, in these rocks or in the arena. We never have to shoe one of them…and we never have an unsound horse. I think that's because of the black feet and good bone that Blue puts on his colts."
      Tuffy Cooper of Monument, New Mexico, once heard rodeo announcer Buck Jackson from Pecos, Texas say, "If you are in the tripping and you aren't riding a Hancock horse, you don't have a chance." Back in those days when steers weighed 800-900 pounds, Hancocks were some of the few horses that could effectively handle them. Tuffy's advice to the owner of a fine boned mare was to 'find yourself a Hancock stud and get some wheels on her.' At 80 years young, Tuffy is still an avid Hancock fan and asserts that Blue Valentine is a key player in the continuing popularity of Hancocks today.
      Although potent to the end, as Blue Valentine got on in age he became very particular about breeding and would only take the mares he liked. Only three offspring comprised his final foal crop in 1981. He died in August 1980, at twenty-four, from a ruptured intestine due to colic. At the time of his death, he was at Hyde Merritt's Tie Siding, Wyoming ranch. By some cruel twist of fate, it was as if the end of the Hayes/Merritt partnership and their ranching dynasties was linked to the death of ole' Blue himself.
      That very same month, Buster Hayes was hauling a load of salt to the Hayes ranch in his pickup. As he got out to open a gate, his pickup rolled forward on a slope. Although in his 70's, Buster rushed to try and stop it but the door knocked him down, and the pickup rolled over his legs. He was home alone at the time and had to crawl back to the house to call for help and it was thirty miles to town to a doctor so it was well after midnight before he got to the hospital. He was flown to Salt Lake City but died later from blood clots caused by the accident. None of the heirs were in a financial position to take over the ranch and as a result, it was sold and the magnificent Hayes Brothers broodmare band was dispersed.
      Within three years, in 1983, Hyde Merritt's truck stalled on a railroad track and he was struck and killed by an oncoming train. With Hyde's death, his family was also forced to sell his ranches and most of the Hancock horses he had spent his lifetime breeding.
      But Blue Valentine's story did not end with his death and he has left an indelible mark in the pages of Quarter Horse history. When the Merritt Ranches were sold, Hyde's wife, Dede and their son Chip, managed to keep some mares and two stallions. Chip has spent years since rebuilding his herd of Hancocks and Blue Valentines that still wear the famous Merritt tumbling T brand. To this day he has some high percentage Blue Valentine descendants and his stallion Wyo Blue Bonnet is a grandson of Blue Valentine. Each August, Chip and partners, Randy Dunn, Dick Van Pelt, and Sam Shoultz host the 'Come to the Source' sale in Laramie, Wyoming, which features Blue Valentine breeding.
      When the Hayes Brothers ranch was sold, Vince Hayes was able to keep a few horses, including Leo Hancock Hayes, one of the last sons foaled the year Blue Valentine died. At the 2002 AQHA convention, on behalf of the Hayes family, Vince received the AQHA Award for 50 consecutive years of breeding Quarter Horses. Most of those years had been spent breeding Blue Valentines. In 2000 Vince sold Leo Hancock Hayes to Randy and Susan Brookings, Lohn, Texas. At twenty-five, he is the youngest and last breeding son of Blue Valentine.

Notable Blue Valentine Progeny
      If performance records on ranch and arena stallions are scarce, they are almost non-existent on mares. As is customary on many big ranches, most are put back into the broodmare band when they become of age without ever having been saddled, pasture bred and rarely handled. But a non-pampered life might have been one of the keys to their survival. Longevity, hardiness and dependability are genetic strengths among them, and many of Blue Valentine's daughters produced well into their twenties.
      Blue's Contessa, out of an Ambrose daughter, produced twenty-two foals in twenty-three years, nearly half of them for the Haythorn Land & Cattle Company. This phenomenal broodmare had her first foal at six and her last foal, sired by Drifts Chip, at age twenty-eight! She lived to be at least thirty years old.
      Blue's Call Girl, out of a Wiggy Bar mare had her last foal at age twenty-five. Maybelle Blue, out of a Chico Moore mare, had her last foal at twenty-four. It must be noted that most of these Blue Valentine daughters have not had a bedded stall with a 24-hour a day monitor in the corner. They did their job of producing year after year, fighting off the elements and the predators, being pasture bred on large ranches. Perhaps that has been a key to their longevity and hardiness.
      Hayes' Pronto, a black gelding from Blue Valentine's first colt crop in 1959 out of Marty Joe by Tom Hancock, would become one of Vince Hayes' best calf horses. Ridden with a hackamore until he was four years old, Pronto was quick and cowy. Vince made the finals at Calgary on him, which drew the attention of several good calf ropers. Larry Hume offered Vince $5,000 for Pronto, which was politely refused. In those days, that was a handsome sum for a gelding. World Champion calf roper, Dean Oliver also inquired and when Vince told him he refused Larry Hume's offer, Oliver told Vince he must not want to sell him very bad. Evidently not, for Pronto was never sold and lived to be 31 years old.
      Salty Roan, a 1960 roan stallion out of Glassy by Patron, was purchased as a colt and owned the rest of his life by Bill Spratt of Lysite, Wyoming. In addition to his ranch use, Salty Roan carried Bill to the pay window regularly and was a Register of Merit sire. Spratt won Cheyenne in 1976 aboard a son of Salty Roan, nicknamed 'Stripe' and the steer ropers named him 'Horse of the Year'. Other ropers, including Don McLaughlin also gathered paychecks mounted on Stripe. Olin Young, twice a winner at Cheyenne, 1979 PRCA Hall of Fame inductee, spent several summers at the Spratt Ranch. He helped to train another Salty Roan son nicknamed 'Cricket' which Bill's son TJ rode to the top ten in steer roping four years in a row. Now 65, Bill and two more generations of Spratts are still competing on descendants of Blue Valentine. Salty Roan also sired Mr Roan Hancock, who in turn sired Hancocks Blue Boy, the key stallion for the breeding program at Dr. John Whipp's Broken Bones Cattle Company in Landers, Wyoming for so many years and whose progeny are in very high demand.
      Blue's Beard, a 1973 blue roan stallion out of Missus Robin by Reedart, sired big powerful, muscled colts with good dispositions. Besides Hyde Merritt, among his owners were Walter Lamar, Isabella, Oklahoma; Tom L. Hancock of Nocona, Texas; Sam Shoultz, Bellvue, Colorado; and Randy Dunn/Bath Brothers Ranch of Laramie, Wyoming. Potent into his mid-twenties, he died at Tom Hancock's ranch after siring nineteen foal crops.
      Gooseberry, a 1973 red roan (bay roan) son out of Fox Hastings by Plenty Coup, eventually became Merritt's replacement stallion for Blue Valentine. Hyde had looked for a stallion with close Joe Hancock breeding to breed to his Blue Valentine mares and couldn't find one he liked any better than his own Gooseberry. Chip was able to keep Gooseberry after Hyde was killed. Normally several stallions would be wintered together in the same pasture and gathered about April to be turned in with the mares. In the spring of Gooseberry's eighteenth year, when the stallions were checked in March, they were all there, but April 1st when they were to be gathered, Gooseberry was missing. It was rough country and much of the pasture was only accessible horseback. For that reason they dismissed the possibility that he might be stolen. They scoured the pasture and even flew over it but could never find his carcass. His disappearance remains a mystery to this day. But he left his mark on the industry through several good sons including, Blue Crusader, Rojo Berry, Valentine Red Rogers and Plenty Try, used by Chip Merritt until 2002 when he sold and shipped south to mild Texas winters.
      Rowdy Blue Man was a line-bred blue roan son of Blue Valentine out of a Blue Valentine granddaughter. Like many of the Blue Valentine get, he remained in the Hayes-Merritt partnership. Hyde Merritt used him, along with Gooseberry as his pasture sires. Chip said just about any horse his dad had could be bought for the right price except Blue Valentine. He was not for sale at any price. But an offer was made on Rowdy so Hayes Brothers and Hyde made the decision to sell him. Chip Merritt, who had roped calves on Rowdy prior to his sale, admits it was probably one of their biggest mistakes. Fred Jones, Lamesa, Texas bought him and eventually Rowdy came to a permanent home at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Lometa, Texas owned by Fred Gist. The popularity of Blue Valentines in Texas and the southwest are much due to Rowdy Blue Man and Fred Gist's efforts. Used almost exclusively in pasture breeding. Rowdy sired 267 registered foals in twenty-two foal crops. True to his genes, Rowdy was a prolific sire to the end. In 2001, Rowdy was kicked during pasture breeding. He had to be humanely destroyed at the age of twenty-four. His offspring are very much in demand and Fred now stands three of his sons to continue the line.
      Ruano Rojo, a red roan (bay roan) stallion foaled in 1974, sired one hundred ninety registered foals in twenty-seven foal crops. Reportedly at least three sons of Ruano Rojo have earned in excess of $100,000 each in arena earnings. Like so many Blue Valentine descendants, they remain sound usin' horses well into their twenties. Colorado State University collected semen on Ruano Rojo for three years and because he was so gentle to handle, they used him in their classes showing students how to collect for the first time. Purchased from Hyde Merritt as a yearling Ruano Rojo changed hands several times and was owned by Dick & Dianne Van Pelt at the time of his death. His prepotency was consistent with Hancock tradition in that he had one of the largest foal crops on the ground the year he died in 2003 at twenty-nine. Plagued with severe arthritis in his knee due to a breeding injury he was wintered in Oklahoma his last few years. After being transported to Oklahoma for the winter, in spite of his arthritis, he exhausted himself running the fence across from some other horses. Although the Van Pelts tried desperately to save him too much damage had been done. To the end he was a gentleman. At one point he fell, pinning Dick under him. Exhausted, he gave every effort to rise and was able to release Dick. He died in the night.
      Plenty Try was a 1982 blue roan son of Gooseberry, which Chip Merritt kept and used in his breeding program until 2002. He sired 158 registered foals in 18 foal crops. The true value of this great stallion is being realized in his get and grand-get.
      There are many other great sons and daughters of Blue Valentine that have since passed on his great genes to their offspring. As of this writing there are only three surviving stallions by Blue Valentine, all of which sired foals in 2003.
      Blue's Kingfisher, a 1977 full brother to Blue's Beard out of Missus Robin by Reedart, was purchased as a weanling from Hyde Merritt and owned for sixteen years by Dave Abel of Custer, Montana. On Abel's 20,000-acre ranch, the blue roan stallion bred a very limited number of mares and was turned out with them all year long. Charles Mahler, of Allen Nebraska bought him at sixteen and continued to breed him to a limited number of mares. A great horse to handle, he is still sound and has sired one hundred-five foals in nineteen foal crops, including every year since he was fifteen and at twenty-eight years old, he is still breeding.
      Roan Ambrose, a red roan (bay roan) stallion foaled in 1978 out of Ambrose Sue 30 by Plenty Coup by Texas Bluebonnet, is owned by Jim Frederick of Amelia, Nebraska. Roy Cleveland, Brule Nebraska owned him for many years, and turned him out with mares in the spring and in the fall picked up bucking horses on him. Roy leased him to Otis & Shirley Jennings, rodeo stock contractors of Lakin, Kansas for several years with the right of first choice of any blue roans. Roy currently owns a blue roan stud, King Bars Hancock, from that agreement that has been used as a National Finals Rodeo pick-up horse, hazes steers, ropes and is used for ranch work. Roan Ambrose has sired one hundred fifty-one foals in twenty-three foal crops. With a double dose of his prepotent great grandsire, Joe Hancock running through his veins, it's no wonder that at twenty-seven years old, he still had a foal crop in 2004.
      Leo Hancock Hayes, a blue roan, was foaled the year ole' Blue died. Out of Doll 01 by Rip Rip by Leo, at twenty-five years of age, he is the youngest surviving stallion by Blue Valentine. Rip Rip was another stallion that Dell Haverty acquired in Arizona, then sold to Hayes Brothers for their breeding program. The Leo cross proved to be popular with usin' horse folk. As Clark McEntire said "Blue Valentine's might not outrun a Kentucky thoroughbred, but they sure made good rodeo and ranch horses, especially when crossed on Leo bred mares."
      Vince Hayes broke him to ride and used him on the ranch, but in his three-year-old year he severely cut his front foot, and was not sound to ride. Vince owned him and kept him in Wyoming until 2001, standing him with the late Ray Wardell in Moorcroft, Wyoming. He was sold to Randy & Susan Brookings of Lohn Texas. Randy credits Fred Gist for "for getting him in the Hancock business." With several mares by Rowdy Blue Man to cross on Leo Hancock Hayes, Brookings' Funny B Ranch has some of the highest percentage Blue Valentine horses in the country. With the 2005 foal crop, Leo Hancock Hayes will approach the 400 foal mark in twenty-three foal crops, over half of them sired since he turned twenty, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Perpetuating Greatness
      If a modern ranching operation could validate the value of Blue Valentine's progeny in ranch work on a large scale, it would be Leachman Cattle of Billings, Montana. Jim Leachman spent the past thirty years building his cattle operation and the famous Hairpin Cavvy. Prior to the family partnership restructure in 2003, Leachman Cattle was the largest cattle seed stock operator in the world, according to the National Cattleman Beef 2002 statistics. The ranch consisted of 115,000 acres and the 2002 Hairpin studbook listed fourteen stallions 'bred for cowsense…not nonsense'. Half of them were close descendants of Blue Valentine and even more had Red Man as a common denominator. Jim said he doesn't go looking for Blue Valentines; he looks for horses he likes and invariably, they turn out to be Blue Valentines.
      Three of the cavvy stallions, which Leachman co-owns with Randy Dunn/Bath Brothers, are grandsons of Blue Valentine through Leo Hancock Hayes and Gooseberry. They are perfectly suitable for the big northern ranges of Montana. Jim said, "Blue Valentines are solid, stout horses, good-footed, and great minded. In big country, we like to have a big wheel base on our horses; they never see stall or blanket, we never have to treat a horse for unsoundness." He says that Hancocks seem to have the best disposition of any of the horses he owns. Advertised as 'gentle giants', not only does he put his cowboys on them, but also puts his kids on them. Although Jim never saw Blue Valentine in person, he's talked to plenty of folks who have. He sums it up this way: "Thank goodness there are horses around today that carry on his traits. As you look around you find horses that are exceptional individuals that are related to him. He was probably an incredible specimen."
      Blue Valentine's official AQHA sire record lists 210 registered foals, including race money earners and performance point earners. His grandsire record includes a race register of merit qualifier, race money earners, performance and halter point earners. Like his sire, Red Man and his grandsire, Joe Hancock, Blue passed on his speed, good bone, gentle disposition, longevity and cow savvy. His performance and that of his get, having been concentrated on ranches or in the rodeo arena, acquired almost no official record. But, as with many horses, that spend their entire lives in their 'work clothes' his legacy flourishes through his descendants.
      In the history of the Quarter Horse breed, a few horses have made such an impact that their reputation outlives them by more than a few generations. Blue Valentine's name is mentioned alongside the best of the foundation bloodlines in the quarter horse industry. In absence of official accomplishment records, this legacy must depend on reputation and great offspring. But even fewer have achieved such a status that their very name represents a class of horses all their own. Like most Hancock breeders, Blue Valentine breeders are fiercely loyal. People who have been privileged enough to own one, felt like theirs was or is the 'best of the Blue Valentines.'
      A quarter century after his death, his bloodlines have become more popular and widely sought after than ever. Blue Valentine has rightfully earned his place in history among the great foundation ranch and performance sires of the 20th century.



Jake Kittle & Red Man, Willard H Porter photo



Blue Valentine and Kathy Haverty Ivory
Barrel Racing; Kathy Ivory photo



Mr. Jack Daniels, full brother to Blue Valentine
Walter Lamar photo



Leo Hancock Hayes by Blue Valentine
Baru Spiller photo



Wyo Blue Bonnet by Leo Hancock Hayes
Merritt Ranch, Merritt photo



Blue Mambita by Leo Hancock Hayes
Spiller Ranch, Baru Spiller photo



John Coffee Hayes by Leo Hancock Hayes
Heritage Hancocks, Michelle Thompson photo



Blues Beard by Blue Valentine



Blues Kingfisher by Blue Valentine




Gooseberry by Blue Valentine



Berrys Babe by Gooseberry
out of Blue Kewpie Doll by Blue Valentine
Fintry Quarter Horses, Don Woitte photo



Plenty Try by Gooseberry



Romeo Blue by Plenty Try
out of Jenny Valentine by Blue Valentine
Lee Jones photo, C-J Ranch



Plenty Blueberry by Plenty Try
out of Blue Kewpie Doll by Blue Valentine
Sandy Lowery photo, Lowery L&L



Roan Ambrose by Blue Valentine



Free Ambrose by Roan Ambrose
Rocky Hills Ranch, Knake photo



Red Roan Raider by Roan Ambrose
out of Heart Hancock
Jason Deckert photo, Deckert Quarter Horses



Rowdy Blue Man by Blue Valentine



Ruano Rojo by Blue Valentine



Blues Roan Man by Blues Dividend



Plenty Sage Hancock by Hancocks Blue Boy



Dry Fork Hancock "Janice"
by Mr Roan Hancock
owned by Fred and Deb Tuftin
Michelle Thompson photo



Blue Apache Hancock by Hancocks Blue Boy
owned by Jerry Jeppson




Mucha Hancock by Rowdy Blue Man
owned by Tom Peters
Jennifer Keller photo



Plenty Coup Hancock by Mr Roan Hancock
out of Bonnie Hayes by Gooseberry
Gary Tarver photo



Tarvers Pepita by Mr Roan Hancock
Donna Vickery photo



Blue Valentine. "Old Blue"
at the Hyde Merritt Ranch at Tie Siding, WY
Old Blue was 23 years old
when this photo was taken by Jim Jennings
of the Quarter Horse Journal
(November 1982 WH Magazine)


and just for fun:

Warrior Hancock Breezen
by Blue Apache Hancock
hypoallergenic Curly stockhorse
yearling filly
sold to Austria, Donna Vickery photo


Merritt owned Blue Valentine bloodline mares, Merritt Ranch
Jennifer Keller photo (Coyote Ridge Roans)


     **This article was first published in the June 2004 Ranch Horse issue of the AQHA Journal, and again in the May 2005 Reining & Foundation issue of the Pacific Coast Journal, official publication of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association. Ranch Horse Legacy….The Blue Valentine Story, © Baru Forell Spiller, is republished on Hancock Horses.com with the exclusive internet rights to reprint it on this website only, with permission of Baru Forell Spiller and may not be republished without prior consent.

     Baru and her husband Joe Spiller, an award winning bit & spur maker, breed and sell Blue Valentine bloodline Quarter Horses on their Texas ranch:  www.Spillerranch.com



Chuckker Blue by Plenty Try
nursing her own and an orphaned foal
Jennifer Keller photo

       Get a cup of coffee, and enjoy. If you are on dial up, and any photos do not pull up, right-click where they belong and click on "Show Picture." Along with this acclaimed article we have included an array of photographs of Blue Valentine get, grandget and influenced horses. Thanks to those of you who donated photos. (For those photos without a complete credit, if any reader knows, please tell us the horse breeder, owner and/or photographer, so that we may credit them properly. Thank you!)



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Blue Valentine

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