Hancock Horses .com

 Our sympathies go out to the Brookings over the loss of Leo Hancock Hayes.
We know it was a truly heartbreaking time for them. And an era in history is passing.

Leo Hancock Hayes dies at age 27
Photos & article by Baru Forell Spiller
Summer 2007

Randy & Susan, owners of Funny B Ranch, Lohn Texas
with Leo Hancock Hayes, age 24, in September of 2004.

Leo Hancock Hayes at age 24 in 2004

Leo Hancock Hayes, the last breeding son of legendary foundation sire, Blue Valentine, died Saturday, June 30, 2007, of an apparent heart attack at the Funny B Ranch, near Lohn, Texas. He was twenty-seven years old.

Foaled in 1980, the year Blue Valentine died, Leo Hancock Hayes was bred by Hayes Brothers (Buster and Laurie) of Thermopolis, Wyoming. Laurie’s son Vince, owned him until he was twenty years old.

Vince related an incident about the horse’s good sense, “1983-84 was particularly bad winter in Wyoming, with deep snows. I was riding Leo Hancock Hayes to check cattle and got bogged in the snow. My dad always told me not to get off in such a case because the horse would come right on top of you trying to get out of the snow. But I couldn’t move the horse, so I got off and the horse just stood there until I got out of the way. Then I clucked to him and he got out of the drift on his own. He was very good minded. He got his right front foot cut very badly, nearly cut off that year. They did surgery on him but he was never able to be ridden afterwards but was kept as a stud.”

While under ownership of Vince Hayes, Leo Hancock Hayes stood at stud several years at the late Ray & Cheri Wardell’s ranch near Moorcroft, Wyoming. Advertisements for the stallion read as follows:

“The youngest son of the great BLUE VALENTINE, by RED MAN, out of a granddaughter of LEO!! Dam’s sire, RIP RIP is by LEO, out of SUGAREE BARS, AAA AQHA Champion and stakes producer by SUGAR BARS. 2nd dam also goes to LEO, ZANTANON, and JOE HANCOCK. A great sire with the bone, substance, disposition and ability that all these families are famous for, PLUS A KEEN HEAD!”

In 2002, on behalf of his family, Vince Hayes received the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) award for ‘50 Years of Consecutive Breeding’ and 50 Years of Cumulative Breeding’ of American Quarter Horses.

Leo Hancock Hayes has certainly helped to perpetuate the Blue Valentine legacy. Since 1998, the "Come to the Source" sale has been held in Laramie, Wyoming each August in conjunction with the Hyde Merritt Memorial Roping. Of the nineteen sires listed as reference sires for the 2007 sale, seven of them are Leo Hancock Hayes sons or grandsons: Wyo Blue Bonnet, Hancock Wiggy Bars, Hancock Red Wiggy, Blue Fox Hancock, and Blue Leo Man, Fox Blue, Blue Dart Fox, and Wyo Blue Valentine.

In 2001, Randy and Susan Brookings, the owners of the Funny B Ranch, purchased Leo Hancock Hayes from Vince Hayes. They were already avid Hancock breeders and credit Fred Gist of the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Lometa, Texas, who owned Rowdy Blue Man, another son of Blue Valentine, for their involvement in Hancock horses.

Realizing he was one of few own sons of Blue Valentine left, Brookings began an aggressive breeding program centered around Leo Hancock Hayes. They crossed him back on their own daughters of Rowdy Blue Man, Hancocks Blue Boy, and other lines of Hancock-bred mares. They doubled the stud fee to attract better quality mares but it didn’t slow down the breeders. Through 2006, the aging stallion sired a lifetime total of 468 registered foals. Nearly half of them were born after he was twenty years old. Even at twenty-seven years old, all of the thirty-five mares he bred this spring have been checked safe in foal for 2008. With the registration of the 2007 and 2008 foal crops his total foals will total well over 500. More than 50% have been roans.

As with Blue Valentine, most of Leo Hancock Hayes’ get have been used as ranch or rodeo horses with no official AQHA record. However, some are starting to make their mark in the show pen. Bar Star Danger, a 2002 bay roan stallion has points in Tie-down and Breakaway Roping. He qualified for the AQHA World show in Junior Tie-down Roping and earned his Register of Merit (ROM) in 2006. Blue Fox Hancock, a 2001 blue roan stallion, has AQHA points in Working Cow Horse and Heeling and earned his AQHA Open Performance ROM in early 2007. A bay roan daughter, Bar Star Sadie and a red roan gelding Pros Velvet Seven, both have points in Tie-down Roping. Several others have done well in other organized competition such as foundation shows and ranch horse competitions.

In keeping with tradition, quite late in his life, this great stallion seemed to be getting some due recognition. But that is par for the course. When Joe Hancock ran himself out of competition at the quarter mile in the early 1930’s, a good decade prior to the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association in 1940, who knew his legacy would endure eight decades later as one of the greatest foundation sires of all time?

When his son, Red Man, burned up the race tracks of Arizona, carried the top ropers to the pay window, and sired outstanding horses out of very ordinary mares, sometimes all in the same weekend in the 1940’s and 1950’s, no wonder those men who knew him personally still revere his name sixty years after his death.

In one of Red Man’s last foal crops, when a blue roan colt hit the ground, that never stood at stud to the public, and had no official AQHA performance record, who could imagine that his name would perpetuate the line of ‘can-do’ horses across North America and even imported to Australia? Yet, twenty-five years since his death, one can flip through the pages of several equine publications today and you will find many breeders advertising Blue Valentine bloodlines.

Leo Hancock Hayes was in good condition and healthy to the end. Always attentive to the proximity of mares in neighboring pastures, but ever gentle, when someone walked into his paddock of knee-high grass, he would position himself just right to let them know where he wanted to be scratched – always just behind the withers. He was much loved and will be sadly missed at the Funny B Ranch and by many other breeders in the horse business.

Randy and Susan Brookings have a very promising son of Leo Hancock Hayes already waiting to carry on his work. As a junior sire, Funny B BlueMuchaMan has been breed to a limited number of mares at the Spiller Ranch near Wingate, Texas. MuchaMan's willingness to baby-sit the foals, his tolerance of a gelding ridden through his mares during breeding season, or to have a ten-year-old kid ride him bareback with a rope around his neck, explains why his babies have exceptional dispositions and great minds, so typical of Leo Hancock Hayes’ progeny. And then there is the color...with two foal crops on the ground, MuchaMan has produced 100% roans.

And so it is with great sires that quietly go about their work, without heavy show schedules and large promotional budgets. Through their offspring, however late it comes, eventually their value is realized by the masses. That may very well be the case with Leo Hancock Hayes. In the words of the great western writer, Louis L'Amour, "There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

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