Hancock Horses .com


The Cowhorse Confluence; a partnership between:
Lazy TL Ranch, Miles City, Montana

and the late
Lynne Taylor Quarter Horses, Shepherd, Montana
by John L. Moore

Awesome Pete

Bob Shelhamer & painting of Oswalds Pete

     I have just interviewed and photographed Bob Shelhammer who is now 89 years old. Bob is the breeder of the Oswald line of horses that have a big reputation in central Montana but were never promoted elsewhere. The Oswalds were probably the most intensely bred Peter McCue horses available anywhere. The line includes Oswald, Oswald Pete, Mr. Pete Oswald and Awesome Pete. We stand Awesome Pete here at our place. Oswald himself was quite a horse. He set a track record in Oklahoma as a two-year-old and went on to win many match races and compete in calf roping, bulldogging and barrel racing. Shelhammer says he was the best dogging horse he ever rode.

     The Cowhorse Confluence is a documentary article for Lynne on the Bub Nunn High Rolling Roany horses and the Bob Shelhamer Oswald horses. I am working on this as an article for the Western Horseman about Lynne. He would be embarrassed if he heard me saying this but he is a true cowboy's cowboy. There is no one in the state that has done as many things with horses as he has even though he has never been involved with the race track nor the show circuit."    ~ John Moore

     PRCA pickup man Duane Gilbert of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming is shown working the 2005 National Western Stock Show in Denver on 4YO Sunday Creek Pete. "Pete" is by Awesome Pete out of a daughter of Roanys Tomcat.

The Cowhorse Confluence

     Our ranch has raised registered horses, both Paints and Quarter Horses, for decades. For the past 10 years we have been partnering with Lynne Taylor of Shepherd, Montana in his breeding program for stout, athletic ranch horses. Lynne owns two outstanding AQHA stallions, Roanys Tomcat and Awesome Pete.
     There are not many men alive today who have the practical horse experience that Lynne has. Right out of high school he went to work for Bud Kramer at Cohagen, Montana. Bud and Bobby Kramer at that time ran about 3,000 head of horses. Lynne later went to work gathering loose horses for the BLM in the Missouri Breaks, then for 20 years managed the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Refuge. During this time he was also a PRCA saddle bronc rider, bull rider, team roper and for over 35 years, he was a top pickup man.
     While it has been copied by others, Lynne originated the idea of crossing Bub Nunn's Hancock line of horses with Bob Shelhamer's line-bred Oswald horses. This has created a unique confluence of working cowhorse blood. I call it:

The Cowhorse Confluence...
     The open, windswept country between Melstone, Montana and the Missouri Breaks north of Winnett, Montana is cow country and is best traveled horseback. It takes a special type of horse to pack a man and work a cow on this range and for years folks thereabout knew the very best came from Bob Shelhamer and Bub Nunn.
     Nunn says he was "wanting a Hancock horse pretty bad" when he went to a Jayne Harris horse sale in Recluse, Wyoming in 1985. A stranger approached him and pointed at one big roan weanling. "That's the only stud colt ever saved out of Roan Prairie," the man said. "I picked up Cheyenne on Roan Prairie and he was the best pickup horse I ever rode." The colt had been consigned to the sale by noted breeder Roy Cleveland and was named "High Rolling Roany."
     Bub Nunn had his Hancock horse. Almost 50 years ago Bob Shelhamer went to Kansas to look at a Bill Cody stallion. While there all anyone wanted to talk about was a match racehorse named "Oswald." But no one knew where the horse was and some speculated he'd died from abuse. It was said the horse was often matched three times a day then used in rodeos all while being kept in a chicken coop. Shelhamer returned to Montana with Oswald on his mind. A few years later he learned that Walter Clark of Forsyth had found and obtained the horse. A deal was struck, and Shelhamer had the bloodline he'd perpetuate through four decades. "I was a happy camper when I got Oswald bought," Shelhamer says.
     In 1990 Lynne Taylor had retired from managing the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Refuge for the BLM and was planning to begin breeding stout, athletic cowhorses. Having earned his living horseback since he was a teenager, including many years picking up broncs, Taylor knew what he wanted. One day at a Billings horse sale he bumped into Nunn who was selling three of his High Rolling Roany colts. Lynne couldn't stay for the sale but he made sure someone bought him all three.

Lynne on Roanys Tomcat

     The best of these was "Roanys Tomcat." Taylor began putting together a collection of mares, many of them blue roans with a Poco Pine background, while day-working for large ranches in central and eastern Montana. The more he worked for the Shelhamer ranch the more impressed he became with their line of Oswald horses. They were all the same: stout, fast, tough, and packing more 'cow' than a litter of Blue Heelers.
     When Bob retired from the horse business Taylor acquired one of the best young stallions left in the remarkable Shelhamer program. He purchased Awesome Pete, the last colt out of the top-producing mare, Gin Blaze, to put on the red and blue roan daughters of Roanys Tomcat.
     Though found by Clark in Kansas, the Oswald story actually beings in Oklahoma where the 1945-model stud won the Oklahoma Futurity and set a track record that stood for four years. Once he had him, Shelhamer took the gentle stallion straight to the arena. "He was the best dogging horse I ever rode," he says. He was also used in the roping events and barrel racing.
     Oswald's successor was his son, Oswald Pete. The third horse in this royal line of ranch stock was Mr. Pete Oswald, known affectionately as "Junior." But these weren't merely related on the top side of the pedigree. Shelhamer had started a line-breeding program that finally culminated with Awesome Pete. "I took line-breeding as far as it could go," he says. The result is a large pool of Peter McCue blood, Oswald himself being a line-bred Peter McCue. Shelhamer's breeding program had a definite plan. "I bred 'em for years to get a lot of cow in 'em," he says.

Nona & Bub Nunn & photo of High Rolling Roany

     There is no lack of cow in Nunn's Roany horses either. "I saw something once I wouldn't believe if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," says Nona Nunn, Bub's wife. "Bub was working heifers in the corral on Roany and two tried to get by him. One tried to go behind Roany and he stuck his leg out to block it."
     The Hancock line of horses have always been known for being unusually athletic for their size - Red Man, and his son, Blue Valentine, being two of the most noted progeny - but some were considered a bit ornery. Many believe this stigma originates with Joe Hancock having a half-Percheron dam. But there was no bad blood in Roany. "Nick Mothershead started Roany," Nunn recalls. "After the first saddling he called me. 'I thought you said that horse had never been rode,' he said. He hadn't, I told him." On his first ride Roany had behaved like a broke horse.
     The dam side of the Nun program included mares from his previous stallion, Apple Jax, an own son of Two-Eyed Jack.
     Because they were iron-spirited ranch horses, a few of the Shelhamer horses were also thought to be a tad rank. "Oswald was as kind as a kitten," Bob recalls. The horse was, in fact, so timid, it was hard to pasture breed him.
     No program is infallible, but the colts from Taylor's Roanys Tomcat are noted for their good minds and those daughters crossed on Awesome Pete produce unusually gentle colts. The first time Taylor rode Awesome Pete the horse was a three-year-old and Lynne was helping a rancher ship calves. One soggy heifer calf broke from the bunch. Lynne roped the calf and Awesome Pete dragged it into a stock trailer.

Lynne on Awesome Pete

     Undoubtedly, the equine world's most under-rated athlete is the rodeo pickup horse. They have to be strong, quick, agile, and fearless. They are the modern "war horse."
     Roanys Tomcat and Awesome Pete come from top rodeo horses and they're producing the same. Taylor picked up regularly on Roanys Tomcat before he quit that game a few years ago, and now PRCA pickup man Duane Gilbert of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming spends his summers rescuing rough stock riders while mounted on horses purchased from Lynne or borrowed from Lynne's son, Tim Sonberg.
     At jackpot team ropings Taylor ropes both ends off Roanys Tomcat and any one of a number of his get. Other Taylor-bred horses are performing all over the nation in rodeos, team pennings, on ranches or standing at stud. One example is Deegan Tomcat, who stands at Mill Iron Farm.
     A word about the mares: Lynne's program is built around his own select females and the mares of a few friends. These horses carry the foundation blood of Poco Bueno, Skipper W, Coys Bonanza, and Two-Eyed Jack (among others) and the running blood of Easy Jet, Go Man Go, and Rocket Bar. They're top mares, and while many are colored in popular shades, they are chosen for soundness, conformation, disposition and bloodlines. Color is only the frosting.
     The only real problem with the Taylor horses is one of nomenclature. If you call Lynne and ask about his horses he only knows them as "Bub" and "Bob." "Bub" is the roan Hancock horse and "Bob" is the Shelhamer stud. They are registered as Roanys Tomcat and Awesome Pete, but to Lynne and Marion Taylor they'll remain Bub and Bob. And those nicknames are the heart of their program. It is a Cowhorse Confluence, the blending of decades of horse sense from the lives of two old Montana cowmen, Bub Nunn and Bob Shelhamer. So it is only fitting the horses carry the names of the men. After all, for many years they carried the men themselves.

written by John L. Moore
Photographs by John L. Moore

Lynne Taylor Quarter Horses, Lynne & Marion Taylor, Shepherd, MT
Lazy T L Ranch, John L. and Debra Moore, Miles City, Montana



While they are not "Hancock" horses, the Oswald line has been crossed on Hancocks a lot lately and this combination can now be found in Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and perhaps other states. Oswald went back repeated times to John Wilkens the sire of Joe Hancock. Oswald set a track record in winning the Oklahoma Futurity as a two-year-old and was used in Kansas before going to Montana where he was a sire and all-around rodeo event horse for Bob Shelhamer. Lynne Taylor, Ray Beecher, Gene Hetletved, Jim Leachman, Dr. Black, and LeRoy Hauerland are among those who have or are currently utilizing a Hancock/Oswald cross.


Summer 2012 update: Ray Beecher passed away June 1 and LeRoy Hauerland purchased all the remaining Beecher horses. So, Gumbo Roany now joins Awesome Pete and Gumbo Gin Cake in Sealy, Texas.

Lynne Taylor on Roanys Tomcat

Sad NEWS:  Sunday, March 16, 2008.  Lynne Taylor.
      "The West lost a horseman last week. When Lynne Taylor collapsed and died at his Shepherd home on March 12 it was more than the passing of a true cowboy and gentleman. It was the passing of an era.
      Born in the Hole-in-the-Wall country of Wyoming in 1935, his family moved to Miles City when he was 12. In 1953, the year he graduated from high school, this community was worried because there were only 800 horses in the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale. Taylor and the Bucking Horse Sale came of age together. At 15, he got on his first bronc at the initial Bucking Horse Sale. Fifteen years later he would headline the match saddle bronc riding with Hi Whitlock, Johnny Ley and Denny Looman.
      As a young man he simply wanted to ride saddle broncs and ride them well. When not rodeoing he cowboyed in big country, working for Les Boe, Bob Pauley, Benny Binion, and especially, Bud and Bobby Kramer. Kramers always ran several thousand head of horses and sometimes shipped thousands more. Their gathers stretched from skyline to skyline. Looman first met Taylor at the Kramer Ranch. "Lynne was a tough saddle bronc rider and a good bull rider," Looman recalls. "But he was an outstanding country cowboy. He rode some bad ones in the hills."
      His big country experience landed him his first government job in 1966 gathering wild horses off federal land in the Missouri Breaks. After the passage of The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 the government sent Taylor south to manage the mustangs in the Pryor Mountains. The Act says, in part: "Congress finds that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West." Taylor's cowboy pragmatism and the romantic idealism of "living symbols" would eventually collide. Eighteen years of gathering horses in the roughest terrain imaginable didn't faze Taylor, but ultimately, the bureaucrats, environmentalists, and animal rights activists did. He took an early retirement in 1990. Soon, on the mustang range, cowboys gave way to helicopters, biologists, and information officers. A few years ago government horse experts announced that the dominance of zebra dun and grulla color in the Pryor herd was evidence of a direct link to the horses of Coronado. "Hell," Lynne told me. "They're zebra duns and grullas because I cut every stud that wasn't a zebra dun or grulla." Taylor had culled for color hoping the horses would be more attractive in the Bureau of Land Management's adoption program. It worked then, but when Lynne Taylor died last week there were an estimated 29,000 feral horses on BLM-managed land in 10 western states. But there were more than that, some 32,000, in various "holding facilities," including feedlots. What Lynne probably never envisioned was that all horses, not just "wild" horses, were becoming little more than symbols.
      After retiring from the government, Lynne picked-up rodeos, day-worked for ranches, and started his own Quarter Horse breeding program. The West, Lynne thought, would always need stout, good-traveling ranch horses.
      He was only partially correct. In Lynne's day ranchers rode horses. Today the trailer headed into the hills is more likely filled with four-wheelers. In 1961, when Lynne was a 26-year-old bronc rider, there were 2,367,000 horses in the United States and horses saw work. Today their number is near 10,000,000 and many are unemployed. They stand idly in back yards and tiny ranchette acreages. Symbolic, but bored. What the Kramer horse herds and the Pryor mustangs could never do, time did. It roared by and left Lynne in its dust. Lynne bred horses for function. The public buys horses for image. His geldings sold and prospered but the big country is becoming small. It's a rare cowboy who needs an all-day horse.
      Lynne never cared about image. Whether walking or standing his posture was of a man horseback. His big country heart teetered on a comic edge, like a colt looking for a reason to be frisky. But none of this was image. It was love. He rode broncs for 20 years, picked-up at rodeos for 38 years, and never quit team roping or training colts because he loved it all.
      He was the head wrangler for the Montana Centennial Cattle Drive - overseeing 3,337 horses and 80 men - because of love. The day before his passing was spent in the saddle and he talked lovingly that evening about how his colt had pinned its ears around cows. Before he passed he probably had handled more horses in his lifetime than any man in Montana and this physical toughness and tenacity was birthed out of love. And much of that love was for the horse. Lynne never carried a cell phone, rode a four-wheeler or used a computer. They were interferences to his love life.
      Recently a judge in Texas justified the closing of a horse slaughter plant by saying: "in the movies the cowboy never ate his horse." That judge doesn't love horses. He loves political correctness. Symbols. Images. Lynne Taylor loved horses and seeing them abused, abandoned and neglected bothered him to his core.
      Last week when his proud heart finally failed, the West lost a horseman. But the horse lost a friend."

By John L. Moore. Special article printed in the Miles City Star newspaper

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