Dusty Hancock


All-Around Performer

By Willard H. Porter
(reprinted from The Quarter Horse Journal, 1948)

In the many livestock publications and horse magazines published in the West today, there has, I think, been a rather conspicuous absence of write-ups on one of the all-time greats in usin’ mounts—the modern rodeo rope horse. In the editorial sections of a number of these periodicals, trick and high school horses, outstanding sire and top sprinters of the quarter-mile straightaway have been given space for entertaining, interesting and authoritative spreads. The racing Quarter Horse, especially, has been written up time and time again. But reports on the rope horse have been relatively few and far between.

This is partially due, perhaps, to the reluctance of some rodeo men to submit to the so-called interview. Then, too, I think, the rope horse is sort of taken for granted by many people. “Sure,” they say, “he’s a great horse,” and let it go at that. But why he is great and what makes him great doesn’t bother them much, unless, of course, they are rodeo hands themselves.

The publicity which breeders and race horse men get in our western magazines, through articles by competent fact writers, not only does them a world of good but also tends to create and stimulate an ever-increasing interest on the part of the public toward the Quarter Horse breed. Having felt for many years that the rope horse is one of the finest equine athletes that was ever developed by the hand of man. I have now taken it upon myself—with the editor’s permission—to do a series of stories on outstanding roping Quarter Horses for The Journal. In subsequent issues I shall try and bring to the pages of this publication, stories on the very best of rodeo arena horseflesh, but now let’s take a look at the mount we have on hand—Dusty Hancock 3609, owned by B.A. (Speck) Wilson of Tucson, Arizona.

B.A. (Speck) Wilson mounted on Dusty Hancock P 3609 (Roan Hancock x Triangle Lady 12, a daughter of Buck Thomas)

A big, rugged horse with plenty of bone and conformation, a characteristic of the splendid Hancock breeding, Dusty was foaled August 5, 1940, and was raised by the Tom L. Burnett Estate. Like his daddy before him, Roan Hancock 456, by Joe Hancock, Dusty is a roan—a blue roan stallion—with one of the sweetest heads you’d ever want to see. Out of Triangle Lady 12, No. 443, this Hancock horse stands 15 hands and, in top condition, weighs close to 1300 pounds. He’s got a heavy rear end on him and a tape around his forearm measures 25 ¼ inches. His only solid white markings are just above his hooves on the left side and on his right foreleg. He has a white splash on the left side of his nose. His feet are small*, set on sturdy legs well bunched-up beneath him.

Dick Griffith, bull riding champion of the world for many years and still one of the top-drawer trick and fancy riders of the nation, was the first man to own Dusty after he left Texas. Griffith bought the horse as a two-year-old from the estate of the late Burnett for $1250, and brought him to Scottsdale, Arizona, with the idea in mind of making a trick riding horse out of him. Griffith liked the blue roan because of his gentle disposition, another Hancock characteristic, and Dusty would have made an excellent trick riding horse. But his owner wanted a matched pair and soon found that he couldn’t duplicate Dusty’s color or conformation very easily. So he sold him to Chick Logan of Santa Barbara, California, who used him as a stud and a race horse on the West Coast. Then Speck Wilson bought the horse as a six-year-old for $5250. In the two years that Speck owned him, Dusty has proved his mettle in more ways than one, and, if money is any criterion of a horse’s worth, Dusty, in the eyes of his owner, has increased about 400 per cent since Griffith first brought him from Texas.

He is now a proven sire of good horseflesh. His first filly, Hubba Hubba, owned by Nick Nichols of Tucson, was named champion cow horse mare as a four-year-old at the 1948 Tucson horse show. His colts are all good, sound animals with a tendency toward blue and red roan colors, although Hubba Hubba** is a chestnut sorrel.

Dusty’s racing career has been one interruption after another, but during times he has been on the track, he has been indeed worthy of the name “Quarter Running Horse.” He raced some as a two and three-year-old and raced against grade “A” horses in 1944. He was then taken off the track and used primarily as a rope horse. When Speck got him, he put him back into circulation on the straightaway. Last winter, after a three-year lay-off, Dusty came back to beat grade “A” and “AA” race horses. He graduated from grade “A” to “AA” in two races. On January 24, at 220 yards he won by a neck from Little Beaver in the time of :12.6, equalling the Tucson rodeo track record for that distance. Then on February 2, he won over Little Beaver again by a nose at 300 yards, making “AA” time of :16.2 on a good track. Speck says he has a couple more races and then, after 35 days in training, he took him away from his handlers the day before the Tucson rodeo and went on, in that show, to win second day money in the team-tying.

This is one reason why Speck likes the horse so much. “You can do anything with him,” Speck says, “at any time. You can race him one day, rope off him the next and breed him the third. It doesn’t make any difference to Dusty. He’s always right there doing the job you want him to do. I’ve never seen a horse that could do so many things on or with such a gentle, even disposition.”

A rear shot that shows the powerful hindquarters that helped propel Dusty Hancock down the racetrack in record time and out of the roping box at full speed.

A story Speck likes to tell, which doesn’t exactly show how gentle the horse is but does show that it takes crazy things to “spook” him, happened at Benson, Arizona, a few years ago when Speck was coming back from a rodeo at Willcox. He took Dusty out of the trailer, which he had parked in a service station, and tied him to a nearby tree. “Then,” says Speck, I went into Page Lee’s saloon for a beer. I hadn’t been there very long when some drunk comes in and asks me if that’s my horse tied across the street. I told him it was and he sets a funny look on his face and says, ‘Well, he ain’t there any more.’” Speck went out and found Dusty wandering the streets. He thought it was kind of funny but tied him up again at the same tree. He went back to finish his beer. “A few minutes later,” Speck continues, “the drunk came in again. ‘Say,’ he says, ‘you know that horse of yours? Well the son-of-a-gun has gone and done it again.’ This time I got him off the street for good, loaded him and headed for Tucson. It wasn’t till I was down at Benson later on that year that I found out the trouble. I had tied him to a tree where a pipe elbow from a hydraulic car hoist came up from the service station. It had been put slap against the trunk of the tree so that cars wouldn’t run over it. Every time they let the hoist down the air came out--swo-o-o-sh--right into Dusty’s face.”

Normally, however, provided there are no hidden outlet pipes to hydraulic hoists, Dusty can be tied and left any place and will stay put. Children can crawl all over him and under him. He can get so fouled up in a rope that he looks like a double bowline, and he’ll never fight or struggle to get away. Some time ago Speck turned a saddle over on him while roping a heavy steer. He never made a move to buck or run off but just stood there, bracing himself against the weight until the rope was cut and the rig straightened up.

Dusty has never been used as a calf or single steer horse to any great extent, but as a team-tying mount he excels. Ray Boss used to rope a few calves on him, but Speck, due to a leg injury he got while loading cattle at Nogales, now only enters the team contests. In the Southwest, riding Dusty and paired with top heelers, Speck has won his share of Rodeo jack-pots and purses.

A quiet, sensible horse in a chute, Dusty stands stock still until the proper moment comes to move. He scores well and is at full speed in two or three jumps. After overtaking the steer, he knows the right distance at which to follow and when Speck connects and throws his slack rope, Dusty sets up good and hard, moving out to the left of the animal at about a forty-five degree angle. Speck says no matter how big the steer is, the old blue roan has never been jerked off his feet nor lost his balance, and he knows just as much about heeling as he does heading.

When I asked Speck about Dust’s ability to cut cattle, he had this to say: “I’ve never entered him any cutting contests, but he does know his business. At the 1947 Tucson show, Dusty was one of the horses that hazed the cattle back to the herd for the contestants. Since Dusty was working the stock head on, I think he did more of a job than the contesting horses that were working from the rear of the steers. Anyway, only one horse pushed his steer through us and that was a horse owned by Ross Perner of Seligman.

“For an all-around purpose horse,” says Speck, “I don’t think you can beat Dusty. At least I haven’t seen one that I like better in the last couple years.” I’m inclined to agree with Speck and I think many people who know the horse will, too. For in Dusty Hancock are combined all the ingredients that make a truly great Quarter Horse—bloodlines, conformation, performance and the ability to transmit his likeness to his colts. A proven sire, a race horses and a great roping horse, Dusty is a mount to which the most exacting Quarter Horse critic would be compelled to hand the purple ribbon.



*Some of you may wonder why Willard Porter described Dusty Hancock as having small feet... like it was a good thing? But a reader has to remember the type of hoof and leg that Mr. Porter was talking about (in 1948, 60+ years ago) was to point out conformational qualities that made a finely bred saddle horse different from horses of inferior breeding… many of whom may have been platter footed with course rough legs and joints… something that was likely more common in that day. It is obvious from the photos included with this article that Dusty Hancock had excellent feet and legs. In 1948 the quite newly formed AQHA was promoting the American Quarter Horse as a well bred racehorse, cow horse, saddle horse…a horse that could go from the race track into the show ring then out onto the ranch and look good doing it all. True versatility!

** The AQHA mare registered as Hubba Hubba is not a daughter of Dusty Hancock so I had a quick look, without actually printing a get record out, and came up with Huba Huba C-- a Dusty Hancock daughter foaled in 1943 out of a Triangle Mare. Huba Huba C was awarded a Race ROM in 1950. ~Michelle Thompson

Thank you to George and Sally Tvedt for submitting this article.




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