Leroy & Sylvia Hauerland bring Oswald blood to South Texas.
IT’S A HOT, HUMID DAY IN AUGUST ON the pool-table-flat coastal prairie of South Texas. You are 40 miles west of downtown Houston, in a pasture on a
ranch at Sealy, Texas, surrounded by a band of mares hock-deep in lush Bermuda, Bahia, and other grasses.
You’ve got a book with you.
The Book stops. A sorrel mare comes over to say hi. “She’s a ‘Bob,’ ” the Book says.
An encyclopedia named Leroy Hauerland, the Book is a ranch reference guide on bloodlines of the American Quarter Horse. Leroy is talking livestock, horses and breeding, while critiquing conformation, discussing disposition and particularizing pedigrees to the fourth and fifth generations on scores of mares and their offspring.
Leroy, 70, rubs the neck of another roan mare. “She’s a Bob, too,” he says, referring by nickname to the mare’s sire, Awesome Pete. “That’s a Quarter Horse, this mare. You see the bone? See those feet? Look at those muscles, that hip.
She’s really nice. That’s what a Quarter Horse is supposed to be.”
That’s the kind of Quarter Horse that made Texas a cradle for the versatile breed that today is the world’s best and speediest ranch, cow, cutting and usin’ horse, the kind that Leroy and Sylvia Hauerland (hauer rhymes with sour)
have been breeding toward for more than four decades.
Married 47 years, Leroy and Sylvia both grew up in Sealy, back when the community was still a small town way out from the big city that today spreads ever closer. Leroy grew up with a sister and two brothers on the farm where their father grew corn and cotton and Sealy’s Holiday Inn and Walmart now grow.
Leroy went to Catholic school through the eighth grade, when the Catholics transferred to the public high school – where he met Sylvia Schier. The two dated through high school before she went off to Baylor University but encouraged him to take a football scholarship to Texas A&M University.
Leroy played defensive safety under Gene Stallings and roved the secondary in the 1968 Cotton Bowl Classic, where A&M upset Alabama’s Crimson Tide 20-16 and Stallings’ mentor, Paul “Bear” Bryant, hoisted Stallings after the game.
Sylvia and her sister are the daughters of the man who owned the Schier Feed store. Their grandfather owned the land that became the core of the ranch where the Hauerlands now run livestock on nearly 10,000 acres of various properties that they own, lease or hold in partnerships, including with their son Brad, who also owns the Schiers’ original ranch house and the livestock auction in nearby Columbus.
It is on that lush green land that the Hauerlands raise horses, commercial Brahma/Hereford-cross cattle, kids and grandkids. In addition to Brad, Leroy and Shirley also have daughters Robin Lee and Katie Elizabeth and son Todd Kenyon.
“Everyone’s doing good,” says Leroy, who made his children a good living for a quarter-century as a Farm Bureau insurance agent. “We’ve got good sons-in-law, good daughters-in-law, and 11 grandkids.”
The grandkids bring the horse breeder full circle.
“I’m really pleased with the Ranching Heritage Breeder program that the AQHA is doing,” Leroy says. “That really struck a bell with me. I think it’s in the right direction, where it needs to be going because most of the Heritage Breeders are horse breeders, not just horse multipliers. Each one tries to really set the genetics in stream, to breed the really good qualities in the American Quarter Horse. That’s always been my interest, to follow the old foundation blood. It’s history. It’s how this country was built: on the back of a horse, especially here in Texas, but also in Montana, Wyoming, all over the West. It’s really important for me to preserve that because it’s part of me and I want my kids to be able to experience what I’ve experienced.”
Experience came early for Leroy, whose father gave him a little half-Morgan when “I was 9 or 10 years old, used to ride him all over town, don’t know how many thousands of miles I rode on that horse, used to swim with him in the river. … I grew up with the cowboy gene.My mother always said, ‘You got horse blood in you somewhere.’ ”
Leroy rode a lot of horses for people when he was growing up. He rode match races for Owen Lay, whose famous tobiano stallion Painted Joe sired some of the fastest Paint horses of the 1940s and ’50s.
“Owen had an old Paint stud he called ‘Lightning,’ a tricolored bay with black mane and tail, and lightning streaks on his neck,” Leroy recalls.
“The horse was out of Louisiana, a tight-coupled Quarter Horse (type), real pretty and could fly. Owen had Lightning’s mama, a bay mare, and her mama, too. We’d go down to the brush track at Wallace and bet with those guys from Wharton, Gonzales, Goliad, Refugio and South Texas. We took that little ol’ bay mare, and we outrun everything they had. Owen said, ‘Look, hold her back; even if you lose the first race we’re going to win the next two. Just stand up and pull on her.’ Man, I pulled that little mare, thought her jaw was going to break, and the first race, the margin was real close. Then when the money got there, he said, ‘OK, boy, turn her loose.’ We outrun everything they had. And oh, man, I loved riding them.”
Leroy has broadened his experience to the point that he now has about 70 mares and four stallions (or five, including a son of Bobs Hickory Rio that he uses as a teaser). The breeding stallions are Playboy Boonsmal, a 17-year-old blue roan by Peptoboonsmal and out of Playboys Stormy by Freckles Playboy; Atta Cat, 16, sorrel by High Brow Cat and out of Classic Jazabell by Haidas San Badger; Rock River Gun, 11, sorrel by Playgun and out of Sittin Prettys Baby by Peppy San Badger; and Gumbo Gin Cake, 10, bay roan by Gumbo Roany and out of Juniors Gblaze by Mr Pete Oswald.
Those stallions are part of a roster that included Leroy’s beloved Bob – Awesome Pete, who died last year. Leroy spent seven years “shopping” for Bob, whom he finally found in Montana, specifically because of the stallion’s historic bloodlines.
A bay son of Mr Pete Oswald, Bob was “the classiest, best conformed Quarter Horse I’ve ever seen,” says John L. Moore, a rancher and writer at Miles City, Montana, who has documented the Oswald bloodline.
AWESOME PETE was foaled in 1996 out of the OSWALD mare Gin Blaze. His sire, Mr Pete Oswald, was by Oswald’s Pete, a son of Oswald.
A line-bred Peter McCue, Oswald was a brown stallion by Johnny Barnes, who was out of a mare by John Wilkins, one of the fastest sons and most prolific sires by Peter McCue.
Foaled in 1945 out of a Chubby mare, Oswald was a match-racing horse in Oklahoma and Kansas who was taken to Montana, where he became a cowboy’s horse who sired the kind of usin’ horses that cowboys needed on the Northern Plains. It took a cowboy to ride them: Oswald horses were known for their toughness, athleticism and intelligence, but also for being kind of cold-backed first thing in the morning.
“The Oswalds were prepotent and were a very specific type,” John writes. “They were almost always bays or browns and often had white hind socks. Much like the old Remount type of horses, they are great for cowboy polo, rope horses and ranch horses. Plus, they are tough and have lots of bottom, able to be ridden day after day and still be fresh. The Oswald horses just had a look about them, and you could pick them out of a bunch of horses. It was the trimness, cleanness of neck and head and legs. They’re about the most intensely Peter McCue blood in the world and most look just like old John Wilkens’ photographs. These horses are really light-mouthed and have a temper. Not everyone gets along with them, and I warn people about that. Plus, they are usually really big, in that 16-plus-hand, 1,300-pound range. Their intelligence and personality keeps me sold on them. They have a big soft eye with just a little of the rogue in it.”
There are a lot more soft eyes than any rogue in the Hauerland horses. The matriarch of the broodmare band was Sue Sammon, a 1972 foal by King Koy 2 and out of Bernice Koy. King Koy 2 (read King Koy The Second) was a grandson of King P-234 and was out of Hanna’s Princess, who was a granddaughter of King P-234’s sire, Zantanon. Leroy bought Sue Sammon from Jess Koy, who had named her after his granddaughter and her dam after his wife.
“It’s been really satisfying being able to see the development of Awesome Pete and these Oswald horses,” Leroy says. “With the influx of horses like Playboy Boonsmal, Atta Cat and Rock River Gun, my challenge now is putting them on the right genetic cross with those mares. I think we’ve done that: The heads are there, the backs are there, the legs are there. I like good bone. I like good withers that will sit a saddle. I like short backs and long underlines. I like a good throatlatch, where the horse will bend at the poll. I like a really good, big, black foot; that’s why I got Awesome Pete, because those feet are hard as anvils. Those Bob mares haven’t been farriered – they trim themselves. They take care of themselves.
“So the conformation is there, the minds are there,” he says. “We’ve got all those parts together, and we’ve got color, too. Some of the mares are better conformed than others, but most of them were selected for the genetics. The genetics come with what you have. Most horses that have good genetics have pretty good conformation.”
Leroy puts it together in an analogy.
“Breeding horses is like stacking blocks,” Leroy says. “You build your stack from the ground up. You lay your foundation with genetics and then you build from there through conformation, disposition and athletic ability. And three words on the bottom block: Lots of luck.”
Breeding, by the Book
YOU’RE BACK IN A PASTURE. WITH THE BOOK.
Leroy is talking about the early chapter written by Jess Koy, who was Sylvia’s great-great-uncle on her father’s side. The chapter starts with Leroy on Koy’s West Texas ranch at Eldorado, south of San Angelo.
“Uncle Jess told me, ‘Leroy, whatever you do, do not breed down, always breed up,’ ” Leroy recalls. “ ‘Always breed something better than what you’ve got.’ I was trying to buy a mare from Uncle Jess, but he didn’t like to sell his fillies or mares. He was only selling his horse colts. We walked out in the pasture there, and he was spouting pedigrees back and forth, up and down, all over. He was telling me this mare’s by Joe’s Last, this mare’s by Six Chick Koy, this mare’s by King Koy 2, this mare’s by that stud, that mare’s by this stud, on and on, naming them and going up and down the pedigrees left and right.”
Leroy’s eyes were glazing over.
“We were out there amongst about 40 mares,” he says. “Uncle Jess was slapping those old girls and he had a bag of cubes. I thought, man, he’s gonna get his brains kicked out. But that ol’ man knew what he was doing. Well, I had seen a little horse colt amongst those mares that I liked, so the next morning, we got up and I was going to make a proposition and try to buy him for a usin’ horse. So I asked him, said ‘Uncle Jess, there’s a little horse colt in there that I really like.’ And he said, ‘Boy, you better look again, that’s a filly!’ I asked, ‘Well, what do you have to have for her?’ ‘She’s not for sale.’ I was trying to keep the conversation going, so I asked how did you say she was bred?”
Uncle Jess barked: “I told you yesterday! And he turned around and walked off.”
Leroy laughs about it now, but he decided right then and there that it would never happen again. He opened the AQHA stud books and started studying.
The Book’s got it. “I’m not being cocky,” he says, surrounded by yearlings, “but when I look at this crop, I think I’m finally here, this is where I need to be, these are the horses I’ve been trying to breed all these years.”
Leroy turns and gently strokes a colt on the neck, a red roan yearling, the first foal out of LJH Sister Koy.
“This one, he’s a Playboys Boonsmal. Now ‘Sister Koy’ is by Lucky O Lena out a Son Ofa Doc mare and goes back to Joe’s Last and Joe Reed on her bottomside … ”
By Richard Chamberlain Photos by Darrell Dodds
Page 36 - WINTER 2016 - RANCH HORSE JOURNAL
Richard Chamberlain is a special contributor to the Ranch Horse
Journal. To comment, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.