The story of Awesome Pete and his continuing lineage.
A decades-long era in Montana Quarter Horse breeding came to a sad and ironic end in south Texas recently when the Bob Shelhamer-bred stallion, Awesome Pete, succumbed to the floodwaters that devastated the Houston area.
A dark mahogany bay, Awesome Pete was foaled in the Musselshell country in 1996, the last and 23rd foal of the prodigious mare Gin Blaze and sired by Mr Pete Oswald by Oswald’s Pete by Oswald.
Oswald, born in Oklahoma in 1945, came from royalty. His sire was Johnny Barnes and his dam the famous Miss Chubby. He set a track record in winning the Oklahoma Futurity as a two-year-old then all but disappeared from sight. While on a horse-buying trip in Kansas in the 1950s, Shelhamer heard about the dark brown stallion but couldn’t locate him. According to area legend, the horse was match-raced several times a day, used in rodeos in the evenings, and hidden in a chicken house when not competing. Shelhamer may not have found him, but pioneer Montana breeder Walter Clark on Rosebud Creek did. Learning this, the two made a trade and Shelhamer acquired the stallion in 1961. A timid breeder, Shelhamer hand-bred Oswald and went against popular thinking by establishing a line-breeding program that produced many outstanding ranch and rodeo arena horses. The Oswald line became known for being exceptionally intelligent and stout-hearted horses that generally stood 15-3 and weighed 1300 pounds. They were almost always browns or bays, often with two hind socks. Some cowboys loved them, others cussed them. When provoked, some were known to buck. When they bucked they were usually unrideable.
The toughness and ability of the Oswalds caught the eye of well-known cowboy and horseman Lynne Taylor. He purchased the three-year-old Awesome Pete to breed to his Roanys Tomcat (by High Rolling Roany) daughters. When Taylor passed away eight years ago, the majority of his horses sold through a Billings Livestock horse sale. Awesome Pete and a number of Taylor mares were purchased there by Texas breeder LeRoy J. Hauerland.
Hauerland, a cutting horse enthusiast, had been looking for a stallion that could add bone and muscle to his Texas cutting horses without sacrificing the cow instinct. He was immediately smitten by Awesome Pete’s good looks and gentlemanly ways and the Montana stallion became the favorite of the south Texas ranch that includes noted cutting stallions Atta Cat and Playboy Boonsmal.
Back in Montana, the Oswald line found new media attention recently through a novel, a documentary, and the accomplishments of an aging barrel horse. My novel, Looking for Lynne, features the Oswald line prominently and won the silver medal in the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Awards. His Name is Midnight, a documentary now on the film festival circuit, tells the story of a Montana-born Oswald gelding, Junior Midnight, that was rescued from near-death on the east coast and coaxed to an amazing recovery. This 1994 gelding was sired by Mr Pete Oswald and goes back to Oswald a second time through his maternal grand dam. Meanwhile, in Billings, the accomplishments of Lisa Hamilton’s 27-year-old barrel horse, Creepy Junior (a/k/a Big Brown) has drawn national attention. Creepy Junior, a 1989 gelding, was sired by Oswald’s Pete and out of a mare of Kramer breeding.
While there are Oswald-influenced stallions in the area - Loren Walker, Wilbur Reid and Gene Hetletved are among those who stand sons of Awesome Pete - the direct line to the old Oswald horse washed away in the 500-year-rain-event that struck the Houston area the night of April 16th. In the following 18 hours more than 21 inches of rain fell and in Houston alone, 280 billion gallons of water, enough to flow over Niagara Falls for 10 days, struck the city.
Hauerland and his son, Brad, run over 1500 cattle and 100 horses on a ranch that sits between East Bernard and Big Bernard Rivers. Both rivers left their banks quickly, washed out roads and bridges, and stranded livestock on knolls in the sandy prairie region, some with water up to their backs. The Hauerlands spotted Awesome Pete and his mare bunch Monday stranded on a small knoll, but despite heroic efforts horseback and with an oversized Army truck, they were unable to get to them. Tuesday, Brad Hauerland discovered Awesome Pete had bogged and down in an awkward position. As the waters receded, the big bay was extracted and taken to the ranch where he received veterinary care. Though it appeared early that he might recover, the stress had taken its toll on the aged horse and he was humanely put down Wednesday afternoon.
Why Awesome Pete bogged is a mystery, but having had the horse on my ranch for eight years I have my own speculation. An aggressive herder, he may have chased a mare from danger’s edge when he slipped into the loamy mud. The actual cause of death was likely stress and exertion. "He was like a great athlete that flat wore himself out," Hauerland said. Of the Hauerlands’ many livestock, Awesome Pete was the only loss.
One thing is for certain, bred with a heart of fire and raised in the badlands, Awesome Pete (called "Bob" by his late owner, Lynne Taylor) did not succumb easily. It took a 500-year rain to extinguish his light.
The Hauerlands will continue their breeding program by breeding Awesome Pete offspring to Gumbo Gin Cake, a Ray Beecher-bred stallion with an Oswald influence.
Posted on April 28, 2016
by Land & Livestock International, Inc. A Handbook for Ranch Managers
As John put it, it is a "sad and ironic ending." - jtl
By John L. Moore