The Quarter Horse is America's horse. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed in 1940 and has over 4 million Quarter Horses in its registry. The foundation for the modern Quarter Horse is built on names like Joe Hancock, Blue Valentine, Driftwood, Leo, Sugar Bars, Easy Jet, King P-234, Wimpy, Poco Bueno, Dash for Cash, and the legendary Three Bars.
Although the Quarter Horse is extremely versatile and can be found in many disciplines including racing and even dressage, it really excels as a western performance horse and on the ranch as a working horse. Many Quarter Horses perform equally well in the performance arena and on the ranch as a working cow horse. An outstanding example of this blend of arena and working horse was the legendary Blue Valentine.
Blue Valentine, AQHA No. 0097116 was a Blue Roan stallion foaled in 1956 by the legendary Red Man and out of Beautys Dream. Red Man was a well-known sire of top ranch mounts throughout the Arizona cattle country, and was a son of Joe Hancock. Like has sire and grandsire, Blue Valentine had speed, good bone, gentle disposition, longevity and cow sense. He also had strong genes and passed his favorable traits on to 210 AQHA registered foals. Blue Valentine richly deserves his place as one of the great foundation ranch and performance sires. In recognition of this remarkable horse the AQHA plans to induct Blue Valentine into its Hall of Fame.
Blue Valentine died in 1980, but there are four breeding operations in Colorado and Wyoming that carry on the Blue Valentine line. Merritt Quarter Horses and KeSa Quarter Horses from the Fort Collins, Colo., area and The Bath Bros Ranch and Vista Grande Ranch from Laramie, Wyo.
King Merritt and Hyde Merritt acquired Blue Valentine and owned him until his death in 1980 on Hyde Merritt's Wyoming ranch. Chip Merritt has continued the tradition started by his father and grandfather of breeding top quality quarter horses with the Blue Valentine and Hancock blood lines on his Merritt Quarter Horse ranch outside of Windsor, Colo. "They are not only good rodeo horses, but you can do most anything on them" Merritt says, "ranch work, ranch rodeo, trail riding, pleasure, barrel racing and speed events."
KeSa Quarter Horses, located 10 miles east of Fort Collins, Colo., breeds high percentage foundation Driftwoods and Blue Valentines. Sam Shoultz said, "Our reference sires, Mr. Junewood, Blue Fox Hancock, Driftwood Sensation, and Hancock Red Fox, have all earned Open AQHA performance points in the cattle events and all carry time proven working genetics." The KeSa stallion Blue Fox Hancock, which is 43.75 percent Blue Valentine, was the 2009 reserve All-Around High Point Champion in all events, senior and open division, winning a new horse trailer from AQHA.
Dick Van Pelt of Vista Grande Ranch, which is located up against the foothills just south of Laramie, Wyo., crosses his Blue Valentine bloodlines with Joe Hancock and Leo to produce top quality, ranch bred, working cow horses. "Our big blue stud, Blue Hancock Cowboy, is a true blue, stands 15.3, and is 22 percent Joe Hancock. He has consistently thrown a lot of color. Our stud, Blues Roan Hancock, sired an Oklahoma Foundation Halter Champion which has proven himself in the arena and the show ring," said Van Pelt. "Our string of top quality ranch bred working cow horses goes back to Blue Valentine, Joe Hancock and Leo. It doesn't matter whether you rope, cut, barrel race or just need a good tough ranch horse, we have something that will fit you."
The fourth ranch is the historic 1868 Bath Bros Ranch of Laramie, Wyo. Bath Bros horses are the Blue Valentine, Driftwood, Hancock crosses that really shine on the ranch and in the arena. Billy Ward, seven-time NFR Pickup Man, rides Bath Bros geldings. Randy Dunn says, "Our program includes six grandsons and 31 granddaughters of Blue Valentine. We are ranchers raising good horses!"
"Blue Valentine was the sire of top ranch and roping horses. He transfers this ability very strongly to his offspring. You can almost be certain that if you have a Blue Valentine bred horse, he will have a lot of ability, but he won't have a lot of attitude," said Sam Shoultz of KeSa quarter Horses, "You can breed him (Blue Valentine) to mares of the same breeding or to mares of different lineages and you still get the same type of personality. He had a very strong genetic stamp that he passed on."
These good friends get together in Laramie, Wyo., every year to offer outstanding animals from their breeding programs. The Come to the Source horse sale has been held in Laramie on the last weekend in August for 14 years, and if you are looking for a horse with bloodlines that have stood the test of time, start making your plans now to "Come to the Source" in 2012.