Written by Christie Miller Published in the June 2001 Barrel Horse News
In August of 1966, Roy Browning purchased The Ole Man from Frank Vessels, Sr.
“The Ole Man was the first Quarter Horse to sell for $100,000; that would be like $1 million today,” said Richard Joneson, long time manager of the Roy Browning Ranch at Shawnee, Okla.
“He’s the one that put Roy Browning in business. When you heard Roy Browning’s name, you thought of The Ole Man,” said Joneson.
To date, The Ole Man is the sire of 18 AQHA Champions, and runners earning over $1 million. There’s no doubt that The Ole Man definitely lived up to his name. In 1993, when The Ole Man turned 30, people started to call, wondering when he passed away.
Joneson said, “I’d tell them, ‘He was just out there 15 minutes ago when I last saw him.”
The AQHA automatically declares any horse deceased after its 25th year. However, at that time, in 1993, the rule pertained to horses age 30. In order for the horse to stay in AQHA’s system and compete in any AQHA-sanctioned events, the owner must annually provide photos and a written statement. The Western Horseman also ran an article about that time, informing readers that The Ole Man wasn’t gone yet.
Foaled in 1963, The Ole Man sired 1,876 AQHA-registered foals, and was breeding well up to the day he died at age 32. His last crop, which hit the ground in 1995, numbered 60 foals.
“He was a very fertile horse,” saidJoneson. “He was in real good shape when he died. I really think he had a stroke. We were just getting ready to breed some mares to him.”
Born to Run
A sorrel stallion, The Ole Man was bred by Frank Vessels, Los Alamitos, Calif. Rated SI 100, The Ole Man garnered eight wins, four seconds and seven thirds, and earned $20,657 out of 33 starts. From the time he earned his AAA rating, he brought back 20 checks from 21 starts. He won the Stallion Stakes and the Lightning Bar Stakes, and possessed the stamina, heart and soundness to run 24 races his 3- year-old year.
“He was retired sound and stayed that way his whole life,” said Joneson of the 16- hand stallion. “I’d ride him a quarter-mile from the breeding barn to the collection barn, and I’d ride him back. It was like sitting on a mountain; you could feel the power.”
The Ole Man was sired by the immortal Thoroughbred stallion Three Bars. His dam, Chicado V, was the 1952 Champion 2-Year-Old Quarter Running Filly and a true blue-hen producer. Sired by Chicaro Bill, Chicado V won three of her six starts. Her dam, Do Good, produced other greats like Senor Bill, Clabber II, Do Good Bam, Do Win and Do Chick.
Bred by Vessels, Chicado V quickly earned the reputation of being the only mare to produce five top AAA runners. In order, she produced Triple Chick, War Chic, Table Tennis, Three Chicks, Chicado Chick, Anchor Chic, The Ole Man, Successor and Alisal. Of those, The Ole Man, Triple Chick – which never raced due to founder- Three Chicks and Chicado Chick were full brothers. A 1957 brown mare, Table Tennis was the 1960 World Champion 3-Year-Old Quarter Running Filly.
Joneson never got to watch The Ole Man run, but said, “He was a great big, powerful horse. There were four of those full brothers, and he was the biggest of the four.”
Joneson described how The Ole Man got his name. “The Ole Man was named after Frank Vessels. What happened was, Mr. Vessels willed this mare – Chicado V – to this trainer, Earl Holmes. Mr. Vessels was affectionately known as “the old man” around the track at Los Alamitos, so that’s what Mr. Holmes named the horse.”
Jacob Bunn, Sherman, Ill., purchased Chicado V and Table Tennis in 1969.
“That was before my time,” said Joneson, who began working for Browning in the fall of 1984. “She must have cost him a bunch of money.”
Chicado V died Feb. 18, 1972, at age 21, of an apparent heart attack at Bunn’s Lincoln Land Farms. Bred to Alamitos Bar, she was one week from foaling.
A Divine Disposition
The Ole Man’s offspring inherited his speed and gentle disposition.
“The most remarkable thing about him,” said Joneson of The Ole Man, “was the strength of his disposition. I had people call me all the time about their Ole Man horse, and they’d tell me about his remarkable disposition and what an incredible mind he had. Come to find out, what they had wasn’t a son or daughter, but a grandson or great granddaughter. The Ole Man was a very personable horse and really smart, a trait that carried on through one generation to the next.”
This disposition was used to their advantage at the Browning Ranch.
“What’s unique,” said Joneson, “was at the time, in the late ’80s, Roy had 100-plus mares, and if you had at least one colt in each pen by The Ole Man, it’d meet you about halfway to the gate and the other colts would follow. If there wasn’t an Ole Man colt in there, they’d scatter like quail and all take off for the other end of the pasture. We’d try to keep an Ole Man colt in each pen of weanlings and yearlings.”
The Ole Man most likely inherited his gentle nature from Chicado V. In the December 1990 issue of The Quarter Racing Journal, Holmes said of his little brown mare, “She was gentle, real gentle – in everything. Chicado V was born broke. I tell you, you wouldn’t know she was in the barn. She was real kind.”
Sons of The Ole Man
Due to The Ole Man’s longevity, he has numerous young sons, a few which reside in barrel-racing barns. Standing in White River, S.D., is Mick and Peri Strain’s 1993 sorrel stallion, Flyma Bars, out of Diamond S Lil, a granddaughter of Azure Te (TB) and Easy Jet.
“The Ole Man was one of the best horses I’ve ever seen,” said Mick Strain when he explained why they chose The Ole Man breeding. “His disposition was marvelous. I liked Three Bars because he was so versatile, and I also admired Walter Merrick. The Three Bars lineage passed on good traits to both sons and daughters.
“Flyma Bars’ oldest foals are 4,” said Strain. “Terry Moore of Arkansas bought a Flyma Bars stud colt that’s out of “Bozo’s” only full sister. He’s also got one of his (Flyma Bars’) 3-year-old fillies, Frenchmans Belle, entered at Fort Smith this year. Debbie Renger (two-time NFR qualifier) bought a couple of colts, too.”
The Ole Man’s dam and granddarn were both brown, and Three Bars’ dam, Myrtle Dee, was black, so occasionally, The Ole Man threw a black foal. David Dodson, Liberty, Ill., owns one of them, a 1994 black stallion named The Ole Moon, out of Little Brown Mopn, a Top Moon granddaughter.
“He has been used for barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying and pole bending at local shows and in the Illinois High School Rodeo Association,” said Dodson. “The Ole Moon has an extremely good disposition, or I would not let my daughter ride him.”
Cathy Browning Hooker, Tucson, Ariz., a relative of Roy Browning, stands Knight Of Ole at her Bearclaw Stables. Now 11, the stallion is out of Easily Kitty by Easily Smashed.
“He’s dark sorrel with a blaze face and a spot on his coronet band that’s marked the same as The Ole Man’s,” said Hooker. “I’d started to pattern him on barrels. Then we were at a show and got a bad batch of feed. He had surgery but ever bounced back. He throws a lot of chrome on his colts; “Smash” is notorious for throwing crop-out Paints.”
A former movie stuntwoman, with the movie “Young Guns” among her credits, Hooker said of The Ole Man, “He was something special- every bit as big as life itself. He was kind of a showoff when you’d go see him. When Roy would snap his fingers, he’d rear and pose for you.”
Ronnie Hall, Vivian, La., owns Ole Rocket Chicaro, a 1981 chestnut son of The Ole Man out of MS Twisty Rocket, a Rocket Bar (TB) granddaughter. Ole Rocket Chicaro has a race ROM, as he won four out of six races as a 2-year-old.
Hall said he’s never advertised Ole Rocket Chicaro much, and mainly breeds local mares, with the exception of Memorial Mint, Ty Mitchell’s great barrel mare, which is bred to the horse for a 2001 foal.
“He’s primarily sired performance horses, like heading and heeling. He still looks great and is doing good.”
Whits Ole Man, from The Ole Man’s last foal crop, stands on the state line between Williston, N.D., and Wolf Point, Mont. Owned by Rita Hardy, the sorrel stallion is out of MS Easy String by Extra Easy. Hardy aquired the stallion out of Oklahoma, and said that his oldest foals are 2 year olds in 2001.
Standing at Roseneath, Ontario, Canada, is a 1990 palomino son of The Ole Man, Healey Falls Ole Man, owned by Art and Elaine Wright.
“Healey Falls Dakota (a ’94 daughter of Healey Falls Ole Man) won the CNE Futurity, both Woodbridge futurities, as well as ERIN, and also ran the fastest time at the OBRA Finals,” stated Wright. “Healey Falls Ole Man had three or four qualify for the NBHA World Show Championships in ’98, ’99 and 2000. Ole Man B, by The Ole Man, is the leading barrel horse sire in Brazil, as well. The Ole Man horses can do anything you ask of them, and they are so smart.”
Back home at the Browning Ranch, Ole Heart Throb quite literally carries on for The Ole Man. Darn of the 1994 sorrel stallion is Love History, by Quarter History out of That Ole Feelin by The Ole Man.
Joneson said, “We kept him because he’s almost a clone of The Ole Man – same body type, same kindness, same disposition.”
The Barrel Pen
The Ole Man was never promoted as a barrel sire, but currently ranks No. 35 on Equi-Stat’s list of top 50 maternal grandsires. Unlike other sires, The Ole Man never really went out of style. On any given year, his foal crop never dipped below 50, with the exception of 1981.
One of the first grandsons of The Ole Man to hit a barrel pen was the 1975 bay gelding, Billy Bars Bug, jockeyed by Martha Wright, Stephenville, Texas. In 1980, Wright rode the gelding to l0th place in Senior Barrels at the AQHA World Show. Sired by Jerry’s Bug out of Ole Lady Bars by The Ole Man, the gelding also carried Wright to win the 1981 Nestea Finals at Mesquite, Texas, and the 1981 WPRA Lone Star Chapter Finals at Abilene.
In 1983, Wright was the Budweiser Memorial Futurity Champion on Rambling Rally, by Rally Racer out of Lil’ Ole Chicado by The Ole Man. Wright also took the reserve championship at the Fort Smith Futurity, and returned to win the Derby in 1984 on Rambling Rally.
The Ole Man is the paternal grandsire of Canadian Debbie Renger’s 1997 and 1999 NFR mount, Leos Ole Buck. By The Ole Man son Mr Horton, the 1987 dun gelding is out of Leo’s Lark.
Another NFR veteran, Janet Stover’s Gotewin Bo, is a maternal grandson of The Ole Man. Sired by Assured Pleasure, the 1990 brown gelding is out ofJuan Girl, by The Ole Man. Susan Jacobs, Plains, Kan., owned Juan Girl, now deceased, and owns a full brother to Gotewin Bo, Im Assure Thing.
Although not a barrel horse, Two D Ole Man is a two-time PRCA/ AQHA Horse of the Year in steer roping, ridden by Lovington, N.M., cowboy, Guy Allen. By Jay Dee Two Jack, the 1987 brown gelding is out of Ole Music Maid, by The Ole Man.
Barrel Money Earners
The Ole Man has five sons on his list of barrel racing get, led by Ole Gold Mine, a 1978 palomino gelding out of the Top Moon daughter Moon’s Hustler. Other geldings on this list include Ole Amadeus, Ole Man West, Ole Badge and Ole Mans Pistol. ·
Leading The Ole Man’s list of maternal grandget is Dale and Florence Youree’s Ole Man Slew, a maternal half-brother to Gotewin Bo. The 1992 brown gelding has official earnings of over $32,000, and unofficially, about $57,000. Champion of the 1997 Ardmore Derby, Ole Man Slew placed 20th at the 1997 Old Fort Days Derby.
Owned by Hollie Salter, Bryon, Ga., is Smoke A Truck, ranked behind Ole Man Slew. By Mr Trucka Jet, the 1991 sorrel gelding is out of Lady Ole Le Etta The Ole Man.
Third on the list is Blaze Of Honor, followed by Thirteenislucky, Gotewin Bo, Ole Gray Moon, Ole Arrow, Titans Cody Ole Sa and Savannah Bar Glass.
According to the latest Equi-Stat figures, 43 of The Ole Man’s maternal grandget possess combined barrel race earnings of $126,672.
Other noted barrel horses carrying The Ole Man’s name as a maternal great-grandsire include Jamie Richards’ Tiny Artillery and Brad Roorda’s Fire Water Fanny.
Leading The Ole Man’s list of paternal grandget is Sleepy Clover Dale, sired by The Ole Man’s 1970 solid black son, Sleepy’s Man. Sleepy Clover Dale is owned by John, Shaw, Riverside, Calif.
Ranked second on this list is Make Me Sleepy, followed by Leos Rebel Lark, Jereds Gold Chic, Hortons Capri, Silver Roxie (ApHC), Leos Ole Buck, Ole Man Can and Mans Flying Machine. Equi-Stat figures show a total of 59 paternal grandget of The Ole Man having combined barrel race earnings of $67,803.
A Grand Ole Man
Besides his AQHA Champions, The Ole Man sired over 220 race ROM earners and numerous horses which earned AQHA Superiors in a variety of events, including Western pleasure, halter and hunter under saddle.
With fondness, Joneson recalled a special quirk about The Ole Man.
“His stall was opened up into a big paddock; he didn’t like being shut in, but didn’t like being shut out either. If just one raindrop fell, he’d AAA it to his stall; he didn’t like being out in the rain.”
Although it was The Ole Man who put Roy Browning in the business, it was Joneson who kept the two together, a fact the South Dakota native modestly explained.
“When Roy went through some rough times, there was a liquidation, and the bank was going to take The Ole Man and sell him. I bought him from the bank for $2,500 and sold him back to Roy for the same price.
“He’s buried right here on the ranch. It’s been an honor to be associated with a legend like him,” said Joneson. Roy Browning died in December of 1999- five years after The Ole Man.