A Montana Cowboy
Leo Taylor was a bronc rider who had some stout-hearted horses.
By Hailey Harroun for The American Quarter Horse Journal | January 1, 2001
From riding broncs as a teenager and racing horses on bush tracks to farming and raising cattle, Leo Taylor saw every angle of the Quarter Horse industry since its beginning. Leo’s parents homesteaded in eastern Montana near Miles City in the early 1900s, while raising their 13 children. Leo, the 12th sibling, began working at the large CBC Ranch in McCone County when he was 16. The ranch raised horses, which ranch cowboys would swim across the Yellowstone River and trail to Miles City to sell. When Leo was 17, the CBC ranch manager left him in Canada with instructions to ride an unbroken 8-year-old horse back down to the ranch in Montana. The whole way home, Leo said it seemed like the horse never stopped bucking.
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When Leo made it to Highway 2, which runs across northern Montana, he stopped and waited for someone to come along. He was hoping to turn the horse loose and hitch a ride home. No one came, so he got back on and kept riding. The horse was covered in spur tracks when Leo got home, thus earning Leo the nickname “Spur” Taylor. The horse went to the Miles City bucking horse sale, and he was the top-selling horse. The bronc rider who rode him couldn’t believe that Leo had ridden him all the way from Canada. His bronc riding days at an end, Leo married Daisy Rittel in 1938, and the couple began raising horses on their ranch in Circle, Montana. The horses they raised roped cows during the week and ran on the Montana bush tracks on the weekends.
Legendary racehorse Jet Deck was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1991. Leo’s first Quarter Horse stallion was Clegg McCue, and his first mare, bought in 1958, was Nita Sorrel, who traced to Peppy and Peter McCue. Leo, who trained all of his racehorses, also ponied them himself at the track. His wife, Daisy, also played a large role at the track, feeding and hot walking the horses. The duo was active in the racehorse business well into their 70s. Their best horses included Gold Money Penny, a homebred great-grandson of Jet Deck and Go Man Go, who was still winning races at the age of 12. The bay gelding started racing in 1983 and had many wins in his career. In the winter when he was done racing, Leo would take Gold Money Penny elk hunting on his ranch.
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Leo’s 39 starters have earned $12,420 racing at the tracks in Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico, Illinois and Canada. He was a hands-on trainer who broke and galloped his horses first at home then on the track. Their top runners were Mr. Star Chipper (TB) and Perfect Trip (TB). Their home track was Queen City Helena Downs, where Leo was inducted into the Queen City Racing Hall of Fame in 2000.