Vaughn Cook Dies

Vaughn Cook Dies

Horseman Vaughn Cook passed away on October 19.

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Vaughn M. Cook passed away October 19, 2020, at his home peacefully, after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. He is remembered as a loving husband, father, pepaw, friend, leader, mentor and ambassador of the American Quarter Horse.

Vaughn was born May 3, 1950, in Walsh, Colorado, to Neil and Erma Cook, where he grew up helping on the family farm.  He graduated from Walsh High School in 1968, and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from Colorado State University in 1972.  

After graduating, he immediately went to work for Dr. B.W. Pickett at CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory, eventually working on the lab’s landmark research projects in equine reproduction and embryo transfer.

Vaughn joined the consulting service formed by Dr. Pickett and James L. Voss, where he had the opportunity to travel across the country handling top stallions from all breeds. Simultaneously, he managed the lab’s clinical embryo transfer services, building it into national merit. 

In 1990, he retired from CSU, and with his wife, Jill Cook D.V.M., established Royal Vista Equine, which gained prominence on the national stage as a premier embryo transfer facility. In 2000, they expanded the business to Oklahoma by starting Royal Vista Southwest LLC and Royal Vista Ranches LLC. Royal Vista Ranches’ stallion line up has included great horses such as Wave Carver, Ivory James, Good Reason SA, One Fabulous Eagle and many others. It is also home to their own race broodmares and foals, where they have enjoyed selling and racing quality American Quarter Horses. 

Vaughn was quoted as saying, “Horseracing is at the core of my life and I love it.” 

In addition to his successful business operations, Vaughn has been involved professionally in the horse industry at the state and national level with the American Quarter Horse Association and Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association. His accomplishments were abundant over the years, but one of his greatest accomplishments was winning the Champions of Champions (G1) with Wave Carver in 2006, who that year was world champion for the partnership ownership.

Vaughn’s contributions to the Quarter Horse industry and to the areas of equine reproduction are immeasurable and his passing will be felt by so many whose lives he touched.  He was an AQHA racing committee member and director at large, and served on the studbook and registration committee, public policy committee and research committee. Vaughn and Jill are members of the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and were honored by Colorado State University as 2016 Livestock Leaders. Vaughn was recognized as the 2010 Colorado Horse Council’s Horseman of the Year in 2010 and in 2012 received the Industry Partner Award from the CSU Animal Science Department. Vaughn served as a RMQHA race director for more than a quarter century, and was a director with the Colorado Horseman’s Association. 

Hard work, dedication and a passion for horses and the betterment of the breed all contributed to his success.  He believed in the value of advanced reproductive techniques as a tool to preserve the integrity of the American Quarter Horse and to aid in the advancement of the breed.  He worked tirelessly for many years to provide services to aid mares and stallions with compromised fertility in order to preserve those genetics for future generations.

Perhaps Vaughn will best be remembered as a mentor and leader to countless horsemen and horsewomen across the country.  He inspired so many students to follow their dreams and believe that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.  He has helped to preserve this industry by welcoming so many young people into the “business” of horses and therefore guaranteeing that this industry will go into the future and prosper by helping to shape its future leaders.  The indelible mark he has left on so many and his contributions to equine reproduction and to the horse industry as a whole will never be forgotten. 

Vaughn loved his daughters and all of them were a great source of joy and extreme pride.  Jill, the love of his life, was his partner and best friend and he never missed an opportunity to credit her for the success they shared.  Spending time with “his girls” was always a highlight for him.  Vaughn’s family and friends meant the world to him and his huge heart and giving nature made him larger than life.

Vaughn was preceded in death by his parents, Neil and Erma Cook; mother and father-in-law, Sandy and Nona Thayer; sister-in-law, Gayle Cook. Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Dr. Jill Cook; daughters, Brandi Herndon and husband Bart of Bristow, Oklahoma; Shannon Cook of Stillwater, Oklahoma; Bailey Cook of Aurora, Colorado; Jamie Cook of Superior, Colorado; grandchildren, Brynna and Bria Herndon; brother Erroll Cook of Walsh, Colorado.
A Celebration of Life will be held during the Fall Mixed Sale at Heritage Place, October 30, 2020, at approximately 7 p.m. or immediately following the sale. A Memorial Service will be held in Fort Collins, Colorado, on November 7, 2020. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association Foundation, 39553 Rangeview Drive, Severance, CO 80610.