Owner And Breeder Buck Daniel Leaves Legacy

buckdanielBuck Daniel with AQHA World Champions Spend Cash and Garden Valley SpiritShortly after experiencing his greatest success in a long and distinguished career as a Quarter Horse owner and breeder, longtime rancher Oscar Lewis “Buck” Daniel passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at age 68, following lingering health issues.

Daniel leaves behind many great memories, and many outstanding horses, his resident horse trainer Jason Hanchey said, adding, “I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him, and I’ve been around him a long time.”

Visitation will take place at Buxton and Bass Funeral Home in Okochobee, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 14, from 5-7 p.m., with the funeral set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. The sixth-generation rancher and longtime resident of Okochobee was born March 6, 1945, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He loved owning and operating a commercial cattle ranch. He’d also built his successful horse breeding operation in recent years.

During a spectacular two-week mid-December run in Las Vegas, Smokin Reata, a 1999 gelding bred and owned by Daniel, carried Shane Hanchey, 24, of Sulphur, La., to the 2013 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Tie-Down Roping World Championship title. “Reata” (Jeremiah Lena x Henrieta Daneil x Johnny Nance) and Hanchey earned the gold champion’s buckle in spectacular fashion. Hanchey headed into the 2013 World Finals ranked 10th in the standings and more than $62,000 out of the top spot. They secured an event-record $134,766 during the 10-round Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) with a combined time of 80.10 seconds, breaking Fred Whitfield’s 16-year-old record of 84 seconds with nearly four seconds to spare.

Hanchey’s brother, Jason, 37, Daniel’s longtime lead trainer, had started and trained the horse. Hanchey started riding the horse when he when was a sophomore in high school and the Reata was 5. They’d competed in high school and college national finals and three prior NFRs before dominating last month.

Daniel wasn’t able to accompany the brothers, who fondly refer to him as “Uncle Buck,” to Las Vegas due to his failing health, but he certainly enjoyed watching the event live on television. He also called the brothers several times throughout the rodeo, Jason Hanchey said.

“Buck got to see that, and I think it was something that sure meant a lot to him,” said Hanchey, who had worked with Daniel about 14 years. While complete records of roping earnings by Daniel’s horses are not available, Hanchey estimates them at more than $1 million, with Reata earning more than half that amount on his own.

Several of Daniel’s horses have earned American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championship roping titles. In 2007, two of them, Spend Cash and Garden Valley Spirit, earned Senior and Junior Tie-Down World Championships. Another horse owned by Daniel, Smart Peanut Bubba (Smart Little Lena x Justaswinging Peanut x Justa Swinging Peppy) earned a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) $3,000 Novice Open World Championship during the 2007 season, with Daniel’s longtime associate and East Texas-based trainer Mike Coleman riding.

Mainly cutting-bred stallions and mares in Daniel’s breeding program have also produced several talented barrel-racing prospects, Hanchey said. Cutting horses owned by Daniel have earned about $300,000, according to Equi-Stat records.

“His idea was to go and get those big-bone foundation-bred mares and cross them on the new cutters,” Hanchey said. “He just made some phenomenal roping and barrel horses. He bought a bunch of good cutting stallions, showed them for a while, and then put them in his breeding program.”

Daniel had competed as a cutting horse rider on a small scale for many years. He later started his initially modest horse breeding operation with one stallion and 14 mares. “We now have about 17 stallions and 50 mares,” Hanchey said.

In addition to having good instincts regarding cattle and horses, Daniel dealt well with many of the people he crossed paths with too. “It’s just like my brother Shane said. He saw something in us before we believed in ourselves,” the trainer added.

Daniel even introduced Hanchey to his wife, Kristen, by hiring her to lope horses for him. Looking back, the trainer suspects his boss knew exactly what would happen when he did. In recent years, Daniel “kind of adopted” the couple’s 9- and 3-year-old daughters as granddaughters and armed each with a good horse to ride.

Daniel is survived by his wife, Terry; nephews Dewey Daniel and his wife, Sheri, and D.R. Daniel II and his wife, Paula, all of Okochobee, Mark Branham, of Vero Beach, Fla., Terrance and Alex Mahoney, of Sarasota, Fla.; nieces Amy Jo Fletcher, of Vero Beach, and Colleen Mahoney, of Sarasota, three grand nephews and one grand niece.