A Diverse Operation
Roger Daly Horses trains and turns out top-notch horses for both racing and performance horse sales and events.
Many entrepreneurs aim to identify their qualifications and convey their business focus when naming their businesses. Yet the more an operation entails, the longer the name may need to be. But if you’re a man from Aubrey, Texas, who boards mares and babies and trains and sale preps horses for both racing and performance events and your name is Roger Daly, well, the name Roger Daly Horses is sufficient.
Over the past 40-some years, Roger’s operation has evolved from breaking and showing colts (which, of course, they still do) to mainly sale prepping horses for major auctions, including those in the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing industries and for the cutting, reining, jumping and barrel-horse arenas.
In addition to preparing horses for their intended careers, Roger and his crew retrain horses for new careers. “We get a lot of Thoroughbreds from the racetrack that we retrain to go into the jumping world or the dressage world, and we get quite a few Quarter Horses from the track that are going on into the barrel world or other careers.
“We’re pretty diverse,” Roger adds. “We’re probably more diverse than most places.”
His client and friend, 2012 NFR World Champion Barrel Racer Mary Walker of Ennis, Texas, couldn’t agree more. “He’s a world-class horseman,” she says. “He broke my colt Latte Ditto, a clone of my NFR World Champion Perculatin. Roger does everything from ponies to racehorses to jumping horses. He’s great at getting horses fit for sales and he and the people who work for him have great training ability.”
His Firm Foundation
Although he’s been in Texas for more than 50 years, Roger was born in New York’s Finger Lakes region, in Weedsport. Of the three girls and four boys born to Richard and Marion Daly, Roger is the oldest. And he’s the only one in the family other than his dad who has any interest in horses. “We had a dairy and crop farm and he drove some draft horses,” Roger says.
Roger participated in 4-H and FFA and showed in some open shows around home while in school, but, he says, “I hated milking cows and didn’t like shoveling snow. I liked the horses a lot better than I liked the cows!”
Due to Texas’ horse-hub reputation, he relocated there in his early 20s. “I was lucky to get jobs riding colts for a lot of ranches and did some halter and pleasure showing,” he says. “I also got to show some cutting horses, which was kind of my favorite thing to do.
“The ranch I was at had some really well-trained horses that took real good care of me,” he adds. “I didn’t always know what I was doing but those horses did. And a lot of good trainers were very helpful, holding herd and turning back, telling me things to do, so I learned a lot doing that. I worked for a cutting horse trainer for a couple years, too.”
While working at Billy G. Underwood’s ranch 40-some years ago, he worked with cutting horses, show horses and racehorses, and then started fitting horses for yearling sales. “Back then, nobody really prepped them too much,” Roger says, but he learned a lot that he built on.
When the Underwood ranch went bankrupt, they dispersed the horses and Roger went out on his own. He did some prepping for B.F. Phillips and broke some colts for Bubba Cascio and others and went to various trainers at the racetrack and other disciplines. “That got pretty big, and breaking and sale prepping just outgrew the showing,” Roger says. “It wasn’t by design, it just kind of worked out that way.”
Over the years, Roger watched and learned from those he worked with. In the racing industry, he got to know D. Wayne Lukas and Sleepy Gilbreath. “Wayne always had his horses and his shed row looking good, with flowers and stuff out, and his horses were always very well cared for,” Roger says. “Sleepy was a great trainer and a good friend, and we broke a lot of colts for him in the early days. When his horses came back here from the track, they were always in good health and great body condition.
“In the early days in cutting, I watched those great trainers, Shorty Freeman and Buster Welch, and saw how they did things,” Roger adds. “And J.J. Pletcher, Todd Pletcher’s dad, gave me my first job in Texas breaking colts, and I learned a lot from him, and from Charles Graham of Southwest Stallion Station in Elgin.
”Those guys in the old days worked hard and Doc [Graham] still does,” Roger says. “I learned a lot from seeing how they did things. And we keep learning. When we go to all these events, I watch all the different trainers and keep learning things from them about training, breaking, and caring for the horses. Horse care has improved so much over the years with better feed and research and medical care that you really must stay up with what’s going on.”
“I love to pick his brain,” Mary adds. “He gives me his honest opinion and he’s just so smart at everything he’s learned. You never quit learning in the horse business, and I’ve learned so much from him just walking down the aisles of his barn and seeing all the horses he’s got there. He knows each one of them and what they need.”
“Handling all the different disciplines keeps us pretty busy year around,” Roger adds. “In the show ring you’re only going to win for so many years, but you can fit horses pretty much forever if you’ve got good help and can oversee it.”
His Good Help
Some of Roger’s crew has been with him for upward of 20 to 40 years. “My owners know them and have seen them here for a lot of years,” he says. “In the peak of sale season, there are probably 14 or 15 here at the ranch, and we have a separate road crew that goes to auctions with us because the regular crew stays here.
“It’s kind of like you’ve got to have a whole Nascar pit crew — good ranch and road crews, a good veterinarian, a good shoer, and good horse haulers to transport them. It takes an all-around team—a village—to do what we do.”
Roger and his devoted crews love all of what they do, from the training to the fitting to the sales. “When we break these young horses and they either go to the racetrack or the barrel trainer or whatever discipline—I call it when they leave here and go to graduate school—if their trainers are happy and pleased with them, we get a lot of satisfaction and pride out of that.
“And we love going to the sales and having the horses look well so their owners are proud of them, and they sell well,” he says. “It’s really important to us that they have good weight, stand out and have good manners and such. Just seeing those yearlings develop in the 90 days they’re here and getting good reports keeps us going every day and makes us try harder.
“Last year we had one in the July Fasig-Tipton Sale in Kentucky for a client. It brought $160,000 and then the pinhooker who bought it sold it in Ocala [in March 2022] for $700,000. Knowing we get them fit and broke and well-handled so they could bring money a second time brings us a lot of pride.”
Roger’s road crew works various types of sales, from Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racehorses to performance horses. “Our road crew consists of people we gather up from various parts of the country,” he says. “Many of the horses that we send up to Kentucky, I send an agent up there to sell because they are right on top of some of our Quarter Horse sales. It’s kind of hard to find people who have that kind of knowledge and can get away for four to six days at a time to go to the sales.”
But Roger attends pretty much all the sales with the road crew so he can represent his owners and talk to buyers. “That’s part of the fun of what we do,” he says, “showing off what you’ve done for the last 90 days—your product—and hoping they sell well, and having trainers ask who you like or who works well in the round pen. The sales aren’t days off, but they are a lot of fun and a change of pace. They’re an opportunity to see what everybody else is doing, how their horses look, or whether anybody’s got a better deal than you have, and you might want to change something up. The days are pretty long but the sales are fun.”
A Few Daly Celebrities
These days, Roger’s clients run the gamut from large-scale breeders such as Bobby Cox, who sends huge numbers through the program each year, to those who have just one or two horses. “Fortunately, I’ve had good clients I’ve learned a lot from and who have moved up and gotten better horses, and then we’ve gotten better at what we do, and the sales are also better,” Roger says.
Among Roger Daly Horses’ star clients are:
Falling In Loveagain (First Down Dash-Genuine Knockout, Special Effort), who topped the All American Sale as a yearling and then won the All American Futurity in 1998 in addition to her trials for the Ruidoso, Rainbow, All American and Dash For Cash derbies
Whistle Stop Cafe (Freighttrain B-Sinuous, Mr Jess Perry),
Instygator (Ivory James-Eye Popping, Mr Eye Opener) and
Jettz (One Fabulous Eagle-First To Celebrate, First Down Dash), all sired by Cox Ranch stallions. “We had all three of them and they ran first, second and fourth in the All American Futurity in 2020, so that was a pretty big deal!” Roger says.
Reymanator (Dual Rey-Savannah Hickory, Doc’s Hickory), whom Zane Davis rode to the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship in 2009, and then was named the World’s Richest Stock Horse Champion in 2015, along with winning the National Stock Horse Association (NSHA) Triple Crown title.
Roger says his biggest challenge in today’s world is finding and keeping quality help to care for the horses. Keeping the horses healthy in a commercial barn where horses come and go from various parts of the country also presents challenges. “Fortunately, most of our owners are quite knowledgeable about keeping their horses up to date on their vaccinations and deworming and that makes a huge difference,” he says. “Not that they can’t still get sick or have issues but keeping them all healthy and sound and getting them developed can be like having a kindergarten or first grade!”
To that end, Roger’s full attention is on his operation, and he doesn’t have any hobbies to speak of. But the variation in his routine, from training to keeping in contact with clients to attending sales, races, reinings and cuttings and dealing with the day to day, keeps him fresh and vital. “When you live at your work, it’s seven days a week,” he says. “And I like it, so I guess that makes it my hobby, too!”
He’s also proud to be a national ambassador for Purina Feeds. “I’ve represented them for a few years,” he says. “I occasionally go to make speeches or represent them at the sales so it’s doubly important that our horses look good and are well conditioned and well cared for. I’ve worked my way up through the organization and I wear a checkerboard on my shirt. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Working his way up is what Roger’s life has been all about. “I admire his work ethic more than anything,” says Bill Melson, general manager of Cox Ranches, whose horses are among Roger’s most plentiful clients. “When he shakes hands with me, he has hard, calloused hands. He works hard. At 75 he still rides. And he does what he says. If he tells you something, that’s the way it is. He’s a professional and he’s highly respected in the horse industry by everybody.”
From his youth, where he learned that work ethic from his father, to now, where he values what he calls brutal honesty, showing up just like you do at a dairy, doing your job, providing quality feed and grain, and giving the best possible care, Roger Daly Horses prides itself on training and turning out top-notch horses for racing and performance horse sales and events.