All-Time Leading Rope Horse Earner Apache Blue Boy Dies at 28

Apache Blue Boy died Jan. 11, 2023.

All-time leading rope horse money earner Apache Blue Boy died at 28 January 11, 2023, laying to rest the horse but not the legacy of one of the greatest rope horses of all time.

Apache Blue Boy AQHA World Show Victory Lap
Apache Blue Boy and Mike Row | AQHA File Photo

Apache Blue Boy won $119,000 in the American Quarter Horse Association at a time when that was the only way to have a rope horse’s earnings tracked, topping the all-time money-earner charts as 2022 came to a close. The horse earned 12 AQHA world championships, racking up 1,719.5 AQHA points along the way.

“I hate to be biased, but I’ve never rode a horse better than him,” owner Mike Row of Tishomingo, Oklahoma, said. “And I’ve had a lot of people tell me he’s one of the best ever.”

Who was Apache Blue Boy?

Breeder Greg Frick and Sabre Quarter Horse Ranch of Whitewood, Saskatchewan, raised Apache Blue Boy. Row’s late father, John, bought him as a ranch horse sire for his own band of broodmares, after Gaylon Hayes told him about the Canadian stud.

“We started him as a ranch horse, using him for pre-conditioning and calving,” Row explained. “Jody Ramer did a great job starting him, and we sent him to Steve Orth. Jody told us he was a special one, and that we really should show him. It took me a while to want to do it. I always thought it was too political. But he was so special. And he was fun to ride.” 

The horse won 12 AQHA titles in nine consecutive years, including six golden globes and six silver globes.

Apache Blue Boy’s Most Famous Offspring

Apache R Hali Junior Nogueira
Apache R Hali and Junior Nogueira in 2016. | Courtesy WCRA

“That was one of the biggest thrills of my dad’s life: to see not only Blue Boy but his babies,” Row said. “There have been good horses, but to see one produce babies that have been so accomplished has been awesome for our whole family.” 

Apache Blue Boy is also the sire of AQHA World Champion Head Horse Apache R Hali, the winningest rope-horse mare of all time, ridden by two-time World Champion Kollin VonAhn and three-time World Champion Junior Nogueira.

“I rode Apache Blue Boy when Steve Orth had him, and I helped Steve at the World Show on him,” VonAhn said. “He was a lot like Hali. He was a very physically strong, powerful horse that was good mouthed and had a good move. He was quick footed. There aren’t a lot of horses that can feel that strong but be soft doing it.”

Nogueira first saw Apache Blue Boy when the former was a kid from Brazil helping the late, great trainer Robbie Schroeder at the AQHA World Show.

“I see this beautiful gray horse, and he made it back in the heading, heeling and calf roping,” Nogueira said. “He placed in every class. I thought how amazing he was. Much, much later, I found out that was Apache Blue Boy, Hali’s daddy. That made me even more happy to have Hali. He wasn’t just a show horse—you could rope on him all day. It makes me so sad to see that all that money he won was just at the shows, because today he’d have so much more. People look at the new-bred papers, and they forget about him. The bloodlines are important—but the reason we breed the best we have is we’re trying to breed the best mares to the best studs to have the best horses. I was blessed to watch him go and I’m very blessed to have Hali as a part of his legacy.” 

VonAhn bought Apache R Hali as a prospect because he knew how good her sire was, and she helped him—as just a green rodeo horse—to his second gold buckle.

“I see a lot of Apache Blue Boy in Apache R Hali,” VonAhn added. “She’s physically strong, and she moves very similar to him. They’re the type of horse that give you everything that they have, and when you need them, they give you everything they have. They’re smart and athletic horses. When they know their job, they will give you everything they have. That trait is passed along.”

Hard to Come By

Apache Blue Boy—for all he won in the show ring—kept his main gig as a ranch horse and a ranch horse sire at the family ranch. He live covered all the mares he bred there, hardly standing to the public in the two-plus decades there.

“I wish we had collected more semen on him to get a few more of his babies out there,” Row lamented. “We live-covered everything at the ranch, and we didn’t really promote him as a stud. Dad bought him to raise ranch horses for ourselves, and that’s just what we did.”

While Row has two Apache Blue Boy babies left at his place, Nogueira and VonAhn are doing their part to carry on the bloodlines. Nogueira has sold two Apache R Hali colts to Brazil—one by Shining Spark and one by Hickory Holly Time. But he’s got two 2-year-olds on the ground in Stephenville, too—a colt by Slick By Design and a filly by Hashtags.

“They are both beautiful,” Nogueira, the three-time world champ, said. “They’ll both be gray, and they’re both athletes. The Slick By Design is absolutely stallion prospect, and I’ve already started him under saddle. The filly is going to be so flashy and showy. I cannot wait to be riding these babies, because Hali has meant the world to me.”

VonAhn pulled an embryo in 2023 so he can have his own Hali baby next year, too.

“I bred Hali this year to a cow horse stud called Magicality,” VonAhn explained. “He’s smaller, but he was more like Apache Blue Boy. Not as tall as Hali and a stopping sucker. I have no business being in the mare and colt business, but I think that much of that mare that I want to try.”

John Row and Apache Blue Boy
John Row and Apache Blue Boy | Mike Row Photo

Good Ride, Cowboy

Apache Blue Boy stood guard tied to a tree at Mike’s dad, John’s, funeral five years ago. Now, Mike is certain his dad has a great mount himself.

“Whoop and ride Dad, Blue Boy is home,” Mike wrote on Facebook announcing the stallion’s death.

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