According to friends and family, Brent Hayden died overnight July 30 in his bed in a barn owned by his former supervisor J.D. Howard, retired farm manager of Southern Equine and formerly of Walmac Farm. Hayden was 67.
Barry Irwin, who bought the occasional horse by utilizing a tip from Hayden, said: “He was a unique individual in an enterprise where this quality is found in spades. He stood out. He was a bona fide genius. He was brilliant, exceptionally well-read and his interests covered a broad spectrum of the human experience. He had a deep understanding of politics, economics, the arts, science—you name it. He was always sending me stuff to read. I felt like a student at the University of Hayden! Although we spoke every week or so for the past 17 years, I never met him in person. He was strange that way.”
Howard added: “Brent had a brilliant mind, one of those guys that could go through several generations of pedigree and what they produced. I don’t know if there was ever anybody around in my 50 years in the business that could go through the pedigree and families like him.”
Born in Casper, Wyo., he was crazy about horses from a young age, recalled his sister Linde (Raj) Hayden. The first book he read was ‘Black Beauty.’
“Without even applying to attend Rice University (in Houston), he received an invitation based strictly on his SAT scores. He was offered an opportunity to go to medical school right out of high school, which he declined. He was always a loner. Having formal education did not serve his soul.”
Although educated by his first employer Johnny Jones as a horseman when originally hired in the mid-1980s in the industry as an employee of Walmac Farm’s Texas training division Twin Creeks, he found the life of a night watchman suited him best.
“He became a hermit, living in the barn,” said Johnny Jones III, son of the legendary Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse manager. “He was a curmudgeon before his time. He had strong opinions about everything and wasn’t afraid to make them known.”
Bloodstock agent John Stuart, one of the many horsemen Hayden gravitated to, said: “Staying up all night suited him, because all he wanted to do was read and do his research. He was a genius, especially when it came to pedigrees. He stayed up all night just looking up horses and pedigrees. He was very enthusiastic. I would talk to him for hours at a time. Fascinating fellow. He really had no life other than caring for horses. He put everything he had into them. He lived a spartan life. He had no hobbies, no nothing, he just lived for the horse game. He was like a hermit.”
Hayden had ideas about which horses certain people should buy and either race or breed. And he collected a group of horsemen he would try to motivate to follow up on his idea. He made enough commissions on his suggestions to survive.
Hayden, in the beginning, worked under the Walmac umbrella in Texas at Twin Creeks, later went to Aiken during the winter with Jones’ daughter, and then returned to Lexington to monitor broodmares at night during foaling season.
Jones said: “How many people does one ever meet that develop a passion that is truly all-consuming? In God’s nature there is a beauty about that that is every bit as beautiful as somebody who is perfectly balanced.”
Hayden is survived by two sisters, Linde Hayden of Washington, non-fiction author Torey Hayden of Scotland, U.K., and a brother Kirk Hayden of Texas.