Who's Gonna' Fill Their Shoes, Who's Gonna' Stand that Tall?
When it comes to horse training, Mike and I have specialized in starting youngsters; and while Mike does all of the “first step ups”, that first step doesn’t usually happen until a horse has graduated from “Miss Kathy’s School of Manners and Ground Work”.
We are ALL products of our upbringing, and I’m no exception.
My horse training career—which began in a non-professional capacity at age 11—was under the tutelage of Mr. Glenn Evans. Glenn ran the boarding stable where Sha and I spent most of our summers. We thought we ran wild and free, but in the background—making sure we learned to do things right and behaved properly around horses—was Glenn. Far enough away that we didn’t feel caged in by rules, but close enough to make sure we didn’t do anything stupid. Like most cowboys, Glenn's primary concern was probably for the welfare of the horses, but Sha and I were the beneficiaries all the same!
Glenn could have scoffed at my eleven-year old self when I said I wanted to train and ride my first three-year old. Face it, I was eleven! But Glenn didn’t laugh. Instead, he taught me about bosals, patiently showed me how to tie a mecate and most importantly, taught me (hands-on) how to long-line cowboy style. Little did he know that lesson would lay the foundation for my career.
EVERY HORSE I’VE TRAINED OWES A HUGE THANK YOU TO GLENN EVANS, AS DO I!
I learned at Glenn’s side that if you can’t get it done on the ground, you probably shouldn’t be swinging a leg over that horse…at least not quite yet.
Fast forward. On the other end of my career is another Colorado cowboy with a different school of thought—Dan Bruce, colt breaker extraordinaire. It appeared Dan would swing a leg over any horse. But that wasn’t quite true. While he did swing a leg over a few green-broke, snorty-things that made my eyebrows raise, the truth was Dan had a great way of reading a horse. Horse whispering sounds kind of woo-woo, and Dan himself would have laughed at the term, but he could certainly read a horse quickly and calculate the odds. When one did cut loose and bronc, Dan just went with the flow: relaxed, easy, fluid, often laughing, and more times than not with that dang flag stick in his mouth. He didn’t get mad or combative. Why bother when that’s just what young horses do? Dan met horses on their terms; then once the drama was over, the two of them explored the big world together, fearlessly. He was confident, so they were too.
Glenn and Dan. Two Colorado cowboys. Different in some ways, kindred spirits in others, both of whom occupy places of legendary status on my personal, superhero wall-of-fame. I’m truly a better trainer for having known them.
They're both gone now; and as I reflect on the impact they had on me I circle back to the question posed in beginning of this post:
“WHO’S GONNA’ FILL THEIR SHOES, WHO’S GONNA’ STAND THAT TALL?”
This post is in some ways a call to action! Because, we need more Glenn’s and Dan’s in the horse world. To call them cowboys or colt breakers is too narrow, too small, too restrictive. They were horsemen in the truest, finest, purest sense of the word.