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A lifelong endeavor

- January 3rd, 2020 - Feature Article

Excerpts from our Horsetrader Media live interview with Richard Winters

RICHARD: “I’ve had the privilege the last 40-some odd years to make my living in the horse business. I’m just that kid who grew up loving horses. I wanted to be a cowboy or a horseman—if I even knew what that meant. In all reality, if I had some job in town, I would pay to do this on the weekends. I didn’t really want to be an astronaut, or a policeman, or a fireman—I just love horses.

Now I am recognizing that there’s just so much to horsemanship. It’s a lifelong endeavor that you never stop in this thing. I mean, I got more questions about this horsemanship thing now than I’ve ever had in my life. That’s why on the side of our trailer, it says ‘Enjoy the Journey’, because I’ve kind of realized I’m never going to get to the destination. You never really arrive and say ‘OK, I’ve got it all figured out.’

Horses are continuing to teach us, and I strive as much as I can to get out and ride with people that are better than me. You know, when I go and do an expo or a clinic, people come and they pat me on the back and say ‘wow, you’re amazing—that was really cool!’ But when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I realize my shortcomings. I know there is so much more to learn, and I need to surround myself with those horsemen and horsewomen who are better and who are at a place where I am trying to get. That challenges me. That motivates me—to get just a little bit better. Not to be satisfied or rest on my past laurels, or some buckle that I might have won five years ago. But getting out there and just continuing to play with my horse, but work on myself.

I really enjoy the tradition of the reined cow horses and the Californio, vaquero-style of horsemanship. I go out and I show my horses, and when you go show horses, they don’t care if you do clinics, they don’t care if you have DVDs. You go out there and it’s really a benchmark for me to know if I am making some progress. Or, am I still stuck right here?

HM: I know from my own personal development, the satisfaction of watching my children move up and through the leads. One of my favorite moments was when my daughter came out the exit gate of Earl Warren Showgrounds with her trophy, her ribbon on her horse, with a smile from ear-to-ear, knowing that she did it—she finally got both leads! And then she grew up as a young woman and was a better rider than me! How did that happen?!

RICHARD: I know exactly how it happened because it happened to me as well. Many of your listeners will know because they have followed Richard and Sarah Winters, my daughter. We were at all these expos and clinics, teaching together, riding together. She’s always been passionate about horses. She got to a level where, really, she is as good as me. And in all honesty, she is at a level now where she is better than me. I go and take lessons from my daughter—literally. Well, No. 1, she’s someone I can afford. She’s not always very patient with me, but she’s just gotten so good. She married a reined great cow horse trainer (Chris Dawson). They are very much in love. They get along so great. So, to see where they’ve at—they are half my age and twice as good as me. It is inspiring. You know, if she was 30 years old living in my basement eating out of my refrigerator, that wouldn’t be very inspiring. But to see her come along and excel as she has is a pretty cool deal.

HM: It’s a wonderful feeling to know that what you’ve created, and that your daughter or son, go on to become better than you. That’s a great feeling.

RICHARD: What do they call that in animal science? Hybrid vigor. You have a good sire and a good dam, and the offspring are better than either one. But those that are in the breeding business, we talk a lot about sires. But they rarely talk about that mare power. And I tell you what, I have a lovely wife (Cheryl). My kids have a lovely mother who has stuck with me the last 33 years, and anything that we’ve done successful is a large part on account of her.

HM: What inspires you to get up, put on the boots, go outside, get on these horses—day after day after day? Then, to share your information with the audiences at expos and clinics?

RICHARD: You know, I’m almost wondering if it’s some gene or something inside of us, because I have a sister that doesn’t care anything about horses. My daughter has a brother, Joseph, who doesn’t care anything about horses. But there’s some of us that, for some reason, we’re hooked on these horses—and it does inspire me to want to go out.

Horses are the great equalizer. They don’t care where you are from, or who you are, or how much money your family has. But they are constantly teaching us, and since we can never get it all figured out, every day is a new chapter. It seems like the farther I go in my horsemanship, the farther there is to go. It’s like climbing a mountain—if I just get to the top of this mountain, will I be there? Well, I get to the top of that mountain and what do I see? Five other mountains ahead of me that I couldnt even see until I got there. And that’s the way my horsemanship is. I think I am better now than I was five years ago, I see some things now that I never could have seen before. But am I reaching out toward some even higher things that other individuals are able to do? Are they really that much smarter than me? Are they really that much more talented? Can I work a little bit harder and get there? So, it motivates me to go out, and I do. I just enjoy them. What animal in the world will do for us what horses will do for us?

HM: You have that bond. I was taught that you first establish the fact that they have respect for you, and you can’t have trust without respect.

RICHARD: We talk about that balance of trust and respect. I frame it something like this: If I get my horse to only trust me and not respect me, that can be an arrogant horse that’s going to hurt me. If I get a horse to only respect me and not trust me, that’s a horse that’s fearful and afraid of me. But whether it’s my horse or my kids or my employees or my wife or my mother in law—those healthy relationships are built on a balance of trust and respect. And that’s what we’re trying to help people with every weekend at these clinics.

HM: The trust and the respect that we get from horses. What about faith? How does that play into your family and your horses?

RICHARD: We’ve been talking the last few minutes how much I love horses. How much passion I have for them. But in all reality, this might sound a little bit of a dichotomy, they are just horses. And one day, they are all going to be gone. What’s going to be left? Can you imagine—I’m at the end of my life, I’m lying on my death bed— am I going to say, “bring me those saddles that I won? Bring those buckles that I want close to me in these last hours of my life?” No. What do they say? Bring my family. Where’s my kids? Where’s my wife at? Those are the things that are going to make a difference. And all that sticks togther with the glue of our faith. Keeping God No. 1 in our lives. I consider God the orchestrator or the manager of my affairs. The Bible says, without getting too preachy, that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. And I would not want to go out and plan another clinic or go to another horse show and leave God back at the house. And so, that’s the glue that’s kept our family together and has allowed us to enjoy the blessings of this horse business for all these years.

HM: On your books, what drove you to sit down and get those ideas on paper?

RICHARD: That’s tricky. I don’t know if I hit the mark completely or not. But it’s out there. You can turn the pages. The nice thing about my book is it’s got a lot of pictures and no big words. So I wrote a book that I would want to read. And I tried to keep it very practical. I’ve been helping people for a lot of years with their horsemanship. There’s not one chapter in those books that doesn’t, I hope, won’t resonate in a very practical fashion with people. Not a lot of esoteric, philiosophical things that they really can’t get a hold of. But, how am I going to get this horse to pick up the left lead? Or, what has Richard learned about body control or stable management or whatever it might be. I never dreamed years ago that writing a book would be part of my paradigm, but it’s been fun and it’s been cool to have that and you know, put my name on the front and hand it to someone. I hope it has some value to them.

There are books of value and books of questionsable value and I won’t speculate where my book falls on that scale. But I think for me to write that book 25 years ago would have been very premature because I do not believe I am the horseman now that I was 25 years ago. Oh, I had all the answers back then, don’t misunderstand me—at least I thought I did. But now, some of the things that I said 25 years ago in relation to horses, I’m not even doing that now.

It almost takes a lifetime of experience, knowledge, perhaps bad judgement, mistakes, pitfalls, to be able then to stop and refer back to all of that history, then to write something that might be of some value to somebody else.

HM: What was your first clinic like?

RICHARD: I remember exactly when it was. It was 30 years ago because I remember my wife Cheryl holding our first son, Joseph, in her arms. He’s 30 now. He was just a brand new newborn. I remember in that very first clinic—I had stayed up so late the night before, trying to write down all the clever little sayings and all the different points I wanted to bring up. I wrote them out them on a clipboard, and then I carried the clipboard with me all day because I wanted to share all this improtant information. A little bit scary. A little bit intimidating. I am thankful that as this industry as evolved, I did my first clinic 30 years ago and not three years ago. When we first started, there were four or five guys out there doing it. Now, there are four of five guys in every town, every weekend doing it. So, I got on that wagon before it was completely out of town, and I was thankful for that.

It’s been great for us because you can only get on one horse at a time. If you are giving a lesson, you can only talk to one person at a time. I used to show a lot of horses. You can only show one at a time. I saw an opportunity—if 10 people would show up, or 15 people would show up, and I could bring some value to them—then this business that I’m in that feels a little bit financially marginal might pay a little bit better, and then I could get my brand and my style of horsemanship out to a greater number of people. And it’s allowed us to go to so many places and meet so many people that we never would have had the opportunity to meet. We’ve literally been around the world doing horsemanship clinics. I never would have gone to places like Switzerland or Sweden or Poland or Australia or all these different places where I’ve been, had it not been for horses and for clinics.

There is so much great information out there now—not just my information. We truly live in the information age. I tell people, there really is no excuse to be ignorant any more.

You know, you talk about that toolkit or picking up those one or two things. That’s what I tell people at the clinics. You don’t need to go home and be a cookie-cutter of Richard Winters. But if you will glean one or two or can you imagine three things this weekend that you can put in your pocket and take home and apply to what you are already doing—you’re already enjoying a certain amount of success with you’re horse. Just about everything I share with people, if you pin me down, I can probably recall the time I learned it and who I learned it from. I’m probably the king of plagiarism. I’ve just taken everything from somebody.

HM: What is your best success?

RICHARD: My family, without a doubt. Again, we can talk about great horses that I’ve had the privileges of riding, and awards that I’ve won. But to have my wife after 30-something years— she’s right there in my booth right now, taking care of our business. She’s the one who makes me look so professional. I tell people, there’s a few things I can do that she doesn’t want to do, but there’s a whole list of things that she can do that I don’t know how to do. That’s why we’ve made such a great team.

And then to see our kids. To see my daughter who has followed in my footsteps and then gone just so far beyond, taking what I’ve done and taken it to a whole new level. That is so rewarding. And to share those experiences with her. And her brother, Joseph, who doesn’t really care about horses. He’s my own personal superhero. He jumps out of the orange and white helicopters and saves people when they are drowning. He’s a rescue swimmer for the U.S. Coast Guard. So, to leave that kind of legacy with our children, to see them doing well, is pretty exciting. And those are the things that really matter to us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview by John DeBevoise of Horsetrader Media was one of 19 in the live Horsetrader Media Studio during three days of the Western States Horse Expo Pomona last November. For additional information on Horsetrader Media, send us an email to contact@horsetradermedia.com. We’d love to share our new media offerings!

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