Seasoned cowboy Jim Young is The Real McCoy, the genuine article.
Horses have been a part of his life since he drew his first breath in 1946. Jim credits his father, Joe Young, a respected horse dealer in Perth County in western Ontario, for his lifetime with horses. “My dad always had a good eye for a horse. We kept a mixed herd of fifty registered Shetland ponies and Quarter Horse Paints, plus three breeding stallions.” Among Jim’s treasured mementos is a photo of his father leading 21 horses tied head-to-tail for the war effort.
Jim is the eldest in a family of seven boys and one girl. His older cousin, Bob, was like a big brother, raised by Jim’s family because his mother had contracted tuberculosis and was placed in an institution. “We’d go visit Bob’s mom on holidays and her birthday, but all we could do was stand on the lawn and wave to her in a second-story window.”
Times were changing, so in 1951 Joe Young switched from selling quality horses to new cars in his GMC dealership. “My mother, Grace, raised all us kids. Through the week Dad would be gone, working long hours, but Sunday was always family day.”
He talks about his early influences. “As a little guy I remember running home from school to watch the Cowboy Classics: Hop-a-long Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, and Mister Ed. Then Bob and I would head outside and rip around bareback on ponies with just a string of binder twine for a bridle. My dad had this series of books, Prof. Beery’s Illustrated Course in Horse Training. I read every word.”
Jim adds, “I was going to Gord Wadds, Craig Black, Monty Roberts, Buck Brannaman, John Lyons, and Chris Irwin clinics in the late 1960s, and throughout the ’70s, and ’80s, long before Pat Parelli made natural horsemanship popular. My father never had a heavy hand with a horse, and neither do I. Thankfully we don’t break horses anymore, we don’t even use the term ‒ we train them to do things willingly.”
Jim met his wife Chris while working as a trail guide at the Almaguin Horseback Expedition Company in South River, Ontario. In 1980, they established Velvet Lane Transport and Training Centre. An avid equestrian, Chris is a level II certified coach, and she shows dressage at the Prix St. George level. Jim says, “Women are attracted to horses because horses don’t judge, and they don’t ask for anything in return. In a horse you have an unconditional friend.”
Jim was a food inspector with the federal government for 21 years and the provincial government for ten. He also did a stint in the parts and service department at a John Deere dealership. He served as president of the Uxbridge Horseman’s Association for eight seasons, and he says, “It’s important to get the kids involved. Otherwise, there won’t be any horse shows in the future.” Jim wrote the club’s constitution and has helped judge the Extreme Cowboy events. He has received multiple awards for his contributions and recalls pursuing the Uxbridge Fair Board and pushing at Town Council meetings to prove that horses are a viable investment in this community. His extensive survey and presentation blew them away and currently this club is thriving.
In 2009 Jim was awarded a Montana silver belt buckle for being the Open Class Team Penning Champion. In 2010 his team won buckles for the All Ontario Team Cattle Penning Championship with an average time of 24.06 seconds on six head of cattle being penned.
On June 15, 2014, Jim was out hacking on a nervous horse and had a nasty spill. This would be his last ride; bruised inside and out with multiple fractures in his neck, it’s a good thing he had a cell phone. Jim managed to dial and whisper “help!” Once he was located, he was airlifted to Bowmanville hospital. From there he was transported by ambulance to Toronto Western.
In rehab at the Lyndhurst Centre, the diagnosis was grim. Jim would be lucky to walk and would never have full use of his left arm again. He says, “The hardest part of recovering from injuries is facing up to what the ramifications are.”
Initially he was in a wheelchair, but with determination he was soon up and using a walker. For motivation Jim hung his belts, hats, and pictures around in his room. He would shuffle down to the library where he got books and wrote down quotes on flashcards that resonated: Our acts are the truth of who we are, author unknown. And the Chinese proverb, Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.
Jim says, “There were people in there in a lot worse shape than me.” His personal quotes are, Life can change in a snap, but I’ve witnessed miracles, and You can do it, I did.
Once he was mobile, Jim recalls, “I remember looking out the window and in the midst of Toronto I could see horses at the Sunnybrook Stables grounds. They had lessons going, and this one day I guess they were taking out a trail ride. I sauntered out with my walker and called out to the leader, ‘Hey, I know some of those horses’ and I called a horse by name! I think I scared the poor kid.”
In the southern Ontario horse world Jim and Chris are well-known and highly regarded. They take life in stride and do their best to help wherever they can. Jim is proud of how high he can raise his left arm these days. He remains active trailering, training, teaching driving, and doing clinics.
Always a man ready to ‘cowboy up’, Jim was rammed by a rambunctious cow a few months back and ended up in a body brace with multiple rib, lung, kidney, liver and bladder injuries, along with a fractured vertebra. Now recovered, he smiles as he says, “My friends ‒ and insurance broker ‒ call me ‘The Living Legend Jim Young.’”