When and why did you become a professional trainer?
I started training professionally and giving some small clinics when I was in college, pursuing a degree in agricultural business management. It was a good way to keep up with my horse education and to help pay some of the college expenses.
Who are your mentors?
My first and main influence has always been the horse. As mentors, I look up to Ray Hunt, Bryan Neubert, and Dave Stoddard.
What is your favourite horse-related activity or riding discipline?
I enjoy just about anything a person can do from horseback. My favorite activity is riding a good horse, with a couple great dogs, and taking to the hills to gather some cattle. The purpose for the animals, along with the element of the unknown that always pops up during the ride is refreshing and fun. I love the feeling of a good horse working with me, giving their best and feeling the purpose of the day.
Who is part of Steve Rother Horsemanship?
I’ve chosen to keep things pretty simple over the years. The “team” consists of just me and Francesca, my domestic partner, who I was lucky enough to meet over 10 years ago, and who does an amazing job of keeping everything running smoothly. We occasionally hire out projects, but most of the time it is just us running the business. We enjoy personally connecting with our clients, which is easier when they deal directly with us. There are also many clinic hosts that really help us getting participants to the clinics. We certainly couldn’t make the clinics happen without them.
In addition to the human side, we also travel with a couple of dogs and a few horses, when we can. The most well-known are Francesca’s dog Dally and her sidekick Spanky the miniature horse. Plus, I have my main Quarter Horses, Professor and Shiner.
Who is your favourite horse and why?
My favorite horse is one of my up and coming youngsters, a red roan Quarter Horse called Boone. I really enjoy spending time with and riding him. He is a simple honest reflection of everything that he has experienced, so far, in life. He is extremely sensitive, very willing and gives everything he does 100 per cent. I look forward to seeing where the future takes us. He represents the journey – young, excited and reaching into the unknown.
What is your biggest challenge in working with people and their horses?
The biggest challenge I face is finding those that truly have the passion to learn and to grow. I work with many interested horse people, but the really passionate are a little easier to teach. They don’t mind putting in the time and taking my advice, to get the results they want.
What is one of your greatest success stories?
In my journey of searching for horses that could not be trained, I came across a wild ranch horse that was headed to slaughter. She had never been handled, but the owner had raised thousands of horses and knew early on that she was going to take more time than he had to give. She was a beautiful buckskin mare and seemed to own the world when she moved across the ground, yet she was fearful of nearly everything I had to offer her. I could take an average wild mustang and be able to gentle and ride them within a couple of hours, yet I could not even halter this mare after weeks of working with her. This very slow progress continued on for months. I eventually was able to saddle and ride her, but boy could she buck. At one point, she was bucking me off as often as she was letting me ride her. We would have good and bad days. She made me earn every small triumph. It is because of her that I sought out a much higher level of understanding. She was never crazy or malicious, just smart and honest. She was what I call, a “real” horse, not domesticated. The adventures that beautiful buckskin mare and I went on could fill an entire book. She became one of the best horses that I ever rode, a true partner. She traveled tirelessly with me on the road and helped to improve the lives of thousands of horses and their owners. I retired Sage at Horse Creek Ranch.
What message do you want people to take from your training philosophy?
Horsemanship is a journey. We may be at different places at different times, but we are all in it together. Being open-minded is key; without that a lot of people miss out on so many opportunities. It amazes me the things that I have learned over the years, simply because I was willing to try new things that good horsemen showed me. So many folks are unable to let go of things they have been taught in the past and are unable to embrace new ideas.
How has your life changed since your training business has taken off?
Life has changed quite a bit. The core is the same, but there are many more irons in the fire: camps at the School of Horse at Horse Creek Ranch, the Excel with Horses Club, a product line, a more in-depth website, social media, horse development, internships and international clinics and expos. It takes more organization and means less free time. It also requires better time management to keep everything running smoothly.
Where is your favourite place to visit on your travels?
We travel a lot – about six months a year. I feel blessed to be able to go to so many beautiful places. It is one of the perks of the job. A couple of my favorites are Vancouver Island and driving through Banff National Park – the scenery is incredible.
How do you spend your free time?
Free time, what’s that? I like to ski in the winter and also try to go to one of the big futurities each year, to watch the pros and support friends. We do travel to visit friends and family and enjoy riding with different mentors to brush up on horsemanship skills.