Gentlemen, Start Your Horses

Richard Winters takes his show on the road and comes home with a new saddle and a new title to boot.
Our own Richard Winters carries the title "artist-in-residence" as he goes about his daily work with Thacher students and their horses. Indeed, he carries the title for a reason, as he regularly makes an art out of breaking new colts. In addition to helping Thacher students develop their horsemanship, he teaches a colt-breaking class in the fall to a select group of advanced riders.

The extent of Winters’ art was on display this past weekend when he won a unique event called “Road to the Horse” in Franklin, Tennessee. In this event, top horse clinicians spend three hours over two days with an unbroken colt, “starting” it using their own horsemanship techniques.

In front of a sellout crowd of 6,000 on the first day, Winters' colt, Plenty Brown Hancock, began a bit timidly, but Richard coaxed him along and by the end of the session was able to lie across his colt’s back and place a blanket on him. Things got interesting on the second day when Winters had two firsts in the event’s history. He completed the freestyle and obstacle course in a halter rather than a bridle and bit, making him the first champion to ride his colt to victory without a bit.

“I start all my colts in just a halter and not a snaffle. I decided right away to ride him in a halter during the obstacle course because you don't need to be pulling on their mouth at this stage,” says Winters. Winters went on to ask that a calf be released into the arena during his freestyle performance, which he feels cultivates “curiosity and confidence in his young horses by introducing them to new experiences such as tracking cattle.”

The tactic proved wise: “When they kicked that calf out into the arena for the freestyle it worked out really slick," explained Winters. "My colt saw the calf and he really freed up and started tracking it.”

All of this may be mind-boggling to the average greenhorn, and it is even more incredible when reviewing the obstacle course Winters navigated—which included poles, jumps, bags of shavings, sacks of feed, and a “mystery obstacle” which turned out to be a cage with two live chickens. Winters’ daughter, Sara, served as his pen wrangler, while his wife, Cheryl, and son, Joseph CdeP 2007, were on hand to witness the big victory. While Winters earned prize money, he also was able to donate $15,000 to the charity of his choice, Focus on the Family. Among Winters' other winnings for the event are a trophy saddle and a handcrafted Road to the Horse buckle by Gist Silversmiths.

In addition to his latest title, Richard is also a champion reined cowhorse competitor (as is daughter Sara) and an “A” rated NRCHA judge. Richard lives on campus with his family, serving as horse department faculty and also sponsoring Thacher’s Christian Fellowship with his wife, Cheryl.

Photos courtesy of Road to the Horse

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