The Best of Western Horseman Awards are finally here.
There is an old saying, “Never meet your heroes,” but in this case it doesn’t apply. These folks are people you’ve probably met, whether it was in the arena, at a tradeshow or through a mutual friend. They sing the songs you love, take the photos on your walls, announce the rodeos you watch and help you get the best out of your horses. To know them is to love them. These are the 2023 Western Horseman Best of People winners.
Best of Wellness Practitioners Winner: Justin High, DVM
As the co-owner of Reata Equine Hospital in Weatherford, Texas, Dr. Justin High, DVM has become a household name for many performance horse owners and trainers. He is a native Texan who graduated from Texas A&M University. His main focus is lameness and sports medicine on performance horses, but he is experienced and enjoys all facets of equine medicine and reproduction. When High isn’t caring for horses in the clinic, he volunteers for international missions with Christian Veterinary Mission.
Best of Wellness Practitioners Runner-Up: Summer Terry
Summer Terry is the owner of Superior Therapy LLC. After treating chronic pain in people for more than a decade, she combined her love of horses and therapy to create a facility that treats both horses and humans. She is also a huge advocate for education and offers internships, training courses and videos educating the industry about therapy.
Best of Wellness Practitioners Honorable Mention: Marty Tanner, DVM
Dr. Marty Tanner, DVM has more than 30 years of experience in equine medicine. Prior to opening Tanner Equine in Millsap, Texas, he served as a veterinarian and partner at Elgin Veterinary Hospital for 13 years. He also practiced at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital for 10 years and established their Rockdale branch. Tanner has been recognized as a Top 5 Veterinarian by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association five times, and in 2016, was named PRCA Veterinarian of the Year. For more than 10 years, Tanner has traveled to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to serve his clients on rodeo’s biggest stage. He has been the veterinarian for more than 50 NFR qualifiers, six world champions, an arena record-holder, a single-season earnings record-holder and five individual PRCA Horse of the Year recipients.
Best of Trainers and Clinicians Winner: Chris Cox
Chris Cox is an iconic clinician in his own right. While Cox is a decorated competitor in cow horse, roping and cutting, where he really shines is training and teaching. Cox was born in the United States before living most of his youth in Australia. When he returned to the U.S., it wasn’t long before he began his own training operations, focused on Mustangs, and caught the eye of the Bureau of Land Management, who quickly hired Cox to begin traveling to adoption sites for demonstrations. Cox released his first instructional video in 1990, “Breaking into the Horse’s Mind,” and soon became a household name for horsemen through “Chris Cox Horsemanship,” on RFD-TV. The four-time Road to the Horse champion offers both three-day and six-day clinics for riders who want to improve their horsemanship skills and “permanently and positively change the way [they] connect with their horse,” per the Chris Cox Horsemanship Company. The program is popular for people of all ages and skill levels. His videos, clinic reservations and tack are available online.
Best of Trainers and Clinicians Runner-Up: Ken McNabb
Ken McNabb grew up on a traditional ranch in the mountains of Wyoming. He knew from a young age he wanted to help others level up their horsemanship skills. Through his clinics and training techniques, McNabb creates a unique environment where the horse learns using gentle training techniques and the rider is coached to become their personal best. McNabb prides himself on his faith, family values and patriotism. In addition to hosting clinics, McNabb has his own line of saddles, which can be purchased online.
Best of Trainers and Clinicians Honorable Mention: Mike Major
Mike Major has decades of horsemanship under his belt, dating all the way back to his childhood. Working for many different ranches and trainers, Major developed his own string of cutting horses along with a breeding program. In the early ‘90s, Major purchased the Flying A Ranch in Fowler, Colorado, where he ran cattle and grew his band of ranch horses. After raising a homegrown stallion that has led to an extremely competitive string of horses, Major now trains his own horses as well as those of his clients at his ranch in Bowie, Texas, and is seeing success in both the American Quarter Horse Association and Stock Horse of Texas competition arenas. Major also hosts clinics for riders who are interested in general horsemanship, cow work, ranch riding and trail, and he just launched his Next Steps Colt Clinic.
Best of Western Photographers Winner: Spencer Tindel
Spencer Tindel is the creative eye behind the lens of Caballo Creative Co. which specializes in capturing media for stallions, sale horses, horse and rider pairs and more. Tindel’s focus is capturing the spirit of Western culture and the bond between a horse and its rider. She has more than 20 years of experience as a horse owner and competitor herself. Her beautiful images can be seen across a variety of editorial magazines as well as marketing and advertising in the Western industry. There are few photographers who can truly capture the spirit and beauty of a horse the way Tindel does.
Best of Western Photographers Runner-Up: Nicole Poyo
Nicole Poyo is a familiar name for Western magazine readers. Poyo’s images frequently grace the pages of Western Horseman in addition to many others. She has a unique ability to capture the balance between action, human and horse, honing in on the dynamic between horse and rider. Poyo’s images feel authentically Western, even vintage or historic at times. Her love for horses and knack for creativity are obvious through her beautiful images. Poyo currently resides in southwest Idaho with her husband as well as the dogs and horses the two of them share.
Best of Western Photographers Honorable Mention: Phyllis Burchett
Phyllis Burchett is a renowned equine photographer who has lived her whole life around horses. Combine her love of horses with her desire to travel the world, and it’s no surprise how her passion for both shows through her photographs. She has photographed in seven countries across three continents and captured more than 200 species, but of course, we are partial to her work with horses.
Best of Western Icons Winner: George Strait
There isn’t enough space to do this Western icon justice. The King of country music, George Strait, isn’t just a Western icon — he is the pioneer of modern country music, a cultural phenomenon, a producer, a cowboy and a megastar. The native Texan has sold more than 120 million records worldwide and holds the Record Industry Association of America record for the most certified platinum albums by any artist. The singer-songwriter has sold over 84 million albums including 60 No. 1 hits. He is the only act in music history to have a Top 10 hit every year for 30 years in a row. When Strait isn’t on stage being one of the most famous singers and musicians of all time, he is a cowboy by trade. He is a team roper and has hosted his own invitational events that became a can’t-miss stop for ropers. Strait is the epitome of “cowboy cool” and has always been one of the best ambassadors of the Western industry.
Best of Western Icons Runner-Up: Trevor Brazile
Western fans know Trevor Brazile as one of the most decorated rodeo cowboys of all time. Brazile holds the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association record for the most world titles of any competitor, with 26 under his gold-buckle belt. He also holds the record for most all-around cowboy titles with 14 to his name. Brazile’s 26th world title came in 2020, after he announced he’d be reducing his schedule and taking a step toward retirement. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2022. Brazile is extending his family legacy with his wife, Shada, the stepdaughter of Brazile’s mentor Roy Cooper. Shada is a competitive barrel racer, and the two have three children of their own who will no doubt carry the torch someday.
Best of Western Icons Honorable Mention: Baxter Black, DVM
Baxter Black was an American cowboy poet as well as a large animal veterinarian. He was a universally liked voice in the Western industry, writing more than 30 books of poetry, fiction and general commentary, including novels and children’s books. Black was a regular columnist for Western Horseman for years. His column, “On the Edge of Common Sense,” can be found in the back of many issues of the magazine. Black died from leukemia in 2022, and while he is physically gone, his legacy lives on through his words and the impression he left on all who knew him.
Best of Announcers and Commentators Winner: Bob Tallman
Better known as “the voice of professional rodeo,” Bob Tallman is a 12-time recipient of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Announcer of the Year award. Tallman’s distinct and commanding voice has been heard in rodeo arenas all over the state of Texas and beyond, but most notably, his voice is synonymous with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. While calling a good rodeo is always the goal, Tallman’s effort to educate his audiences about rodeo, Western heritage and the spirit of the West doesn’t go unnoticed. He is a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and sits on the board of directors for Texas 4-H. When Tallman isn’t in the arena charming the hearts of rodeo fans, he is diving into his philanthropic endeavors, raising money for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Children’s Cancer Hospital. Tallman has a cattle ranch in North Texas where he raises Angus cattle and spends his (very few) days off.
Best of Announcers and Commentators Runner-Up: Joe Beaver
Joe Beaver is a heavily decorated rodeo cowboy and a renowned rodeo commentator. From Victoria, Texas, Beaver joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1985 and won more than $3 million in the rodeo arena over the tenure of his career. He is an eight-time world champion with more than 20 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications, competing in both tie-down roping and team roping as a header. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2002 and has been a commentator at both the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and the George Strait Team Roping Classic. In addition to his career behind the microphone, Beaver now also hosts roping clinics around the country.
Best of Announcers and Commentators Honorable Mention: Wayne Brooks
Wayne Brooks is becoming the voice of the NFR, where he has been behind the microphone nine times. A member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association since 1994, Brooks has been selected as the PRCA Announcer of the Year five times and has worked alongside career commentators Bob Tallman, Randy Corley and Bob Polhamus, to name a few. Brooks was also the voice of the Canadian Finals Rodeo for 16 years, as well as Calgary Stampede, Pendleton Round-Up, California Rodeo Salinas, Red Bluff Round-Up, Sisters Rodeo and many other esteemed events. When he isn’t announcing rodeos, Brooks works in commercial voice talent. Though he travels most of the year, he calls Lampasas, Texas, his home.