Ken McNabb shares life lessons with college agriculture students during a private clinic in Colorado.

Fourth-generation rancher Roy Gillham couldn’t believe he won the “Cowboy with Ken McNabb” contest he entered last summer after seeing it advertised in Western Horseman. He did know, however, it was a product of his strong faith and a blessing he wanted to share with his family, friends and small community of Peetz, Colorado.

Gillham raises and trains Quarter Horses through his Cross I Quarter Horses and uses them on his family’s cow-calf operation in northeastern Colorado. He sells some of his horses at the annual Come to the Source Sale in Laramie, Wyoming, and would like to market more toward ranch versatility competitors.

Roy Gillham riding horses with sons at clinci
Roy Gillham shared his one-day personal clinic with his sons and friend Weston Hurst.

He entered the contest for a one-day personal clinic with McNabb, sponsored by Weaver Leather and Western Horseman, hoping he could glean tips on refining his horsemanship and his horses’ skills for the arena. When he learned that he won and plans were set up for a fall clinic, he asked McNabb if he would attend a Bible study group the evening before the clinic and share some of his wisdom with members of the Cowboy Up! Roundpen ministry, most of which are agriculture students at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. The son of a minister, McNabb was honored to speak to the group.

Frank Waitley founded Cowboy Up! Roundpen ministries more than 20 years ago to give feedlot cowboys a place to worship and study the word of God.

“Feedlot cowboys have cattle to feed on Sundays and can’t always attend church service, so we started meeting on an evening during the week when it fit their schedule,” says Waitley. “Eventually, it expanded to high school and college students. We have more than 25 students who drive more than 25 miles to Peetz to attend our Bible study.”

Roy Gillham riding horse in clinic
Gillham raises and trains horses to use on the ranch, but he also aspires to produce performance horses.

Waitley and his wife, Andrea, regularly host the studies at their home in northeastern Colorado, but Gillham and his wife, Brandee, hosted the special event. Students squished on sofas and sat on the floor of the Gillhams’ living room with their Bibles opened to follow scriptures while McNabb shared stories of how his faith has guided him not only as a person, husband and father, but also in his daily life as a professional horseman.

One of the stories he shared was about losing his voice last summer during the annual Diamond-McNabb Horse Sale he hosts in Douglas, Wyoming, and how he was struggling to commentate. On top of that, the phone and internet lines unexpectedly went down, which was a major blow since nearly half of the sales are typically over the phone or online.

“Looking at everything that had happened in the last month of my life getting ready for the sale, problems we encountered and now the loss of my voice and no phone or internet connection, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take,” said McNabb. “Pretty soon I was paged to come upstairs at the sale facility. I didn’t want to hear any more bad news. But I walked up there and seated around a table were my business partner, his wife and family, and my wife. They were having a prayer meeting and waited on me to begin.”

After praying, McNabb realized he wasn’t in control of his sale and he needed to put his faith in God, and he was reminded of Hebrews 11:6. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Ken McNabb riding horse in clinic
Ken McNabb rode several horses belonging to clinic-goers and offered techniques to fine-tune their training.

McNabb also related to the students how important it is to be surrounded by supportive people who complement their lives and goals.

“My dad always said to be careful who your friends are,” said McNabb. “You’re known by the people you have around you, and you are guilty through association. The people around you are critical to the success of your life.”

After McNabb finished his inspirational talk, Gillham stepped up and offered a closing comment.

Ken McNabb instructing Jake Gillham on backing up a horse
McNabb works with Jake Gillham on backing up.

“Ken has had a huge amount of success and is living the dream,” said Gillham. “He’s cowboying and making money with horse. He’s known as a horseman’s horseman all over the world. He has every opportunity to make this about himself, but it’s fantastic to hear a man of his caliber saying to humble yourself and pray.”

 

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