Classic Cowboys

Buster Welch: All-Around Success

Buster Welch

In the cutting horse world, the name Buster Welch rings synonymous with ability, ambition, personality, and – most of all – success.

Buster Welch
Photo by Ross Hecox

In the cutting horse world, the name Buster Welch rings synonymous with ability, ambition, personality, and – most of all- success. For Buster ranks right at the top in a field that is crowded with talent.

This personable Texan has parlayed his talents with cutting horses into fame and a good living. Just mention his name anywhere among western horsemen and it is instantly recognized as Buster has trained not just one, but several cutting horses that have made it to the top in nationwide competition. The most famous has been Marion’s Girl, the great little mare owned by Marion Flynt of Midland, Texas. Under the training and riding of Buster, Marion’s Girl won the NCHA World Championship in 1954, and after a year of rest during ’55, came back to win it again in 1956. During her career, this mare won over $35,000, at a time when purses were not as high as they are now.

Another horse that Buster developed and trained, Chickasha Mike, was the 1956 NCHA Reserve World Champion. In 1960 Buster trained and rode Jessie Jack to the NCHA World Champion Stallion title. When the National Cutting Horse Association started its futurities for three-year-olds, Buster won the first two with Money’s Glo in 1962 and Chickasha Glo in ‘63; and placed fifth on Glo Doc in 1964. The latter four horses were owned by C.E. Boyd, Jr., now of Houston, Texas.

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This past November Buster took Money’s Glo for new owner Repps Guitar to the NCHA Finals in Las Vegas. He won the first go-round, tied for third in the second, and tied for fourth in the average. Some 77 horses competed in the Finals.

Immediately after getting home, this ambitious trainer held his first cutting horse school which attracted “students” from as far away as Vermont and California, and even one from Australia! Judging by the interest in these schools they should be another successful Buster Welch enterprise.

Today, Buster’s home is the Ranch, just outside of Roscoe, Texas. He also leases the former C.E. Boyd, Jr. Ranch near Sweetwater and the former L.S. Howard Ranch southeast of Roscoe. He operates and manages these three ranches in addition to training up to 15 horses, showing one or two on the circuit, and holding his cutting horse schools.

Things are going well for Buster now, but like so many self-made successes, he started from scratch. When at the ripe young age of 14 and attending a Midland school, he figured he’d had enough formal schooling as school was too confining for his likes – since he was ranch-raised and used to open spaces. So ·he turned in his textbooks (and now says, “That was a mistake! “). But he was lucky enough to get a job breaking colts on the ranches of two knowledgeable cattle and horsemen, Leonard and Foy Proctor of Midland.

He was not yet, however, an experienced cowboy of the caliber employed by the Proctors. So to make himself useful, he also did such things as cutting wood for the cook, moving the bosses’ horses to wherever they were fixin’ to work cattle and holding the “cuts” while cattle were sorted on the range. This was fortunate, as he could watch Leonard and Foy and other top men cutting cattle day in and day out. This gave him the chance to note their different methods of obtaining the best from a horse, and to learn the science of cattle work through observation as well as participation.

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At 16, Buster thought it time to change pastures again, and. this time he headed for the rodeo circuit. He stayed at it … “until it was apparent this was not the type of life I wanted.” He then spent several years working for some of the outstanding cowmen and horsemen of the Midland and west Texas area.

Later, his headquarters switched to Las Vegas, N.M., and the ranch of Homer Ingham who, Buster says, “gave me my first real opportunity in training horses.” He broke and trained horses for Ingham as well as for Warren Shoemaker who lived nearby.

Along about this time Buster bought a six-year-old stallion from Ingham, called Chickasha Mike, for $125. Mike had never been broke; in fact he had never seen the inside of a corral. He was of Billy Clegg breeding, and it was Shoemaker who urged Buster to buy him. He says, ‘This horse, plus the help and advice I received from Warren and Billie Shoemaker, is what eventually stopped me from punching cows.”

Buster broke Mike and started using him in his regular ranch work, including cutting. It soon became apparent that Mike had a special aptitude for this, and Buster eventually took him to some regional cutting horse contests. Chickasha Mike won the first five contests he went to! This was in 1952. Buster later sold Mike to Bill Hale of Odessa for $8,500, and Hale, in turn, sold him to Leonard Proctor who owned the horse when he won the 1956 NCHA Reserve World Championship.

Ever since then cutting horses have been Buster’s way of life. He began training and showing his own, and also took in several horses for training. One of the first was Marion’s Girl- named for her owner, Marion Flynt. Foaled in ’48, she was by Silver Wimpy and out of a Scharbauer mare. Flynt purchased her from her breeder, Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., as a two-year old for $2,000. In one of her first contests, she won back $1,677 of her purchase price!

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Buster says, “Marion’s Girl was by far the most intelligent and ‘cowy’ mare and the greatest cutting horse I’ve ever ridden. She could figure a cow after two jumps, then would explode into action and take every advantage of the cow. And once she got a cow figured, she’d also ‘turn on’ in proportion to what she could do with it. She had the coordination, nimbleness, and power to break, run, and stop faster than any horse I’ve sat on. She also had the determination and desire to win.”

He campaigned Marion’s Girl at six and eight, and took her practically from coast to coast, but let her have a vacation as a seven-year-old. Marion’s Girl never raised any foals as she died when nine years old.

Buster started the training of Marion’s Girl just as he starts all of his horses. After breaking them and giving them their first few initial rides in a corral, he starts using them in everyday ranch work since his first goal is to let them develop into natural cow horses. Their first cutting experience comes while quietly following cows in the open. Then they advance to slow, easy cutting – still while doing practical ranch work on the range. Buster says, “I like a horse to learn how to work with cattle in the open so that he gets a good, working knowledge of cattle, learns how to handle himself under all kinds of conditions, and learns to do his own thinking. As a result, each horse develops his own style of cutting that is best suited to his ability.”

A horse must be a good, ranch cutting horse before Buster starts working him in an arena. Then he devotes the arena work primarily to adding snap and polish to the horse’s performance.

A patient man with horses, Buster works his horses slow and easy and takes about 15 months to make a finished cutting horse. All of his horses, even the finished ones, get several days of ranch work every week. In fact, he never works his horses in an arena more than four days a week. And then, each horse only gets three or four minutes of actual cutting. Arena cutting is hard work for a horse, and too much will sure “burn” a horse up and cause him to turn in some dull performances. The regular ranch work gives the horses variety which also helps keep them sharp.

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As a result of Buster’s training program, his horses are “honest” workers and anyone can ride them. Even a novice cuttin’ horse rider can step on, do nothing but sit tight, and the horse will do a top job. And once Buster’s horses are trained, they stay trained. As to the equipment he uses, he breaks his horses with a hackamore, then moves them into a bit – using, of course, the Buster Welch cutting horse bit sold through the Ryon Ranch and Saddle Supply in Fort Worth. He never uses a tie-down, tack collar, or similar equipment.

Even though Buster quit school at 14, he has carried on a do-it-yourself education program, especially in business and ranch management. He regularly reads such news and business publications as the Harvard Business Review since he feels that books and magazines are a tremendous key to knowledge. He adds, “The English language is the greatest asset a person can have, because a person limited in vocabulary is limited in his thinking.”

This Texan readily admits that ranching is one of his greatest pleasures. And he means ranching, not farming that involves irrigating, putting up hay, harvesting crops, or feeding hogs. Buster raises Angus cattle, some Herefords, Angora goats, sheep, and a few horses. His own Ranch is located in some of the best cattle producing country in Texas. The Boyd Ranch, which he leases, has more rugged country and a lot of thick underbrush, making it suitable for running goats and sheep with the cattle. A sharp man with a pencil, Buster figures that as a result, this ranch has seven paydays instead of the conventional one (when the calf crop is sold). The seven: two shearings from the goats, one shearing from the sheep, one goat crop, one lamb crop, one calf crop, and income from the horses.

Raising cattle is also an asset to Buster’s training -program. He estimates that during a year, he uses about 2,000 yearling heifers and steers for cutting. They also come in handy for his cutting horse schools which are just starting. Each school is limited to 10 enrollees, but even that number will require a lot of fresh cattle since each school runs for 10 days.

During his schools, Buster will work with each rider and his horse, and will cover all phases of cutting horsemanship and training- from starting the horse to developing him to his fullest capacity as a finished horse. This, of course, can’t be done during the 10 days, but the rider will know how to go about his “homework” when he gets home! And he will have learned from a man who is a master in his field, and who is also one of the finest, friendliest fellows you’ll meet anywhere!

In January of 2006, Buster Welch was the second recipient of the Western Horseman Award. Highlighted in the editors notes, Buster was chosen “because he embodies values we take very seriously: He’s a true western horseman, unquestionably authentic, an educator, and someone with a great story to tell.”

Written in “The Abridged Buster Welch”, Buster’s three favorite horses were: Peppy San Badger (“Little Peppy”), Marion’s Girl and Haidas Little Pep. “Little Peppy” of course wasn’t born until 1974, 9 years after this article was published.

This article was originally published in the February 1965 issue of Western Horseman.

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