Women of the West — Sally Schwartz
This Raton, New Mexico, horsewoman has made raising good horses a top priority.
From day-working on the historic Chase Ranch and serving as the first instructor for West Texas A&M’s riding program, to piloting world-champion Appaloosa and Quarter Horses in the show pen, Sally Schwartz has commanded her life from the saddle. Her biggest accomplishment to date, however, lies in producing performance horses as versatile as their breeder.
A good horseman is a good horseman, no matter what kind of saddle he or she has.
My dad, Rudolph, was a horseman. I actually think he was part horse. There were horses that people couldn’t get in the corral with, that he’d just get on and ride.
I wanted to be a veterinarian, but women could hardly get into vet school when I was in college.
I taught riding my junior and senior years [at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas]. They sent me to the Pacific Coast Equestrian Horsemanship Center in California so I could learn how to instruct. I rode English there so I would have a background in both.
When we were kids, we didn’t have trailers, so we would ride seven or eight miles to work, and then ride back. These horses were broke. When you tied them to a fence, you didn’t see them pawing. Their heads were down. They were tired.
When Jimmy [my brother] and I were younger, we had a couple little wild horses that Daddy had gotten. They made us riders because they were a handful.
I think I’ve fed a horse every morning I’ve gotten up. I’ve never quit.
When I graduated college, I ran a riding school [in Fargo, North Dakota] called Winfield Manor School of Horsemanship. Our goal was to graduate students that were academically and physically able to go out and make a living with a horse.
We had Appaloosas and Quarter Horses when I went to work for W. E. Mueller. We raised four world champions [in reining, halter and racing], including Jaimie Jay [1980 American Quarter Horse Association Racing Champion 3-Year-Old and 3-Year-Old Filly].
I think it’s good to see different people do different things with horses. That’s half of growing in this business. There’s not any right or wrong way in horses. You just have to figure your way.
My mom, Beatrice, taught school in Cimarron for 35 years. Whatever Daddy, Jimmy and I wanted is what she wanted. She was proud of whatever we did.
I bought a mare, Eighteen Letters, at Stanley Glover’s first sale. That’s how I really got my start. She was runner-up for [AQHA] Super Horse in 1980. Her first colt [by Doc’s J Jay] was Capitol Letters. I still have him.
We have trainers today, but they’re not horsemen. They can train a good horse for a certain discipline, but as far as being good horsemen and knowing horses, I think we’re really starting to lack on that.
You raise horses to sell or you raise horses to be good horses. There’s a big difference.
In this country, you have to have a horse that can climb a lot of rock and get around. To sell these ranch horses, I have to breed a horse that’s pretty and can actually go and do something.
If you don’t have a good mind and legs on a horse, you don’t have anything.
When I was a kid, I would peek through the fence at everybody. I would watch [trainers] Stanley Glover, Leroy Webb and Sonny Jim Orr. I would try to pick up anything I could to learn. I never thought about getting paid. I did stuff just so I could be around these people.
I’m breeding these horses to be good horses. They’re not accidents. There’s a lot of work that went in to them.
My dad used to tell me, “If you can’t stand heartache, then don’t be in the horse business.” It’s true. You’re going to have your share of ups and downs, but the ups usually outweigh the downs.
Kids want to be instant [horsemen] these days, and it’s not that easy. It comes from a life of learning. You have to learn horses, not just how to ride them. You have to learn how to feel horses.
I was real sorry to see embryos being registered, and clones. I think it hurts our industry. If we’re breeding right, our offspring should be better than our stud.
The older I get, the taller my horses seem.