I spent the past few days in Stockton, Missouri at the Agape Boys home. I was asked to come do a clinic for the boys as well as help preview the horses for the sale they were having on Saturday.
The horses were mostly threes and born and raised on the ranch, and started and ridden by the boys on the ranch. Real nice minded quarter horses with good withers and feet, which are the three things I think are very important things to have in a horse.
THEY RODE TO SONIC FOR BREAKFAST ON THE COLTS TWO DAYS BEFORE SALE
The boys were teenagers that lived at the ranch and were in the horse program.
I told them when we started that the hoses didn’t know or care about their past and that I didn’t either, just what they were doing right now. Some had a little experience before they started at Agape, but most had never been on a horse before. They tried very hard and did the best they possibly could to please me and their horses. I never one time saw one of them lose control or get mad at a horse or human while I was around them.
The instructors and staff for the horse program were some of the most caring, genuine, good Christian folks you will ever find. They were good. Good to the boys, good to the horses and good to each other, and good to me. Good.
I got to ride one the the sale horses named Penny. I really liked her and got along pretty good with her. We had a good clinic the first day and I hope I gave the boys and the audience some things to consider with their own horsemanship and life.
Several years ago we went to a sale Ray Hunt had in New Mexico. I went and watched the ride the day before the preview. There were lots of folks working with the horses and riding. They were all really training on the horses to get them ready. What I found I interesting was Ray Hunt didn’t appear to be training on them. I watched him ride lots of em those two days and he just rode and looked to me like he was just trying to have a real good last couple of rides and make it fun for him and the horse. I don’t know if that was what was going on but that’s what I imagined.
I decided that I would try to do the same for the boys and the horses. I wanted the people that were coming to buy the horses a real true look at the horses. They weren’t perfectly trained. As a matter of fact in this situation the horses were providing and doing lots of the training to the boys. I also wanted these young fellows that had something that they had been a big part of for the last nine months, be the stars and winners for once.
So we had fun and rode and talked and laughed. The crew backed me up on everything we were doing and we were all on the same page. The boys worked hard at the clinic in the heat all day, cleaned the place and got it ready for the sale the next day, and stayed up until two in the morning roping and playing, and were back at it early the next morning.
WE ALL LOADED UP IN TRAILER TO GO TO LUNCH AT CAFATERIA
Sale day was great. No one new what I had planned for the preview of the horses(mainly because I didn’t have a plan). All I wanted was to show the horses as good as we could and for the boys to learn and have a day they would never forget.
We saddled up at the barn with lots of people around looking at horses. I had the boys step on(no ground work) and we left the barn at a long trot going to the pasture to gather the steers and bring them in. They had been taught and understood cowboy etiquette and it is so important to show the boys and tell them why so maybe a rule has meaning and purpose rather than just something to fight or ignore.
We had fun and went pretty fast and it was good for the perspective buyers to see that real life situation and how well the horses acted.
After we got the cattle in the pens we all went to the arena. I had the boys strip their saddles and bridles and walk away from their colts. Most of the colts walked with them or just stayed right where they were. The horses really seemed hooked on to the boys. We then caught them, re saddled em and got back on. Then we lined up on one end and had a walking race to the other end.
If you broke to a trot you were out. Then we had a trotting race, and if you broke to a lope you were out.
Of course the boys wanted to have a race at a lope and I new that would turn out bad, so I set it up to trot half way, lope to the fence, stop strait and walk the front end around, trot to the center and lope to the other fence and stop strait.
Well, it didn’t work out quite that way and we had two riders on the ground and things go pretty western in Stockton, Missouri for a little while. It was just a good old time cowboy wreck and I’m glad I was a part of it and got to laugh with my fellow cowboys. It wasn’t the horses fault, we just got going a little faster than some of the boys could handle the horses. The boys got back on and went on like nothing ever happened just like any cowboy crew would.
We then all went out of the arena, and each of the boys came in the arena in the sale order and on the microphone told the audience their name, and all they wanted to about the horse they were showing. They then did a pattern and pulled a log if they wanted to. I had a big old lump in my throat several times listening to the boys and how proud they were of what they had done and how much they thought of the horse they had worked with.
They all wanted to work cattle so we did and that was it for the preview.
Kelly Kenney was the auctioneer and he was great to work with and was touched by the boys as well. Even though he deals with the “Tallman Factor”(rodeo announcer amplification)we had lots of fun messing with each other and doing our best for the program.
The sale was a big success. Horses sold good, boys showed them good, and I feel buyers got horses that were as honestly shown and presented as good as possible. What they saw is what they got.
If you have horse plans in the future, I would recommend thinking about the sale next year.
They told me the horse program is the one of many different programs that leads to the greatest positive change for the boys. They think it is the horse. I disagree.
I think it is the people in charge of the horse program. The way they work with the boys is the same way they handle livestock. The right kind of pressure and the right release of pressure. Just like the horses learn by thinking their way out of pressure the boys learn the same way. They want to do what’s right because it’s there decision. If they had a program of kicking the horse in the belly and throwing them down and torturing them, it would be the worst program.
This is what I see all the time. You work livestock with the right pressure, it seems you use the same pressure with people.
Riley Olson leads up the horse program. He has a very well balanced team surrounding him. Terry, Justin, Tim, Bill ( the order I met them in) really work together to make things good for the whole program. This is what makes it so good. They are all special people.
I never saw one boy jerk or spur on a horse with anger. I saw several of them pray by themselves before they would eat at concession stands. I never saw them at odds or throwing a fit with each other or when asked to do something.
It doesn’t matter why they are doing so good, just that they are. I learned a lot on how to draw some of them to me that were pretty quiet and stood back. By the end they were more comfortable with me and started asking a few questions. It was good for me to learn.
One of the sayings I talked about was one my wife had sent me a while back.
“The closer you get to God the better horseman you become, and the better horseman you become the closer you get to God”. I think that pretty well sums up the horse program at Agape Boarding School.
Your approach to working with animals and people is well conceived and seems always to have an excellent program to accomplish a goal(s) that makes eminent sense.
I look forward to meeting you in New Mexico in the future. 🤠
Great story, thanks.
Thanks for the feel-good story, Curt! It must have been fun.
Since you didn’t mention it, I thought I’d tell folks that the school’s name (I’m assuming here since I don’t really know) isn’t uh-GAPE…like a surprised mouth…. but is pronounced ah-gah-PAY, a Greek word for love, or charitable affection. I find that comforting.
Awesome! Sounds like a winning deal for everyone. Glad you were able to be a part of it, it sounds like a great experience.
Wow, sounds like a great program with some great instructors and that was a great summary. I learned a bunch just reading this. There sure is truth in the speed to wreck factor. Preparing riders for more speed needs to be addressed in more detail in the future. Way to go.