From the Archives ~ Great Horses by Hugh McLennan

Some are Born, Some are Made

Are the best horses born that way or does it take a great trainer to bring out the best in a horse?  The answer is both.

Here are a couple of examples: Jonathan Field’s amazing grey gelding, Quincy, would never have become a great horse if he hadn’t met up with Jonathan. Watching this cowboy do a demonstration on this outstanding equine athlete takes your breath away. Several trainers had given up on Quincy before he came into Jonathan’s life and he, himself, says he was and may still be the most challenging horse he’s ever worked with. Who knows what Quincy’s fate would have been if he hadn’t met up with the savvy cowboy who now owns him? 

In the award-winning book Healing Shine, by calf roping psychologist Dr. Michael Johnston, he describes how it took seven years of personal commitment to transform his big grey gelding, Shine, from an unpredictable “wild card” to one of the best heading horses to ever enter an arena. 

Pastures and paddocks are still full of horses that proved just too much for the trainers who tried to start them. On the other hand, there are horses that have the mind, the temperament and the disposition to figure it out — in spite of having to put up with someone who has no clue what they’re doing.

Hugh McLennan broadcasts from the back of his appaloosa gelding, Dandy, at the 1969 Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

Consider a guy who was raised in the city and finally bought a place in the country. He loved horses and could ride OK, but didn’t know as much as he thought he did. He didn’t know a curb from a snaffle, but he went out and bought a green broke, three-year-old Appaloosa gelding. He put an ancient slick fork saddle on him and used a solid shank curb bit — without even knowing it needed a curb strap. 

No matter what this rider did, the young gelding figured it out. He rode in the hills, he rode on the trail, he rode in parades and four months after he bought him, he was riding him in the infield of the Calgary Stampede, doing interviews for a radio broadcast of the chuckwagon races. He rode him in a drill team, he took him on cattle drives and that little horse taught that greenhorn more than a bunch of clinics could ever have. This horse was great not because of what the guy did,  but in spite of it. And, as you may have guessed, I was that gunsel, and that appy was my first horse, Dandy

That was more than 40 years ago. I’ve since made part of our living training horses for a long time, started hundreds of colts, seen lots of good ones and a few bad ones … and I can still say that some of the best horses are just born that way, and some horses will not find their greatness until they meet up with a great trainer.


To view a good video of Quincy and Jonathan visit our Video page at 

Cattle rancher and horse trainer Hugh McLennan and his wife, Billie, run their cattle in the beautiful rangeland outside of Kamloops, B.C. Hugh is the host of the multi-award-winning weekly radio program, Spirit of the West, heard across Canada and the U.S.