Looking back, Bobby Ingersoll remembers well the ephipany that would shape all of his days, from the rest of that one until the end.
He was 12 years old, watching a bridle horse show his father had taken him to in their native California. On display were the horsemen of the Spanish vaquero tradition.
“I drooled over what those horses did and how they trained them,” Ingersoll said this week, speaking on the phone from the back of a horse. He is never far from one. “I told my dad, I want to do this some day.”
Fast forward three years later, Ingersoll won in the first Hackamore class he ever entered, on a horse his father bought him as a 2-year-old.
“My dad, thought, ‘well, maybe you should pursue the horse training.’ I’ve been training horses now for 65 years.”
We have Ingersoll, today 80 years old, to thank for the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity®Presented by Metallic Cat at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas. This year marks the 50thrunning of the show Ingersoll founded in 1970.
The show continues through Saturday.
The name today is as big as the original event conducted almost a full five decades ago.
The then 31-year-old Ingersoll and Les Vogt shared the top prize awarded in the Futurity, which earned them $3,900 each, on Leocita Chex (King Fritz x Honey’s Best x Leo) and Wrong Key (Salero Bar x Diana Morelock x Del Rio Darkey) in Sacramento, California.
The event was revolutionary with reverberations to last for decades. To that point, there was no market for the younger horses. The always-present naysayers said it wouldn’t work, but Ingersoll and the rest showed up anyway. It’s always amazing what happens when you simply show up.
In this era, it is the premier event of what many consider the most exciting Western discipline that showcases the versatility of the horse.
Ingersoll, an NRCHA Hall of Famer, showed five of the 27 horses entered that first year at the California State Fairgrounds. For the futurity alone this year, the numbers entered reached almost 300, all competing for a piece of the more than $1.2 million total purse. The Futurity winner will earn a whopping $125,000 in this competition to determine the best triathletes in the world.
“I started out at 12 years old,” said Ingersoll, who today lives in Reno, Nevada. “I was blessed to ride with the best cow horse [riders] ever to hit the West Coast. I knew them, I rode with them, I learned from them. I just liked what they represented, which was the Spanish vaquero tradition. That’s realy what we try to strive for.”
Three times Ingersoll has won world championships. He has been Reserve champion three other times. In 1975, he won the Triple Crown — world champion in the Futurity, Hackamore and Bridle opens — a distinction that has never been repeated.
Of the 50 shows, Ingersoll has showed in 43 of them.
His philosophy, like the Spanish vaquero, is rooted in time and patience with the horse as well as knowing the type of equipment required to preserve the horse’s mouth. Also, winning the horse’s heart and mind.
“All horses have a heart and mind and feelings like we do.”
The competition in the cow horse has grown because of better and more horsemen and women and enhancements in breeding.
“What you’re seeing today is stiff compeition,” said Ingersoll, who showed horses in 43 of the preceding 49 shows. “I didn’t have as many horses and people to compete against as we do today. With the selective breeding of the American Quarter Horse, horses have the conformation, strength and cow instinct to show and win today.”
Perhaps Ingersoll’s most noted achievement was a 21st-place finish in the 1992 Futurity in Reno. It was on Kiger Cougar – a Kiger mustang – which he had bought for $125. Ingersoll had become intrigued with the idea of training a wild horse. He found one in Oregon. Kiger Cougar had a natural cow instinct.
“I did it just like I train my domestic horses,” said Ingersoll. “A lot of time, and I exposed him to things he didn’t know.”
It’s that type of ingenuity and foresight that makes us grateful for Bobby Ingersoll’s “discovery” all those years ago in childhood.