As a youngster growing up in Connecticut in the 1960s, Ted Sokol had an encounter one week that impacted the direction of the rest of his life.
Renowned horseman and champion roper Lanham Riley traveled from his home in Aledo, Texas, to conduct a roping clinic for young people such as Sokol, who made sure to be there.
While there, Sokol got to know Riley’s son well. The son talked Sokol, who was involved with local 4-H in his home state, into coming to Texas to go to school at Tarleton State in Stephenville for its agricultural studies program.
“I spent my summers working with trainers,” Sokol said. “I finished the program, and it kept going from there.”
Almost 50 years since he completed that program and went into the cutting industry, Sokol was presented the prestigious Zane Schulte Award at the 2019 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.
The award is given annually to a nominated professional trainer who exemplifies the character by which Zane Schulte is remembered: integrity, service, values, respect of their peers, contribution to the industry and excellence in the arena.
“It was such an honor to have my name go up there with the other people on that list,” Sokol said. “To have all those people who wrote letters for me … it was overwhelming to have all that done.”
The award is named in honor of Zane Schulte, whose life was cut short at just 17 years old from a rare form of bone cancer. Past winners include Buster Welch, Al Dunning and Dale Wilkinson.
From his base of operations in Seville, Florida, Sokol has won more than $476,000, according to Equi-Stat. He has four top 10 World finishes. Sokol has also served as an NCHA national director and on a number of committees, as well as an as an officer for the Florida Cutting Horse Association for more than two decades, including 12 years as president.
As a teacher, his list of accomplishments includes NCHA Futurity finalists, Summer Spectacular Youth champions, NCHA World Finals Show champion and finalists, as well as Super Stakes finalists.
“Ted has been nominated for a number of years. He has been very, very active in Florida,” said Barbra Schulte, Zane’s mother, who along with her husband, Thomas, is on the award’s committee. “He’s really respected by his clients and his peers, and he’s just been one of those people who has consistently worked for the betterment of his clients and the promotion of cutting over the years.”
The committee, Schulte reminded, doesn’t look at the award being presented to a “winner,” but rather a recipient.
“More of a recognition of excellence,” she said.
Sokol, she assured, qualified.