This Isa Stray Cat and Ron Malone
Ron Malone, who died on March 11, also competed on This Isa Stray Cat. Photo by Midge Ames Photo

Ron Malone was an Attorney by Day, Cowboy Forever

In the archives of Ron Malone’s most excellent adventure called life is a treatise authored for the Santa Clara Law Review by a young up-and-comer with 40 years of lawyering in front of him.

“Obscenity: The Pig in the Parlor” is laden with the lawyer speak typical of such a scholarly appraisal of First Amendment protections weighed against those who might have to endure, ahem, expression, as well as the relevant citations of precedent and the such.

Ultimately, the writer concluded that, “obscenity is as much entitled to protection as any other form of expression, and similarly it is subject to reasonable regulation if it becomes or threatens to become a nuisance.”

The “nuisance theory.” You’ll learn something reading, or listening to, Ron Malone.

At any rate, almost 45 years later, it was Malone who deployed some tangy descriptors in conveying his desire to achieve one of the last big goals of a life full of big goals met.

“I want to win in” blankety-blank “Will Rogers,” remembered Melissa Weis, wife of Malone’s trainer, Scott Weis, who respectfully passed on using the euphemism in recalling the couple’s client and dear friend’s true feelings.

Malone died last week, March 11, in California from complications of ALS. He was 73. 

But he did indeed win in the “big pen” at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Coliseum, aboard Rubys CD in the Amateur Derby at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes in 2014.

There are few guys one runs across in life like Ron Malone.

Through his professional life, Malone rubbed elbows with the upper crust of Americana, the who’s who of business, law and politics.  A top-flight attorney heralded for his work in courtrooms for four-plus decades, Malone arm wrestled with power brokers as a prosecutor involving cases ranging from those associated to the infamous Watergate break-in in the 1970s to misdeeds of the CIA and later in private practice taking on the likes of Wells Fargo and The Bank of New York Mellon.

He said later in his career that he was grateful that he was able to maintain a sense of public service while working in the private sector. As examples, he pointed out his representation of charitable trusts, as well as his role as lead counsel in a lawsuit against Princeton University for heirs to a grocery fortune, who alleged that an endowment worth nearly a billion was not being used as stipulated by the donors. 

The case and its subsequent settlement in favor of the plaintiffs sent a riptide through the high education industry, which manages billions in donations with instructions attached.

Ron Malone and Melissa Weis. Courtesy of Melissa Weis

He was also a character, even once challenging Muhammad Ali to a boxing match. 

“I guess he did it in a fashion that they let him go spar with his sparring partner. He said, ‘I’ll fight the champion,” Scott Weis said laughing.

“He had an amazing professional life, a great professional career,” Weis continued, “but he always wanted to be a cowboy. He always grew up wanting to be a cowboy. That’s all he dreamed about.”

In his heart, that’s who Malone was from the first day until his last. Growing up was in Missouri with horses on his grandfather’s ranch, Weis said.  Pete was his first horse, purchased for him by his grandfather.

“He would never let you feel less important that the guy he just got off the phone with,” Weis said.

At his Petaluma, California, ranch he established the Circle Oak Equine Center, a leading edge rehabilitation clinic for horses. A shortage of rehabilitation facilities inspired him. Today, the facility features a surgical suite, 50 stalls and veterinarian staff.

“He spent more money than most people spend on hospitals,” Scott Weis said. “It’s one of the nicest facilities in all of Northern California. If there was something that no one else had, he would go get it … a standing MRI, a surgical table. He loved horses, he really did. 

“He gave up a big part of his life to do something professionally that no one else could have, rising to a level of expertise [as an attorney] and still not forgetting that he wanted to be a cowboy.” 

Weis and Malone met 25 years ago. Weis was one of Malone’s turnback guys. “I’d known him forever, but I always knew him as just kind of a wild man.”

At an event in Fort Worth, Malone was hit with a hot quit, a call that left him miffed and had him still riled as he watched the replay immediately afterward. Friends who encircled him agreed.

“I was walking by the video booth,” Weis recalled, “and he looks at me and says, ‘Scott, come here; you’re a judge. They called me for a hot quit.’

“I said, ‘Ron what about it wasn’t hot?’ He stood there and looked at me and said, ‘finally, I get a straight answer.’ Everybody else was telling him what he wanted to hear.”

Soon after, they became client-trainer, though their relationship blossomed into more than that.

“He started coming down on weekends,” Weis said. “He would take us to dinner. And I was like, ‘Ron, we’re not on vacation.’ He said, ‘No, I really enjoy your company.’”

As he approached the close of his sixth decade, Malone decided to leave behind the life that gave him plenty, to pursue fulfillment.

He called Weis and said he was winding down his law career and wanted to show for three years. And he didn’t want to go to Fort Worth with “just an OK horse. ‘I want a bad-ass horse,’” Melissa Weis recalled. 

“I had no idea,” Scott Weis said of the situation in reality. “He would never let on that anything was wrong. He always wanted to know what he could do for you.”

Malone eventually told Weis in confidence about the diagnosis, but for three years, from 2012-15, Weis hauled exclusively for Malone, and Melissa, too.

At the end of the second year, Weis found Rubys CD (High Brow CD x Playboys Ruby x Freckles Playboy) at the NCHA Futurity. 

“Ruben” wasn’t cheap, but Weis liked the bloodlines and judged the gelding to be that horse.

“I said, ‘We’ve waited a long time for a good horse and you want to win in the “big pen.” To win in Fort Worth is the coup de grâce. ‘You can win anywhere, but unless you win in Fort Worth you can’t really hang your hat on a post.’ 

“I said, ‘Will it affect your lifestyle, and he said no. I said then let’s just buy him.’”

Three months later, he and Ruben had won in Will Rogers. Later that year, the twosome had won again, the Unlimited Amateur at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Derby.

What made it all the more spectacular is that Malone couldn’t feel his feet, the effects of the dreaded disease progressing and taking hold. By that time, he was already using thick rubber bands to hold his feet in the stirrup. 

“When he rode down there, he asked me to put his feet in and I had already put his feet in and the rubber band around the toe of his boot and back around his spur,” Melissa Weis said. “I always made sure his feet were pushed all the way in, and he said you didn’t push my feet all the way in the stirrups, and I knew I did. I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Ron, I forgot.’ I acted like I did it again.”

Afterward, these cutters moved the post-party to Eddie V’s, a fine dining establishment in Fort Worth, for “the whole nine yards,” said Melissa Weis, who added that she was convinced that the moment at Will Rogers could have been directed from only one chair. 

“God must have had a hand in it,” she said. “Some things you just can’t force.”

Malone and Ruben put together an Equi-Stat record of $32,741 in 2014 and $19,285 in 2015. Over the course of his years in the saddle, Malone won $140,109, according to Equi-Stat.

The success despite those hardships was a tribute to both rider and horse. 

Ruben is with the Weises, who bought him before Malone’s death. That’s where he will stay. The three share a special bond.

When the Weises received the phone call advising them of Malone’s passing, he had a message for them, the caller said.

“He just wanted me to tell you to go ride Ruben,” Melissa Weis said. “So, I saddled him up and rode him.”

For more news and information from the Western performance horse industry, subscribe to Quarter Horse News.