Who better than Mike Major of Fowler, Colo., to discuss the versatile ranch horse and the event that showcases his talents? He and his stallion, Smart Whiskey Doc, claimed the American Quarter Horse Association's 2006 Bayer Select Working Cow Horse World Champion title, and “Whiskey” became the World's Greatest Versatility Horse at the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association 2008 and 2009 National Finals. Mike has since ridden Whiskey to two more AQHA national titles, 2009 and 2010 Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Champion.
Ranch-raised in New Mexico, Mike grew up working cattle and riding everything from racehorses, saddle broncs and bucking bulls to cutting and roping horses. He and wife Holly now own and operate Major Cattle Company on the Flying A Ranch, once owned by rodeo company partners Gene Autry and Harry Knight.
Mike and Holly also raise Quarter Horses that multitask on the ranch and in the show arena. Their dual-purpose ranch horses benefit from the fine-tuning necessary for the competitive arena, and their top-flight show horses benefit from ranch work.
“My horses have jobs other than those in the arena, and that's an advantage,” Mike admits. “When a horse is a little tired of the show pen, I take him out to gather cattle all morning and brand calves all afternoon. Instead of drilling on him in the arena and making him dread it, I give him a job. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Fran Devereux Smith joined the Western Horseman staff in 1992, initially as a staff writer, and in 1993 became an associate editor with the magazine. She then served as managing editor of the magazine for several years before becoming book publishing director for Western Horseman's book division.
A broad-based background in the equine industry has proven an asset to Fran's work in equine journalism. A lifelong horsewoman, she grew up showing horses and rodeoing, qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo and representing her home state as Miss Rodeo Arkansas. As an adult, Fran continued showing, primarily reining horses, but competed in everything from hunt-seat classes to team penning, and she has ridden trails nationwide. Fran also spent several years training horses, giving riding instruction and participating in the family cattle work before coming to Western Horseman.