“We have the morning feeding done. I can visit a little bit before I start riding.”
Todd Wright and his dad Brent had been up several hours caring for horses in their training facility at Ottawa.
“Our horses always come first,” the younger Wright insisted.
“We do have a high school girl who helps clean stalls. It’s a small crew around here,” the trainer said.
Then he quickly added, “My wife Catherine is a big part, too. She rides, shows some, does breeding work, keeps my horses saddled and cooled out. We couldn’t get along without Catherine.”
A couple of clarifications needed. Wright is self-defined a “horse trainer.” That’s distinctive from being a cowboy. “Sometimes I’m envious of the cowboys getting to do so much more outside of the arena than us trainers,” he said.
Secondly, Todd Wright is a “chip off the ole block;” he’s followed his dad into the training business. “Some kids wonder what they’re going to be. I always wanted to be a horse trainer,” Wright said.
Certainly, the right role model was selected for the profession. Brent Wright is a world renowned trainer, showing reining horse champions in the most elite competition.
“I started out on a pony, and wanted to ride all of the time,” Todd remembered.
However, there was a “little sabbatical,” he admitted.
“I was about four when I got on a horse Dad had finishing roping on for the day,” Wright reflected. “Dad warned me to be careful riding in the box, but when I came out that horse bucked me off pretty good. The landing hurt, and I didn’t want to ride for a while.”
It was actually several months, but the urge to get back on soon came. “I showed horses in 4-H, competed in shows around and helped Dad with his horses. Then got to starting some colts,” Wright said.
Originally from a farm near Uniontown, the Wright family moved to Ottawa about 30 years ago; Todd was nine. “Dad rented stalls for a while, and then bought the place horses and all,” he said.
Starting as Brent Wright Reining Horses, there’s also a second shingle today Todd Wright Performance Horses. “We have our own horses in training, and still work together, help each other. It’s a team effort,” the prodigy said.
An only child home schooled by his mom Jan, Wright attended K-State majoring in animal science with a business option. Involved in the college horse programs, “Randy Raub was in charge then. I took his colt starting classes. We saw some pretty good wrecks,” Wright said.
Career was already set in stone upon graduation back to the horse barn at Ottawa. “We have 32 acres, 18 stalls, an indoor and a big outdoor arena,” the trainer explained.
Days are filled riding horses. “I’ll ride 10-12 horses a day,” Wright said.
“Sometimes I only ride a horse 20 or 30 minutes. If he’s really doing well, I reward him by getting off and putting him away,” the trainer explained. “Others I may have to stay on through some resistance so he is more compliant and ready to learn. It must end with a positive experience.
“Every horse is an individual and some simply are more trainable and willing than others,” Wright added.
Caliber of horses runs the gamut. “I start a lot of colts,” Wright said. “I have horses in all levels of training.
“Some are show horses. Others we’ll get broke to the point they’re ready to go on and become a barrel horse, rope horse, ranch-using horse or simply putting a better handle on a trail horse. It just depends on what the customer plans to do.”
Training riders is sometimes as important as training horses. “I regularly give lessons to adults as well as young riders. Everybody can always learn something.
“That’s one reason it’s so good working with Dad. He can see something my horse or I are doing that can be improved.
“Other times I might be able to help him make a change. We may not either one necessarily like being critiqued or told about our horse or riding at first. But we’ll always try to do what’s right to make the horse better,” Wright said.
While training reining horses is Wright’s forte, he rides whatever comes. “We help start barrel horses on the pattern, have a ‘hot-heels’ for rope horses. We do our best on them all,” Wright said.
Obviously the trend in every discipline is to become more competitive. “I think people are increasingly realizing the value of having a good foundation on their horse before putting the horse on barrels, cows, trail riding, whatever,” Wright said.
“It makes everyone’s job easier,” he insisted. “When someone runs into trouble down the road, and it will happen, their horse has a foundation to fall back on.
“For example, a lot of people run into trouble with a horse dropping their shoulder,” Wright said. “If that horse has a good foundation, they will have the framework in place to fix the problem.”
Competing in a dozen or so local and major shows annually, Wright has collected enviable show championships on every level.
Decades gone by, champions were expected to enter every discipline from halter in the morning, to pleasure rail classes, reining, even barrel racing and roping.
“There are some very versatile horses today, but not many can really do it all,” Wright contended. “A reining horse can do other events, cow classes and the like, and rail horses work in horsemanship and English.
“Yet, finding a top halter horse to do everything is pretty unlikely,” he evaluated.
“A good mind” is the most important ingredient for a top performance horse, according to the trainer.
“A horse must want to cooperate, take pressure, learn and improve,” Wright insisted.
As in the past so in the future, Todd Wright looks to riding, improving and showing horses. “You have to keep getting better all of the time or get left behind,” he concluded.