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0:21 - Introduction and Early Memories

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Partial Transcript: Vernon, could you share just a little bit about your occupation, your age, and how long you've been working with mountain horses?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon tells about growing up exclusively using horses on the farm. He started riding horses for money at the age of 13. Vernon tells the story about wanting to quit high school and how his dad responded to this. His family got their first tractor in 1962, but before that farming was all real horsepower. Vernon talks about how much he enjoyed seeing the results of his dad's breeeding season.



4:34 - Appalachian Connection

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Partial Transcript: When you think of where you were raised and where you were born, do you think of yourself as Appalachian or from eastern Kentucky? And if so, what does that mean to you?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon does consider himself as Appalachian. He shares stories about the family homestead that has been passed down from generation to generation. Vernon goes farther to compare his family heritage to the bloodlines of the horses on his farm. Vernon is proud of where he came from and how he was raised.



6:02 - Mountain Horse Connection

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Partial Transcript: When did you start to understand what a mountain horse was or what a gaited horse was?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon was first introduced to mountain horses under the name of the "old running and walking horse." Vernon shares some of the descriptions that the old timers would use for the horses. His dad and grandfather would ride all day on the Mountain horse. Vernon talks about the differences in horse gaits and training.



8:15 - Passing Down the Tradition

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Partial Transcript: In passing down those traditions, that knowledge about our gaited horses, could you share a little bit more about that?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon tells what it's like to ride the gaited horses and shares a story about riding an old timer's horse. These horses were not ran or abused. They were the transportation of the time and was what put food on the table. Vernon goes on to share some of the old terminology in order to help riders learn more about how to ride. Vernon was also taught to breed to improve the herd, not for color. Vernon tells about what he's been taught to look for in a horse and how working horses compare to show horses.



19:31 - Breeding

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Partial Transcript: Could you talk about those traits that we should be breeding for?

Segment Synopsis: The first thing Vernon talks about is conformation and then disposition. The color of the horse doesn't matter, so long as it's a good horse. Vernon tells about the different conformations and what he likes. You miss a lot if you just breed for color in a horse. Vernon elaborates on what disposition is and what he likes to see.



23:23 - Training Horses

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Partial Transcript: I've heard some people in their histories talk about our Mountain Horses as a good Mountain Horse is a babysitter horse. What are your thoughts on that?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon does agree that a lot of the mountain horses are good for kids, but he does see that anything can happen with a horse. The things that make the horse safe for kids is disposition and the training of the horse. Not all Rocky Mountain Horses are easy horses. Vernon compares two-three year olds to how he was as a teenager in order to show that work has to be done with horses. Horses are not just born easy and calm.



30:02 - More Terminology

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Partial Transcript: Can you share some more of those terminologies or some of that knowledge?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon tells about cow hocked horses and how showing them can turn them into a splay-footed horse. He also tells about some other terminology in regards to the eyesight. Vernon tells about going to horse shows.



33:55 - Changes in the Horse

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Partial Transcript: Two things we're doing, we're breeding different and we're feeding a lot different.

Segment Synopsis: Vernon discusses how breeders are trying to grow the horse faster and how that hurts them in the long run. Historically, these horses just lived, there was no vitamins and deworming. Vernon doesn't really do much maintenance to the feet of his horses. He lets it be taken care of naturally. He does do what needs to be done, but mostly lets nature take its course.



35:49 - Riding the Horses

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Partial Transcript: Can you share about what it feels like to ride a gaited horse?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon tells about how relaxed he feels when he is riding gaited horses. When riding, life slows down a little bit and it really calms the rider. Vernon tells how grateful he is to be able to do what he wants to do in his life. Riding and working with some of the people in the community has been a blessing to Vernon.



38:36 - Sound and Feel of the Gait

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Partial Transcript: Could you share in terms of the sound of the gait or feel of the gait when you're on?

Segment Synopsis: A good mountain horse's gait should not move you in the saddle. Riders shouldn't swing or bounce in the saddle. Vernon tells how to get a four-beat gait into a horse and how to train different gaited horses. He also discusses how he trains horses and the time it takes to train. He also tells how he watches colts and what he learns from them.



44:29 - Future of Mountain Horses

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Partial Transcript: In terms of the future of our mountain horses, can you share what you think the future might be and any advice you might want to pass on?

Segment Synopsis: According to Vernon, we're losing a lot of the original gait, disposition, and conformation due to the show rings today. Some judges are good, and some just choose horses based on politics and color. Vernon believes that passion for the horses means a lot more than just the money. The younger folks don't remember what using these horses for work every day is like. Vernon reiterates his belief in not breeding for color.



47:13 - Closing Thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Any other thoughts that you would like to share?

Segment Synopsis: Vernon tells of his appreciation for the project and how he would like for more people to be involved in this. He talks about club footed horses and the changes of the horses once again. Vernon would love to see the breed go back to how it was in the old times.



49:22 - Safety on the Horses

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Partial Transcript: What are your thoughts on horses and staying safe and your advice?

Segment Synopsis: The first three years of the horse's life is the most important. Vernon advises to get to know the horse and start training it young, like you would teach a child.




Vernon Stamper






horse, ride, breed, good, people, mare, daddy, hear, stallion, gait, disposition, today, son, mountain, world, years, conformation, old-timers


Vernon Stamper, Stephanie McSpirit, and Chad Cogdill

Stephanie McSpirit 00:03

This is Stephanie McSpirit with the Appalachian Equine...

Chad Cogdill 00:07 Go ahead.

Stephanie McSpirit 00:08

This is Stephanie McSpirit with the Appalachian Equine Project. Today is April 26, 2019. And we're here with Vernon Stamper at Overlook Stables in Sharpsburg, Kentucky. Vernon, could you share just a little bit before we get started, a little bit about your occupation, your age, and how long you've been working with mountain horses?

Vernon Stamper 00:40

Well, I started out at a young age. My Daddy, you know, we never owned a tractor until '62. We done it all with horsepower. And I never had a bicycle, I can't ride a bicycle today, I never had one. And all we did, it was with horses. You know, we farmed with horses and mules, and I learned at an early age to start riding and listen to what my Daddy said then I didn't have to be in the field as much. He would train a lot of horses for people. And, I learned, you know, to learn to ride the gaited horse. Because if you could ride and train the gaited horses, that was my job. I could do that. I started riding for money when I was 13 years old. And on June the 13th to this year, I'll be 64. And all I ever wanted to do in my life was train horses and auctioneer. That's all I've ever wanted to do and I've been blessed to get to do that in my lifetime, I really have. In the early years, I didn't like school, I didn't like school at all. All I wanted to do was hang around horses, horse barns, and auctioneering, and I really got to do that. I remember one time in my early years, I was in high school and I didn't like high school. I decided I was going to quit. And Daddy said, well I come in that evening, Daddy just had a third grade education. And he said, "Yeah," said, "If I was you son, you're smarter than them teachers, you don't need to go to school no how." Said, "You're just a genius." I thought boy I've got it made. I didn't have any idea the next morning, we had about 20 acres of corn down on river bottom. And Daddy took me that morning about daylight, got up, put the harness on the mules and horses and we'd go down there and we'd shuck corn. And I figured well, dinnertime we'd quit. Boy, I was just getting with it dinnertime. Come in and eat and I was going take the harness off the horses and he said, "Well, son, said we ain't through yet." I said, "What we going to do?" He said, "We're going to shuck another load." So, we stayed until dark, we stayed until dark that time. And, the next morning I got up real early. He said, "Where you going?" I said, "I think I'm going to school." He said, "Sit down there." And he said, "Let me tell you something." He said, "The next time you decided to do something like this," he said, "You ain't going to have it so easy." Said now, "You get to school." I said, "The bus is done gone," and he said, "I said to get to school and don't be late." And so I took off, and I hitchhiked to school and I never did think about quitting no more.

Stephanie McSpirit 03:04

Could you share any other fond memories of you and your father?

Vernon Stamper 03:07

Yeah, my Daddy. He'd always cut hay with horses and we would put it up with a pitchfork. We'd stack a lot of hay back then. And a lot of people look at me and say, "Well you're not that old to remember that." But back, I was raised in eastern Kentucky right on the Red River Valley. And we done a lot of, a lot of work with with horsepower, that's all we had. Until '62 when he bought that first tractor, we thought we died and went to heaven, you know. We had it made, we thought. But, that's pretty much what we did to make a living. We done everything with horsepower, we turned the ground, we plowed them. And every now and then on Sundays, they'd be a bunch of us gang up and we'd have a big trail ride and sometimes we'd have a picnic. We usually have two a year, one in the summer and one in the fall. And that well we'd have high 75 to 100 horses back then. I mean, just you know word of mouth, different counties and stuff. We'd all get together and we'd have a big trail ride. That was a lot of the memories I had back then growing up. And then the spring of the year when Daddy would breed, he had a bloodline of Palomino horses, he kept for years. And I can remember in the spring, when you get up in the morning it was eager to see which mare had what baby, you know. And he'd raise them Palomino babies and that's what he had for years. And I enjoyed that part of it. I really do. I love those young, young stock. I love it.

Stephanie McSpirit 04:41

When you think of where you were raised and where you were born, do you think of yourself as Appalachian or eastern from eastern Kentucky? And if so, what does that mean to you?

Vernon Stamper 04:56

Yeah, that's what I consider myself as, east Kentucky Appalachian. It means a lot to me because, you know, that's when my roots is from. My grandfather, my great grandfather, there's a house that I was born in. It had never been sold in history, it had been handed down to my generation. And that's the way bloodline some of these horses, I've got one mare that, that bloodline has been in our family for over 100 years. And, you know, that means a lot to me. Me and my wife, we don't have any kids, but we've got neighbors here. My neighbor girls has got one of the mares little fillies that I gave them that's out of that bloodline and they going to keep that and try to raise it and get that started. So, I'm pretty excited about a lot of that. And I'm proud of a lot of it, you know. We had it hard, we thought when growing up, but it was the fun days. It was really the fun days, really for us. You know, it was probably the best time of our life, compared to what you see today in young kids growing up. We didn't have a lot of money, but we worked hard. And I remember that very well, you know.

Stephanie McSpirit 06:09

When did you start to understand what a mountain horse was? Or what a gaited horse was?

Vernon Stamper 06:15

Well, back when I was just a kid, my Daddy and a lot of older-timers, they'd talk about the old running walking horses. Which in today's world, you never hear nobody talk about the old nodding, running, walking horse. They didn't have the big long head shot like a head shake like a Tennessee Walking Horse. I just, I tell you what I heard the old-timers say, "Well, it's like a chicken picking up corn. You jiggle the head just a little peck to it." Alright, when you rode one of them old-timers horses, if they caught you running it, buddy, that was oh, that was just like doing a bad sin, you know you didn't do that! And when you're younger, that's what you want to do, you want to run and have a good time with them. But the old-timers didn't like that. But, back then, you know, you take little horses wasn't fast at all, they didn't have a lot of speed like we do today. They were just a little slow, what they call running walking horse. Then you would ride them for hours. And I remember Daddy talking about riding from Mount Sterling back to Campton, Kentucky on a mountain horse. And riding all day that a way. So, now it did take him all day to get home, but I've heard him talk about it and I've heard grandpa talk about it. Herding cattle, from back in the mountains to Mount Sterling with mountain horse, you know. I was raised up with it. And you hear in today's world, different gaits, different things going on with the horse industry. But it all comes right back down to the basics. You know, what a horse is actually doing?

There's so many people that don't train their eye to catch things on the gaited horse, they really don't. And I think they're missing out a lot. You've got a lot of young trainers coming into this world 20-25 years old, they've been riding and showing horses for four or five years now they're trainers. I don't really, my personal opinion, this is just my personal opinion. I don't think that you make a good trainer until you work with somebody or somebody that, you know, that you can trust, that really know what they're talking about that's been there done that. I think that makes the best trainers, I really do.

Stephanie McSpirit 08:21

It seems that passing down those traditions, that knowledge about you know, our gaited horses. Could you share a little bit more about that?

Vernon Stamper 08:29

Yeah, my daddy and my grandfather, they had a bloodline of horses, the Palomino horse and the buckskin horse. They always rode a good distance slow run and walking horse. He didn't have a lot of speed to him, he had a little stride, but you could drop your reins on his neck and he rode the Minihan saddles, Buena Vistas or something like that. Or the Hutchesons, you never hear that mentioned anymore or the John Sammons Saddle, you never heard them mention that. But that's what they rode in. And it was just, I mean, it was just like sitting in a chair when you got on one of their old horses. I can remember one of my Daddy's friends, he was an elderly like guy when I was just a kid. I mean he was in his 70 or 80 years old, but he had an old buckskin mare he rode everywhere. And, us younger

boys, me and my brother, we wanted to ride that mare so bad, it was unreal. And we finally got to ride it. And as he come to visit Daddy, he let us ride a little more all the time. We got so, we got to run her, you know, we wanted to go fast. And when he caught us, that ended the riding of his mare, he wouldn't let us ride it no more. But back then there was more compassion about what a horse was actually doing for as gait wise. You didn't run them, you didn't abuse that horse at all. Because that was their transportation, that's what put, that's what made a living and put bread on the table, is the horse, back in years ago. But they did, they was very, very peculiar if you say to about their horses. They just wouldn't, you know, they just didn't want you to abuse it. If they thought you abusing one, it'd be your hide. That's what they would do, you know, you didn't get to ride no more. And I grew up with my brothers and stuff. And I learned when, you know, if you'll ride and listen to what the older people said, you can learn a lot from them. You know, they've got different terminology then, than they have in today's world, it was totally different. For instance, you hear a lot of people talk about a horse would be in step pace. We never heard that until 25 years ago. About when it first starts coming around, about 25 years ago. A horse is either swinging or he's a little square. That's what they would say. They'd say,

"He's a little square going horse, well just a little on the swingy side." "Well, what do I need to do to get him to gait?" "Well, son, you need to learn to ride." By picking him up in the mouth, you'd slow him down or speed him up. And that's what they would tell you. And that's how you learned to ride a horse. And that's where you learned to get him to gait. And they would sit there and tell you and they would, they would show you how to hold him. And then you hear him talk about feeling the horse in the mouth. Learn the feeling in the mouth. In today's world, you say, "Well, can you feel him in the mouth?" They look at you like a calf looked at a new gate, you know. What are you talking about? But you can't. There are two places that you feel a horse. You feel him with your hand and you feeling him with your bottom end when you're riding. Or you can feel him with your legs. And like I tell a lot of people when we get these horses ready to show or whatever, you want to know what that horse is going to do five minutes before that horse does. That's what you call getting to know your horse. If you'll put the time and really put the time on him you can tell and I've told different people that and they've looked at me like Hm, What are you talking about? And after years later, they'll come back said you know, I thought you was kindly off the wall for a while, but I know what you're talking about now. And that's some of the things I learned when I was young and older people taught me that, you know. I'd have to say, the elder people in eastern Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains they taught me a lot about riding and about the gaited horse. And also I've trained a lot of getting mules. I really don't like the mule that well, I'd rather work with a horse than, than I would the mule. But their gait in similar, there's a little bit difference there, but it's similar. But I love fooling with a good gaited horse. It don't make no difference, a lot of people gets hung up on colors, the colors don't bother me cause you can't ride colors. My Daddy would always say, "Son, you can ride colors, or you can ride papers." What was that horse a doing, you know? And that's what you would look at, how was this horse here, how would he improve your herd? How would he help you get better and get your bloodlines better? That's what Daddy always explained to us. You know, he said if you just buy anything to breed anything for color, whatever, said, "You're wasting your time. It'll play out after a while." Yeah, that's the way Daddy would, you know, taught us boys. He taught us all that, boys that. I've got, I've got three brothers left. They was six of us boys and three girls. The girls would work out in the field just like the boys would. We all learned, you know, to work and make a living with the horsepower. You don't see much of it anymore unless you go to Amish country but I still, when I left home, I swore about, I'd never put the harness on another horse. And now I'm finding myself, to me it's enjoyment, it really is. And you'll learn, I've heard my Daddy say this, said,

"Son you'll learn a horse more in a harness in a week then you'll ride him in two months." And you know it's pretty much true, because you'll learn a horse to pick up and when you're driving he'll go straight.

And when you're riding, he just back, especially a young, backwards or forwards. Like old timers would say, "Well, son, he's like a black snake going up the road, he's everywhere." You know, that's some of the old terms they'd use, you know. Or, "Boy you ain't got much there, son." Said, "You need to trade him off," said, "You ain't got much." I've heard different ones say that. Or, "He's a corn stock horse," meaning well he's just really fine. He said, "Well huh, his front legs, both of his front legs come out the same hole, son. He's a corn stock horse." You know, that's some of the terminology the old people would say. And back then they had to have a horse with a good bone. Good chest on him, shoulders come out right, and today's world, if you'll notice, we're all breeding these horses a little different. We're getting away from a little bit from the old original type horse. Because today is in the show ring world, if you ain't got a horse getting up off the ground, looks pretty moving. You're not going to place, you're not going to place. But back then they had, he had to be able to pull a plow, he had to be able to ride and do it all. You know, when I was growing up, that's what he had to do. And if you had a big high stepping horse, and I've heard grandpa and Daddy talk, said, "Well, son, all you've got something to ride around. You'd starve to death if you had to work that one because it's shoulders not sitting right." I've heard him talk about that. "Well, you couldn't raise black eyed peas with that horse, his shoulders ain't right." And you look at it in today's world, I studied this a lot, the conformation of the horse. If you'll notice, a horse with his front leg sitting back under his chest quite a bit, he's not going to get off the ground. And if he's broad, he'd making good stout using horses that don't mean he can't good to riding and for using horse, that just means he won't, he's not good to show ring. He don't get up real high off the ground. A show horse will be, most of them, will have a great big lift in the front end, a good stride in the back end. He'll be a short back, long underneath, and his front legs will sit out in front of him just a little bit, out from his shoulders a little bit. That's the way I think we're going today, on some of them. I think we're breeding, I think we went just a little bit too far with some of it if you're wanting an older type horse. Everybody's breeding to get that lift off the front end because nobody wants to use them anymore. Very few people, very few. And they're wanting a show ring horse. And I think we're leaning away from it. And I think a lot of them are breeding these horses. They'll talk about, "Well, they'd rather see one trot than pace." Personally, I hadn't, because I'm a tell you why. If you breed the pace out of the horse, sooner or later, you're going to have nothing but a trotty horse. You're going to have nothing but trotty stock horse.

Because, you breed the pace out of one, the pace is a little swing. And you see a horse driving and a swinging out of that back end, when you get him squared up, get him a perfect four beat gait, that'll be the smoothest ride you'll have. A trotty horse will have more speed, because you yank him up and get him up and going he'll have what we call a more of racky going gait. Versus the one that's a little swingy, he'll more slower and more of a run walking type of gait. You never hear nobody talk about that no more. We get in a lot of discussions on that. But you don't hear nobody talk and discuss that. You know, I think I think really, it's very important to have a good breeding stallion. Very important. You need to try to match your mares as much as you possibly can with that stallion. I made the comment here a year or so ago, and they laughed and said I was crazy. I said I'd been 10 years to find the specific type breeding stallion, and I honestly really have. I get them up until they're 3 and I don't like some of the traits they've got, I make good dealings out of them and I sell them. Then I'll start again, and I'll try the match my mares. But I'm very peculiar about a breeding stallion. If a stallion don't breed better than what he is, you need to start over. That's my opinion. You need to be very selective in your breeding stock. And I think one of the worst thing that you could ever do is breed for color. I think you

get more, more traits that you don't want, you'll get limbs not right. You're missing out on a lot of good times. And in the mountain horse world, you hear a lot of people talk about, "Well, my horse don't have no red genes." To me, that's telling me that you're not really watching what you're breeding, you're breeding for color. Now, what's wrong with a solid gray, black bay, any color, if he's good, there's nothing wrong with it. But I think when you go to breeding for cover only, I've already seen some horses. You'll get splay footed. You'll get, you just get different things that I don't think is right. I really don't. The Good Lord put them here and made different colors, why not leave them what they are and try to breed the best that you can. That's my opinion. I just, I will not breed for color. I will not.

Stephanie McSpirit 17:23

Could you talk about those traits that we should be breeding for?

Vernon Stamper 19:41

Yes, the traits we should be breeding for, to my opinion, is nothing, you should look at your conformation your first go around. That's the first thing that I think you should look at. The second thing, is disposition. And your gaits a big plus. Don't never worry about the color. Don't never worry about the color of a horse. If he's good, it don't make no difference if he's polka-dotted. But, you know, a lot of people wants to rule out the sorrels, the bays, whatever. If he's good, it don't make no difference what color he is. But I think, I think the biggest thing, you need to look at the conformation on one first, and see how he's put together, and if he's that type horse that you like. I don't like a big long, what we call a family horse. A big long back, out your whole family on and take them to town. That's what, that's what Daddy would say, you know and my grandpa. "Son, you've got a family horse. He's long enough to put the whole family on there and take them to town." I like a short horse, a little short back long underneath, compact horse. He's easy to keep, it don't half as much to feed him. But I think that's some of the things people's missing. In the mountain horse world, I think we're missing a lot of that. Because when you talk to people today about breeding a mare or whatever, first thing, there's two things they'll pop up, the first two things. "Well, my horse don't have no red gene." The second thing, "Well, now my horse won't produce nothing but a gaited horse." Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don't. And I think you're missing a lot of that. By trying to breed just for color only, you miss out a lot. I think the first thing you need to look at is gait and disposition, their gait, conformation, gait, disposition, you look at them three real well. If you got one, that's got the conformation that he should have, good disposition, if you put enough time, you can get a pretty good gait out of him. I've never seen one yet, and it might take a while to do it. I've never seen one yet. If he's bred halfway decent, got some good traits and conformation right and good disposition, that you couldn't get a gait out of. I've never seen it yet. Now I've seen a whole lot and the years I've been riding and fooling with horses. But I think it's one thing really, you know, that you need to look at really, really hard.

Stephanie McSpirit 22:15

When you say disposition, what's, what does that mean...

Vernon Stamper 22:18

Okay, Alright. I like a horse that is a real good, laid back horse. Easy to get along, something that your wife or kid can take out and ride or handle any way they want. That you don't have to worry about it. To me, that's a disposition horse. In today's world, you see so many, so hyped up horses. They just don't

make real good horses for kids. They really don't, cause a lot of people will think, well, I've got a horse, he's got so and so's horse, he'll be good. That's not the case. And I've raised them here myself. I've had them here, that I just didn't like, you know. And sometimes, you know, I'll just, I'll just tell people, I'm honest in what I do. I say, look, he don't suit me. And I'll tell you why he don't. And you let him go, and you, you get your mares, if you keep a mare and you breed it 3-4 times and she's not producing what you like, you need to get rid of it. Now that's what I try to do. I've tried to keep a select bunch of mares, I breed to different stallions and try to get the best I can, you know. And then I go from there.

Stephanie McSpirit 23:19

I've heard some people in our, in their histories talk about our mountain horses, a good mountain horse is a babysitter horse. Or what are your thoughts on that?

Vernon Stamper 23:39

Well, a lot of them will make a good horse for kids and stuff to ride. And everybody said, well, I want to bombproofed horse. A horse is a horse, anything can happen. You know, a lot of people don't understand that. It depends on two things, your disposition of your horse, how he was trained, and how he was maintenanced and took care of. That's the three key things right there. And if you got a good disposition horse, and you know and he's trained right. You know, it'll all come together. But you've got to kindly, you know, watch that and guard that. A lot of people said, "Oh, I bought me Rocky Mountain Horse. Oh, he's good." That's not necessarily true. Some of the worst bucking horses I ever rode was Rocky Mountain Horse, I'll be honest with you. They are and I've had some that, man, I don't know where they come from, I don't want to come out in them. And you'll have that occasionally. But that's why I think you need to breed, you need find a couple of horses that you like and you need to breed as close to that to get that as you can. And usually you won't go wrong too bad. I've had some new stock that I bought and brought in. I didn't like them at all, you know. And then I'll breed a year or two, they're gone. Don't mean he ain't a good horse, just didn't match for want I was looking for. And every breeder that loves a mountain horse will tell you different things. But you've got to have one in today's world that its people can get along with, this easy in general, that's the most important thing. The disposition is one of the biggies, now. If one, it ain't got the greatest conformation, but he's got a good disposition, you can use him. That's a good using horse, you don't throw him away. He's a good using horse. But I've heard people say, well, my horse won't do this, won't do that. A young two-or-three year old horse liable to do anything, any given day. Because they're just like, I was when I was teenager, you give me an inch, I'll take a mile if and get away with it, I would. A young horse is the same way. And that's why you see a lot of people with these young stallions in today's world, "Oh, my horse won't do this, won't do that." The first thing you know, they've got him so hyped up and so high strung, that he would have made a good horse, if they just settle down, take their time with him. They want him made yesterday, and that don't happen. It takes time. You don't get a horse good until it gets four or five, not in today's world. Because we don't use them that much. That's the problem we have today, in today's world, in the horse industry. But I don't know, I just, I love an old horse. That's all I've ever wanted to do all my life. And I've been blessed to get to do it, you know. And I've had some good people I've worked with, I really have. I've had some great people. And I've been blessed to good enough, I've sent a horse, I've put a horse never state in US, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Germany, Sweden, France, and Australia.

And that's just right off top of the head I can remember, I've got lists at the house where all I've sent one. You know, and since I started in this mountain horse thing, I've tried other breeds, I really have,

but I've always come back to it, you know, because that's what I was raised with. Because I feel like I know more about that than any other breed, you know. And that's why I've always stayed with. And I've had some good, good old-timers to help me out a lot. I've been blessed to get to be around some of them people. You know, when I was a kid, you know, a lot of them older guys they was 70 and 80 years old, you know. And I got a lot of knowledge from them. But they had different terminology, you know, with stuff and some of it you sit back and laugh at now. But you was like, "Well, you know, they were right." Because I catch myself doing the same thing that I've seen my Daddy do with training a young horse. You know, just taking your time. Don't get in no hurry. He'd always say, "Son, if you don't put the time, you ain't going to have nothing." He'd said, "If you ain't going to spend 30 minutes to two hours with the horse when you get him out, leave him in the barn." That's what he'd always tell me. And you know it's pretty much right, you go to some of these barns, these young trainers 25 and 30 years old, they're riding 25 and 30 horses. Yeah, you can run them up in that barn twice, and put them up, that's not working them. That's not working a horse. Take him cross country, be gone for two or three hours. And then of young colt, we get a lot, a lot of comments about breaking and training the young horses, they don't want to start until four year old. Well I'm here to tell you, I will not start a four year old horse. I will not, I couldn't, I won't do it. Because I'm going to tell you why, they're set in their ways. Now, can you take a teenager and teach him like you can a child? You cannot, that's the same way with a young horse. If you got a good young two year old and you want to start him, you're start in right manner. I've started probably many two year olds anybody has for my age. I've never seen one hurt in my life by using common sense. I've seen other people ride them off their feet, that's no good. You got, Daddy and grandpa said, "Son, you got to be smart as a horse is if you're going to learn to train one." And you know, really that's true. You got to know your horse and, lot there ain't no two horses will work the same. On the young horses, you need to take your time, don't get in no hurry, they'll let you know when they're ready to step up and go. I've trained a lot of horses here for people. And I said, "Well, he's not ready to go to big, the next big step." "Well, I want him doing this and that." I'm not the man for that. But you can slow down and let me take my time, I can't do it for you. And some people get mad about that, but a lot of them said, "Okay, you do whatever." And then when you get through, you've got a good product when you get done. It's just like trying to bake a cake real quick, hash through your dough and what do you got, your flour's not mixed good, than you know what you got. You get a lot of plain flour, that's the same way about a young horse. When you cut corners, and you're trying to get it done too fast, it'll tell on you. Every time, it'll tell on you. Sooner or later, it'll tell on you. And then you going have a customer mad, a mad customer word will spread like wildfire in the horse world.

Stephanie McSpirit 30:10

Can you share some more of those terminologies or some of that knowledge that you, I mean in terms of...

Vernon Stamper 30:14

Well, okay like the, well the Rocky Mountain Association you'll hear them talk about a cow hocked horse. To me, that's worst worst representation I've ever heard of. Because a cow hocked, slightly cow hocked. That's what it'll read, slightly cow hocked, you got a week backend horse. Now, a lot of times on these horses that we shoe, today, that gets feet on them. We'll take that horse, it just like your feet, if a horses feet is out like this, he'll get wide behind. Alright, if he's turning in like this, he's going to come across and the first thing you know you're going to be hitting in here. Now, if you got a horse cow

hocked, he's weak in the backend, you can't do a lot with him because you make, you'll hurt him worse. But I think in, in shoeing a lot of these horses that's feet, what you do, you cut your inside down, just about eight an inch lower, lower than your outside, which that will put your feet this way, what we call a little splay footed. Now, when he comes off, he's going get out and reach out like that. And he won't get on his front foot. That's where you see a lot of horses really peeling the bulbs off. You go to these shows, you see them with speed, they're cutting the bulbs off. They're not wide in behind. And cow hocked horse usually will quit right in here. If you try to widen him, he'll hit himself in here, right on the hocks, that's where he will. They ain't a whole lot you can do for that, you can help them some by shoeing, but I think that's the terminology we need to stay away from. And we call them pig eyed horses. You don't want a pig eyed horse. I'd hear them talk about, "Ah, son, you got a pig eyed horse. Well, he no account, he can't see good." That's what they tell you, you know, back when I was growing up. And then you'd have one maybe a little sway back. "Well, Lord you don't put a young kid on that you'll lose that one because you can't see him." You know, we talked about sway backed horse. And then you'd have some what we called moon eyed, you never hear that talked about no more. A moon eyed horse. Certain times of the moon, they're blind as a bat. And you'll see their eyes water a lot when the moon starts to change, then they'll get where they can't see. The moons change, they'll see a little bit. They've got eye problems. When I was a kid around a lot of your older people and your horse traders, ah, it was a big deal for me and my brothers to put one off on each other that was a treat, buddy. That was a big treat when we was growing up, you know, you will try to put some off onto your brother and you'd laugh at him. You know, it just made us better, you know, horse people, it really did. And Daddy would, hey, let me tell you, he would put one on us if he could. He said, "Son, be careful, watch what you're doing now." And after you got it a while, "Well Dad I don't think this way it ought to be." "You ought to watch a little careful son." Then he'd help you, he'd help you work through it. But stuff like that. And then you'd have horses with a ewe neck. "Well, son, you ought to hide that one back somewhere. Why nobody will want that thing." And you, you know, that's just some of the type a combination you'd have in the horse world, you know. And you'd ride these horses, and you'd have a little racky going horse, you know. Back then when I was a kid, in the mountain horse breed, they didn't want them little racky going horses. They didn't want them, they wanted to slow them down and have a little head peck and a little running walking lick. That's what they wanted to see. But now things has changed so much, and we bred different. We're two things we're doing, we're free, we're breeding different and we're feeding a lot different. We got more vitamins and supplements to help these horses grow. Now, also you can grow a mountain horse too quick. You grow them too fast. Their bone, they just won't mature right. I don't think, to my opinion. I've seen one or two just didn't. They get big, tall, and lengthy. You got to wait until they're four or fives and then by that time, everything is so much out of kilter that you're wasting two years on it. And I just I think the best thing you can do for a mountain horse, it's good give him a few supplements, or whatever but don't push him to grow. They'll grow on their own. If you just turn them out and give them plenty to eat, they'll grow on their own. If you look back at history, when these horses are running out in the wild, they didn't say well come here old buddy we're going worm you today. And the good Lord didn't come down say well, okay, today is the day I'm going to trim your feet. I've got broodmares that feet ain't been touched in five years. You go look at them they just, you know, rounded nice as they can be. I check them, but they don't make trimming, you know. A lot of people says, "Oh you got to trims, got to trim so often." Now these performance horses that we ride, I look at them and if they need reshoeing we do, depend on them. Not every horse's will grow the same. Some horses you want to shorter foot, shorter toe, some you want more

toe, some you want more heel, that depends on how he rolls out of his shoulder. A lot of people likes these horses to come up and pound the ground hard. I don't, I like a horse come up and work out of his shoulder, reach and pull, reach and pull. And then I want him pushing out of his backend and getting up and under, it'll give you a smoother ride, it really will. That's the difference I see a lot of.

Stephanie McSpirit 35:56

Could you share about what it feels like to ride a gaited horse, so you know...

Vernon Stamper 36:00

Oh, really, to ride a real good one, it's no experience like it. I can be aggravated with everything in the world, you know, and, and we all as humans, we all get aggravated with things. But it's nothing like saddling a horse up, going back across country, taking your dog, a lot quicker and barks now, taking your dog, going across country. They're down there somewhere messing with my dog. But anyway, going across country, riding a good horse, it's just so relaxing. It's just like you don't even got a care in the world. I'm just here, I'm relaxing, I love this, you know. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world, if you get to where you can do that. I've been blessed where a lot of people hadn't got to do that in life.

You know, in today's world, everything is just a hustle bustle. You've got to be here, you've got to be there, you got to do this, do that. I've been blessed. I've got to work most of time with horses and stuff where I've had the opportunity to do this. But I think you can be aggravated everything, you just saddle up and go for a good ride and good, good moving gaited horse, there's nothing like it. There's nothing like it. It just, it makes you thank the good Lord for putting them on earth, it really does. You know, I love I love it. I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world, I really wouldn't. And I've got to do pretty much what I'd like to do in life. I really have, a lot of people can't say that. But I've got to do that. I really have. I've been blessed with that end of it. But I'd like to live until I'm 100 and I'd love to be riding when I'm 100, but I don't know if I can or not. My Daddy was a riding into his 80's. He broke a two year old horse when he's 80 years old. One of the, some of the Palominos that's been in our family's bloodline for over 100 years. He broke when he's 80 years old, he passed away at 89. But, you know, it's been a blessing to me to have the horses and now look I've met some good people to work for. I've been blessed with having some good people to work for. And you know, when you get through, you think that you know everything in the horse world, you're tricking yourself. If you're with an open mind, you can learn something from everybody. I can learn something from a child, just the beginning. I can learn stuff from them, I really can. You sit and watch kids, you learn a lot. And a lot of times here, I'll have 7 or 8 kids here, neighbor's kids here riding or whatever. Just sit and watch them and you can learn stuff from them, you know. That's what I like about it. But I love the horse world, I really do. I wouldn't change it for nothing.

Stephanie McSpirit 38:43

Could you share, in terms of the sound of the gait or the feel of the gait when you're on it, just because we've had some people share that and I thought maybe we could do that.

Vernon Stamper 38:52

Oh yeah, a good running walking horse, he'll barely move you in the saddle. Most of the time, a good four beat gaiting horse, he just like this, just kindly float, float, float. Now trotty horse, bang, bang, bang, bang. And a pacey horse will swing you from side to side, they sure will. But you get one that, that, you

hear a lot of people talk about the different gaits, the fox trotters, the four beat or whatever. And go back to the stepping pace horse. If you can get a stepping pace horse, if you'll take the time riding him and get him squared up a little bit, he makes your best riding horse that you can get. He makes a great riding horse. But one or two things you've got to do to him. You'll either have to speed him up or you've got, you got to do something to change that up a little bit. Because you're this close, you're, you're an inch away from being right on the money. There's nothing like a good four beat gaited horse, I mean you can hear it just 1, 2, 3, 4, just, you know, right along. And a trot, I just oh, man, they're rough. And a pace, a dead pace, I don't like. But, I'd rather work with a pacey horse than I would a trotty horse. For me, it's easier. Because a pacey horse, I can slow down. And if you'll shoe a little bit different, and ride a little bit different and put enough time on him and bit him right, you can get him, you can get a four beat out of him. You sure can. But a trotty horse, all you got to do is speed him up and you get a rackey lick. And then once you getting him setting in that rackey lick, you start slowing him down, slowing him down. It this is, it takes a while to do it. But it takes you three to four months, to even get started where you can start slowing down. You've got to get him started in the gait, then you can work off of that.

That's like a pacey horse, a pacey horse, you may not get him to get but four or five little steps, but you're making progress. It's trial and error, trial and error. That's all training's about, is trial and error. And to me there's nothing like reading a good four beat horse. I like a good, a good speed horse too. There's nothing wrong with them. But most of the time, if I'm trail riding and I just want one I can flop around, loose reign, if I take a notion to get off, look at the scenery. I flop my reigns down, my dog running around there, I want to be able to go back and get him, I don't like to walk to the house. I've done it a time or two, I don't like it. But it takes time, it really does. And I think a lot of people expects too much. They'll put a horse in training, "Well I want him, I want you just put 30 days on him." Thirty days, you're just starting, you're just starting. You ain't got your groundwork done in 30 days. Anymore, I've got so, you know, I'll have people say, "Well, I just want 30 days." I'm the wrong person for that. All we going to do is just get round pen groundwork started. And you're just asking for a wreck when you do that, you know. But I like to not be in no hurry when I start and have patience. A horse will tell you, it's just like a little child, it'll tell you when it wants to do something different, when it's ready to move up. A lot of people tells me I'm crazy for thinking that way. But it's the truth. You go out in the field, watch a bunch of colts. Watch what pecking order they are and just sit there long enough, you'll learn something from watching him colts. Now, I do it every, every spring and every fall. I mean, I love watching colts. I usually pick me 4 or 5 out, keep for myself because I've got to replace brooding mares every so often. And that's what I do. I bet I'm sitting, that one, I like to [phone rings] That's the phone, it's awful loud.

Stephanie McSpirit 42:41 Oh, that's okay.

Vernon Stamper 42:42

But uh [phone rings] it'll quit here in a minute. [phone rings]

Stephanie McSpirit 42:43

Oh sure, You're fine, you're fine.

Vernon Stamper 42:44

But anyway, that's the way I picked most of my, my breeding stock. [phone rings] I like the way I've bred the mares, I like the mom, I like the daddy. Then I go out and I'll sit and I'll watch. And you know, I usually pick out about five or six a year and then I keep them, whether they're studs or fillies, I keep them until they're twos or three year olds. I break them out. Then if I don't like something then, I geld out the stallions. And I'll say well here's you a mare, make a trail mare and go on with it. Because I've tried to breed the best I can. And my mare program, you got to have a good mare as well as a good stallion too. A lot of people think so. They'll see, this like some of the horses that I've won the international with. I've been blessed to do that a few times. They'll seen that horse go, "Well, I want my horse to do that, I breed my mare to that." That don't mean you're going to get that, it really don't. But a lot of people thinks that. It's just like everything else, you know, in life, it don't come together like you think it's going to, you know. It just don't happen. That ain't the way that genetics is made up. And I don't, a lot of this stuff in genetics, I'm not great at, but I do know enough to know there are a couple things you don't, you don't breed. You don't breed the color out of a horse. You know, you just don't do that. But I don't know, everybody is different and got the bloodlines they like or whatever. But it don't matter, as long as it's a good horse. A good horse is a good one, you know. You can always add to help some of them. I really think that you can help them all, if you're with an open mindset, with an open mind you can help a lot of them.

Stephanie McSpirit 43:22

Just in terms of the future of our mountain horses, can you share what you think that the future might be and any advice you might want to pass on? Or not advice, but knowledge, anything else in terms of anything?

Vernon Stamper 44:53

Well, I think, I think in the mountain horse breed, I think we're losing a lot. We're losing a lot of gait. We're losing a lot of disposition. We're losing a lot of conformation. We really are. Because once the horse hit to show ring, if the politics, political thing are right, you can take one of the worst horses in the ring that night and win the championship class. And that shouldn't ever be. But we see it every Saturday night we show, you know. We see things happen, that shouldn't happen, but don't get me wrong, we've got some good judges out there, we got some real good ones. And we've got some that really needs to be jerked in on the carpet say, "Hey, look, you know, you need to be doing a little bit different." But everybody sees that winning horse and they want to breed to it. And that's not really good, it's not really good. A lot of them was wanting to breed for color only, that's not good. A lot of people, the money of its all they care about, you know. I mean, I know you've got to survive. But look, you got to have a passion about it. Where's everybody when these things weren't worth much. I could remember, you could buy the best mountain horse that ever walked for 500, when I was a kid. That was big money back then. I can remember Daddy selling some of the Palominos for $1500 and we thought we were rich when he got that. He sold several of them, you know they'd go out west, they go to California. Because back then, in the '60s, the Roy Rogers Trigger horse was a popular thing. And that's where Daddy sold a lot of his Palomino horses. They'd come in here and they'd buy them and they'd take them west, you know. And I think we're getting away from the basics of the mountain horse. Cause the younger generation, they look at things totally different. What we had called us the older foggies, you know, they look at things different than we do. They can't remember back when these things was made to use and work. And I think we need to kind of keep it that way a little bit, that's my

opinion. I think, I think we should keep it there. It's nice to have the big steppy horses, it's nice to have one pull a plow all day too. You need them all, really. You need to just watch how you're breeding, don't breed for color. You need to breed disposition, and gait, and conformation. Forget about color. Now that's my opinion.

Stephanie McSpirit 47:20

Any other thoughts or that you'd like to share, or things that we couldn't for the record for our...

Vernon Stamper 47:26

Well, I'll tell you what, I think you know, I really appreciate you all coming and doing this. I think more people need to get involved with this to make it work for everybody. A lot of people don't want, that they've got opinions, but they don't want to put it out there. You know, I'll argue, gaits and conformation with anybody that wanted to debate it with me because I've been there, done that. I feel like I know what I'm talking about. But if you can show me something different that I need to learn, I've got an open mind. But I do know gaits and disposition and conformation on a horse. I've been blessed with that, I've had well ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, you know. The older people show and tell me about, you know, different type horses. And you'll see a lot of people, you know, and there's one thing we never talked too much about on the limbs of the horse. We're getting a lot of club footed horses in our breed too. We're getting a lot of it. And they'll tell you they're not, and they'll go have this done and that done to them. But, if you're set and you really know conformation, really look at them, you can tell. You can tell what's been done to them. We've got some that, you know, some of the breeders want to breed for color only and I just don't, I don't think that's the way to go. I think we need to go back to the old time, original type stuff and, you know, go from there. Cause you're going to have a family horse, you're going have a horse anybody can use. When he's five or six years old, he'll be mellowed out enough to where anybody can use him, you know. I see it, quite often. When, you know, you go out and you look at horses and they just take what they need to be. They're either high too, high strung too much for an average person to have, they'll get hurt. And they'll advertise a lot of these mountain horses as puppy dogs, you know. I think you're asking for trouble. That's my opinion on it.

Stephanie McSpirit 49:24

Well, just one last thing in terms of safety. Just in terms of just for this documentary. What are your thoughts on horses in staying safe? Any advice?

Vernon Stamper 49:35

I think the most important thing, especially in the stallion world, the first three years is very important to a stallion. That's when you make it, that's when you mold any horse from two until three to four years old. It's very important. That's like taking a child, if you're start him when he's down in preschool, first, second grade, you can teach him and he'll have manners when he grows up. Same way with a young horse, you get your manners down and you don't get in no hurry and you spend time with it and you get to know him, you're going to have a good safe horse. You'll have it. I've never seen one yet that wasn't.

Stephanie McSpirit 50:18

That's it, that was, thank you, Mr. Stamper.

Vernon Stamper 50:24

I appreciate you guys, I sure do.

Stephanie McSpirit 50:24 Gosh, I really...

Vernon Stamper 50:25

I'm stiff as a board, but I'll tell you what, I'm glad you all were doing this. This type thing needs to be done in a mountain horse.

Stephanie McSpirit 50:34

Well, you know. Well, thank you. We...

Transcribed by BM 10-06-2021 Audited by DR 10-07-2021