Total Earnings: $3,453,801
As a high schooler, Russ Westfall worked for a cattle ranch that provided cattle at cutting shows in the Northwest. That winter he went to work for a trainer and started colts. Then he got the incredible opportunity to work for Buster Welch in Texas. He was there for three years.
“It was the best time of my life. I learned so much!” said Westfall.
“What I saw there was people that couldn’t ride and Buster had the horses so trained and locked in on a cow. It didn’t matter if they could ride or not.”
After his time with Welch, he went back home and started training on his own. He felt like he was in a rut so he returned to Texas to learn more. Then he moved to California and started training and he got a really good horse that taught him more than anyone about how to show and win. After 30 years in California, Westfall and his family recently moved back to Texas to be closer to the big shows.
“I think you are only as good as who you’ve got to beat..iron sharpens iron…if you want to be competitive at a high level you need to compete with [the top] guys day in and day out…One year we drove back and forth five times [from California to Texas],” Westfall said of his recent move.
What is your training philosophy?
“I don’t necessarily have a philosophy. I just try to go off of feel and work that horse. The biggest trouble I’ve ever gotten into is having a premeditated idea or plan of what I was going to do that day. That was a mistake because the cow never took me into the spots I wanted to make happen then I’m over riding the cow and telling the horse to go to a spot the cow didn’t take him.”
“I want a horse to be electric and cowy. I want the cow to mean more to the horse than anything else…I dislike a mechanical looking horse. The first thing I want is the horse to love what he’s doing and like his job. If he doesn’t like his job, then find a job that he does like.”
“If the horse likes his job he’ll be a horse that bails you out no matter what the odds. He’ll be a horse that’s there for you when you cut a bad cow or make a mistake…”
What have you adjusted in your program in the past year?
“I keep trying to be a better horse trainer all day everyday. I go out there and try to do a better job than I did the day before… You can learn from anyone. Stay open minded.”
How would you define feel?
“It’s a thing you can’t teach…It’s listening, if you are a better listener, you’ll be a better teacher…Listen to the horse and the cow and pay attention to those little details. Then you start to get feel and feel for the situation and…see what happens, before it happens.”