I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic horsewoman for a profile I wrote for the July 2017 issue of Horse&Rider. Laurel Denton lives the Western life most of us only dream about, on the sprawling Bar U Bar Ranch in Arizona.
Every inch a lady, Laurel has nevertheless remained competitive in the show ring for over 50 years—often even beating the boys in cow work down the fence.
How does she do it? Ahhh…for that you’ll have to read “Thoroughly Modern Cowgirl.”
But in the meantime, I want to share a bit about Laurel’s husband, farrier and photographer Barry Denton, and his good pal Snoopy (aka A Little More Magic). Barry says although the 9-year-old Quarter Horse gelding “isn’t a world champion,” he’s “the kindest, dearest horse in my life.”
And in case you doubt that, just check the photo.
In the house? Well, yes.
“Not on a regular basis,” Barry allows. “But if we have a bunch of kids here, or other interesting company, we do it for fun. He’s housebroken and the whole thing.”
Housebroken? Really? How?
“He just had a sixth sense about it,” Barry explains. “We had only one ‘incident’ in the house, when he was a 2-year-old colt. He’s easy to communicate with—really tuned in to body language. And he likes to please. Once he knew I wasn’t happy with him making a ‘deposit,’ he’s never even thought about it since.”
Barry says Snoopy ultimately stays wherever you park him–in front of the TV, at the bar, even in the laundry room, to do “chores.”
As you might imagine, Snoopy has the character and love of learning that make him the perfect trick horse.
“I started with him as a long yearling,” Barry says. “Now, I can take him anywhere and do anything with him. When kids are here, we play basketball on him. He can go up and down stairs, jump in the back of a pickup. I’m thinking I might build a ramp up to the barn and a platform on top of it, and teach him to go up there.”
And that’s not all.
“I’ve always wanted to take him to the top of the Empire State Building,” Barry muses, “but there are a lot of insurance problems…I’m still working on it.”
With Barry, you’re never quite sure when he’s telling you straight and when he’s pulling your leg. (If you doubt it, check out his account of how he and Laurel met, in the profile. It’s a doozy.)
And, in case you’re thinking Snoopy is only fun and games, know that when Barry says he “does anything,” that includes earning his keep at the ranch, too.
“He does it all around here—rope, work a cow, gather a herd. And though it’s true he’s not the most talented show horse (he’s a bit lazy) we took him to the AQHA World Show a couple years ago and he made the finals in ranch riding.”
Barry and Laurel both believe in working with horses as individuals to bring out the best in each. And that means spending the time it takes.
“Just think,” Barry observes, “if you spent as much time with your horse as you do with your dog, you’d have that same type of relationship with your horse. To me, horses are just as intelligent.”
And Snoopy pretty much proves his point.
[More on trick training: ‘Tricks Are *Not* Just for Kids’]