Horse & Rider Q&A with Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett talks about two of his greatest passions, horses and music.

In this Horse & Rider exclusive interview, famed singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett shares what makes Smart And Shiney, the Quarter Horse stallion he owns in partnership with Tim McQuay, a horse anyone would love to own. This horse enthusiast is much more than a name on his horses’ papers: Lovett is a dedicated horseman involved in breeding, riding and showing reining and reined cow horses. In it truly for love of the horse and love of the sport, Lovett also shares some of his philosophies on horsemanship and life with horses– and how they relate to his other passion, music.

Lyle Lovett and Smart And Shiney | ? John Brasseaux

H&R: Smart And Shiney is obviously an incredibly beautiful horse.
Lyle: I’m partial to him.

H&R: How did you become involved with him?
Lyle: I’m involved with Smart And Shiney because of Tim and Colleen McQuay. We bought him kind of late in terms of buying a futurity horse–in May of his 3-year-old year. In the few months before that, I had started riding with Tim and Colleen. Tim called me one day and said, “There’s a horse that we have a chance to buy, and if you’d ever like to be a part of one that’s really nice, this would be him.”

I wasn’t really out looking for a futurity horse, but Tim knew I was interested in reining and certainly enthusiastic about the sport. So he called and offered me the opportunity. I have so much respect for Tim and Colleen. I’d known Tim for several years, and he’d never said that to me before about any other horse.

H&R: What appealed to you about Smart And Shiney?
Lyle: I got into the horse business through Carol Rose. It was appealing to me that Smart And Shiney is by Carol’s great sire, Smart Shiner, by Shining Spark. When I met Carol Rose in 2001, I bought a mare from her and built my breeding program based on hers. I have several Shining Spark mares now, and I’m a big fan. I also have a Shining Spark gelding that I used to show. The horses that I ride on a regular basis are very much an extension of her program and bloodlines.

H&R: So what is it about Shining Spark horses that you love?
Lyle: Shining Spark horses are extremely athletic and really good-minded. Smart And Shiney is a perfect example of that combination. He’s very athletic, and I’ve never been on a horse that’s kinder or better minded, that’s for sure. He’s extraordinary that way. He’s willing to help you in whatever you’re trying to do. He doesn’t get upset about anything.

H&R: A good horse like that can really build confidence in a rider. Did you find that to be true with Smart And Shiney?
Lyle: Absolutely. I feel as though every time I get to ride with my trainer, I learn something. Every time I go in the show pen, I learn something that helps me the next time. Riding Smart And Shiney gives me confidence and helps me build more confidence for the next time I ride.

And he helps me ride other horses well. Riding Smart And Shiney has taught me what it feels like to execute maneuvers properly, so when I’m on another horse I can do my best to try and get that same feeling. Riding such an exceptional, consistent horse improves my riding, reinforces the right “feel” and makes my judgment that much better.

Riding a good horse also gives you an idea of whether you can “get there” or not on another horse. It teaches you how far to push another horse and what to expect. Any time you’re in a show pen it’s a matter of managing the run and knowing when to go for it and when not to go for it. That’s one thing that makes it so infinitely challenging and so fun–no two runs are ever the same. You’re absolutely “in the moment” every time, and you have to make split-second decisions all the time.

With the number of decisions you must make in the course of one run, how could you even count them? To try and explain to someone who’s never done it is almost impossible.

H&R: What is Smart And Shiney like to show? What’s it like to make a run on him?
Lyle: He listens. Tim can show him in the open, and I can turn around and show him in a non-pro class, which I’ve done several times.

I’m certainly the biggest variable in the show pen. I can hear my heart beat when I walk to the center of the arena to start a pattern. Smart And Shiney is calm and level-headed. He waits for me; he listens; he does just what I ask. That’s a nice feeling of confidence.

H&R: If you had to pick one of your songs that most reminds you of Smart And Shiney, one that would be his “theme song,” which would it be?
Lyle:I can’t think of a single song that would be good enough for him. But playing music and riding are actually quite similar, because so much of it is about feel. So much of a performance is about making adjustments, whether you’re adjusting to the players in your band or to the audience. It’s really all about “feel” and being there in the moment.

That’s something consistent and appealing about both riding and playing music. If I’m riding, there’s no other place in the world that my mind goes at that moment. When I sing a song, it’s that exact same feeling. I’m able to be right there on my horse or right there inside the song–and that’s a great feeling.

That’s what makes riding and working with horses so appealing. It’s never automatic. It’s never about going out and going through the motions. It can be, if you’re not open to the experience, but then you miss the best part.

H&R: That’s a philosophy people could apply to improve many areas of their lives, not just the part involved with horses.
Lyle: The underlying appeal of working with horses is that it really is a metaphor for our lives in a bigger sense. I think it’s what draws us to horses in the first place. Anytime I get to go out to the barn and work with a horse, it reminds me of what’s good in life.

H&R: What’s your favorite memory of time spent with Smart And Shiney?
Lyle: Anytime I get to ride him. It just sticks with me. It’s one of those experiences I’m able to replay over and over in my mind.what it felt like to stop him, and circle, and spin.

Getting to ride him in the main arena at the State Fair Park in Oklahoma City in the Make-A-Wish Foundation? ride is always special. They hold a fundraiser called the Celebrity Slide, and I’ve been able to participate the past two years. Several PRCA and PBR bull riders have also participated, as well as actor William Shatner and renowned jewelry designer David Yurman. It’s great fun to associate with those folks, and it’s inspiring to be able to meet the children who you ride and raise money for. And, it’s very exciting to be able to ride in that coliseum and to show in a place where you’ve seen so many great runs as a fan.

H&R: What are your plans for Smart And Shiney’s future?
Lyle: There’s a possibility that Tim might get to show him in the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky. I’m hopeful that I’ll still be able to show him in an open class or two, just for the fun of it. But at this point, he’ll mostly be a stallion. His oldest colts are 2-year-olds this year, and I have one here at home that hasn’t gone into training yet. We’ve started him, and he seems to be really good-minded so far. I hope that he’s even just a little bit like his sire. I’d like to think he’s picking up some of his dad’s traits. He’s awfully good-minded and he’s been good to start. I’ll have some more babies this spring from Smart And Shiney, and I’m excited to seem them too.

To read more about Smart And Shiney, see “We’d Love to Own” in the May 2010 issue of Horse & Rider. To order a copy of this issue or other back issues, call 877-717-8928.

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