Trainer lives by motto that horses are good for people
Born and raised on a 300-acre horse ranch in the wide, open spaces of Montana, local horse trainer Ronnie Fortune has been around horses his whole life. His father was also a well known horse trainer in the northwest.
Ronnie Fortune and "Dillion" getting ready for a day of training.
Horses were a way of life at an early age.
"My dad first put me on a horse when I was only 6 months old," Fortune states, (see baby photo at right) and at the age of five I was riding my own horse."
The Fortunes had 20 brood mares plus about 10 to 15 2- to 3-year-old horses that they trained.
"When I was about 10, the first thing my father taught me to help with was halter breaking the horses," says Fortune.
Training horses isn't just a job for Fortune, it is his life.
"Horses are second nature to me," he admits. "I get an extreme amount of joy from working and teaching the horses and watching them learn."
Fortune trains horses of various types to ride and also to work cattle.
"These are called 'cow' horses,'" he confirms. "You start training the horses when they are two or three years old, by getting them used to a saddle, then you bit them up, and from there you start to drive them with driving reigns. A horse usually isn't fully trained to do roping or work cattle until it is five or six years old," Fortune explains.
Besides training horses for roping and ranch work, Fortune also trains people's horses so the horse owners are better able to ride them. He never takes more than five horses to train at a time.
"I spend a tremendous amount of time with the horse trying to teach it instead of forcing it to do what I want," he said. "The thing with horses is that they have to be used, especially young horses. If they're not, they will regress," he adds.
Fortune and his wife Alexandra moved to Chino Valley in 1998. They have an 8-year-old son named Coulter who, of course, has also been riding horses since the age of 4.
Fortune advises people who are thinking of purchasing a horse for the first time to buy a 9- to 10-year-old, well-bred horse, and to always have the horse's feet vet-checked before buying it.
"It takes just as much money to feed and train a good one as a poor one," he said.
After training horses for more than 25 years, Fortune reveals, "Horses are just a part of me."
There is an old cowboy motto that Fortune lives by, "There's nothing better for the inside of a man, than the outside of a horse."
(Readers can reach Diane DeHamer at email@example.com.)