By Mike Thomas
As I write, The Greatest Horseman who changed the world of horses and horsemanship has been gone for 274 Days. I know that each of you that was close to Ray, Carolyn and family have been struggling in surviving “this huge loss to all humanity”, as I have. During this time our dear friend Carolyn has been struggling w/ the loss perhaps more than any of us, as it should be. For those of you that were not close, you missed “the opportunity of a lifetime with the horse and the greatest horseman ever in history!” Please bear with me on this very important article.
Carolyn, I knew would create something to celebrate Ray’s Life in a manner he, himself, would respect and will enjoy. The memorial clinic is “not about who is better than the other fella,” in some kind of competition for a trophy or money, or publicity.
What is it about?
That each of 20 presenters will be doing an ‘internal competition with their own heart, soul, mind & spirit to have the best day they ever had with a horse and honor Ray Hunt from their soul to his! Ray, really will be the only Judge Present, along with the spirist of Tom & Bill, encouraging each and every presenter and their horse!
I have often mused when working with a horse with major people problems: “How can I go wrong? I have Ray on my right shoulder and Tom & Bill on the other shoulder teaching me what to do next!” I freely give or pass on this gift of life to each of the presenters and hope each one has the best day with any horse ever in their life. In my mind, each presenter is already a “Winner and will remain one for the rest of their natural & unnatural lives!”
Dearest Carolyn, I know, has worked very hard on this project and I am convinced she has in her own way discussed each step with Ray, and might have even consulted Tom & Bill a few times. I can’t say or express my gratitude to Buck Brannaman and Martin Black for their great contributions. We have loved Ray & Carolyn for so many years now without reservations. Now is the time for all of us who have loved both of them over the years, to now come together and support this wonderful event.
Every Presenter as previously stated is a “Winner,” but each person who attends as a spectator/audit can be a “Winner,” as well! This can be the “best moment in your life ever, this is not just about honoring a great horseman, it is about honoring the integrity & honesty within yourself with Horsemanship, Lifemanship, Friendships and very important relationships in life!” It is about honoring the dedicated and named individuals that can carry the truth of the legacy forward and they are the most qualified to do so!
This one man, Ray Hunt, taught us more about ourselves than he ever taught us about horses. Just like Tom taught Ray about the “Real Ray Hunt!” That was his goal, his life, his soul, his spirit, for each of us to reach down into ourselves and bring the best to the surface and then offer it to the horse. Fortunately, our dear friend realized around 1961, that you can run into a horse (Hondo) that can make you wonder if you ever knew anything about a horse (life). He met Tom through Bill at Elko, NV.
The meeting of Ray & Tom later in CA with Hondo completely changed Ray Hunt forever. Ray Hunt was already a ‘great horse trainer’…Tom changed him into the “Greatest Horseman that took it to the world!” Please understand what my words may not convey. Tom reached down into Ray, and found “the soul of the horse, smiled, gave him the question, not the answer & made Ray “Think” w/ each horse for the rest of his life.
What Tom did, in my mind, was just reach within Ray & found the core of his being, brought it to the surface and the rest was/is history. The talent that Tom saw in Ray was a latent quality & integrity in life to the horse and searching for something Ray knew was missing. When Ray discovered what was missing he changed his whole life forever to never let “this thing called feel, timing & balance” ever get away again.
The Last 30+ Years….
But Ray Hunt did so much more with his life with Carolyn! He spent the rest of his life and now unnatural life, trying to help each one of us find, in ourselves, the “feel’ & our own personal integrity and honesty that we need to offer to the horse. When we discover these qualities in our own life then we can better understand how to work from the inside of the horse out and for a better relationship, with the horse, family, relationships and true harmony in life. “A Kinship with All Life!”
The incredible friendship over these many years was an amazing thing that is very hard to describe in mortal terms. My belief is that Tom saw True Greatness in Ray Hunt, a man of incredible devotion to the horse and knew Ray was going to be the only person in history to carry it to the world. Thus, Tom & Bill relied on Ray to accomplish more than even these two great horsemen could do in bringing their friendship with the horse to the world for those of us that really needed what they had to offer. Tom and Bill could not do what Ray Hunt did, and they were greatful and neither could, they both knew, (My opinion:)”Ray is/was the answer and the solution for their horsemanship & legacy.”
The Legacy Of A Legend..
Ray often said: “I can’t teach feel (para)….!” I respectfully disagree with my friend: He did pass it on to many wonderful students and they are spending the rest of their lives to understand what Ray and “The Trinity of Horsemen’ had to say. Now those Great Students are “Carrying The Torch of The Legacy Of Ray Hunt to the world as well!
The Ray Hunt Memorial Clinic is designed to “serve notice to the world of horsemanship, that the Legend is Now Legacy to those that dedicate their lives to the horse!” It is about honoring True Horsemanship with Very Real: Feel, Timing and Balance! It is a celebration of those that live their lives for the horse!
This is not about creating a “fandango” or party for our friend. This is about fully honoring the “Greatest Horseman” that ever lived! This is about all of the rest of us and the incredible, deep responsibility and honor it is for each of us to continue the lifelong dreams of Ray Hunt and his incredible work of so many years. To honor Ray Hunt by trying to improve ourselves with the horse is not only to honor Ray, Tom & Bill but it is most about honoring your own life with the horse.
I once asked Ray in Las Vegas, NM, July, 2004, a question.
“Ray, I know, we all know/knew you could do anything w/ horses for many years before meeting Hondo & Tom. Tom helped you change Hondo’s life, the results we all know. But after Hondo: Why did you completely change your life w/ the horse? What did Tom say that made/ or caused you, to change your whole life forever?
We were in the best Café in downtown Las Vegas, NM when I was stupid enough to ask the question. Carolyn & Jayton Lord (grandson/Son of The Great Preston, himself), were on my right. Ray paused, got that “look in his eyes that I have seen before, rarely; let his eggs go cold, picked up his fork, several long minutes later and said: “Nobody ever asked that question before.” Ray said: “I could make things happen w/ a horse for many years without anyone’s help. Tom helped me w/ Hondo. Tom made me: “Think!’ With that Ray started on his now cold eggs and hash browns.
I looked down at my plate, glanced at Carolyn, and wondered: Was that a good question? Did I upset my friend? The intensity of how Ray studied my question while letting his eggs & hash browns get cold while staring at his plate made me realize that is the same intensity he used everyday of his life to teach and educate each of us in his own wonderful way.
So: What Is the point?
To this moment, to this day, 274 days after Ray has left us I have to ask one question to myself. How can an invincible man on a horse ever leave our lives? The answer: “He will never leave our lives, so long as we, each and every one of us who loved his life, to the horse, will do just one simple thing, a word that has near magical meaning….TRY! That one word in the world of cowboys, ranchers, stockmen, horsemen is like a coveted term of respect to the young and elders that are doing their best to improve. It is a full measure of their desire to improve, personal integrity of character, strength of resolve on the job in front of them, strength of spirit, honesty to adjust and not make excuses, to assume full responsibility for the result. When done, Win, Lose or Draw: Smile and realize you will do it better next time, but “by damn”, I got it done even if was not ‘pretty!”
I remember so well near 55 years ago when I was a kid that couldn’t hit myself in the ass with a ‘lass rope’ made lots of mistakes, ate a lot of dirt, messed up at every turn on trying to turn a cow and was in agony over my ignorance. But the ‘elder’ cowboys would just laugh, grin, then say: “Kid, that was funny! But I will say one thing for you: “You have guts & TRY!” A huge smile would/did, even now anoints my face!
That is all Ray Hunt ever asked us for! Give your best to the horse! Work at this thing called horsemanship and life! Expect more from yourself so you have more to give to the horse! He did not tell any of us “how to do anything! He just asked each of us to find the integrity, honesty, and inner strength to “Think!” This, dear people is what is called the holy grail of effort…TRY!
I hope you see friends, that the greatest moments in our lives were ‘touched by great teachers (horses) and even a few humans! If you think your life is rewarding and happy, then look back at your great teachers, not the ones who gave you a temporary fix, but the teachers, (some you probably did not like, when young) that now you realize, “those teacher(s) totally changed your life!
The Teachers/Educators: “The Ones That Made Us All THINK!” Often we did not like those ‘teachers’ and then years later when asked “who were your best teachers? Time and new found wisdom of life found many of us remembering ‘the teachers/educators that made us believe in ourselves! Oh yes, they made us THINK even when we did not want too!
Horsemanship, Lifemanship, Friendship & Relationships!
Why is the word “ship” attached to each word? Clue: Ships flow on water, as the winds catch the sails, with a “rudder’ for designating speed/direction/Force. One time Buck called Bill Dorrance twice trying to find away to move the FQs (bow) around the HQs (Rudder) more quickly and smoothly. Bill Dorrance, started talking about the HQs only and Buck thought he was getting old & could not hear: “Buck it is the Hindquarters, (Rudder), keep the life up, (wind in the sail) (use the life & energy offered) and Buck found what Bill was talking about. Buck has spent his life teaching this simple fact to so many others. Ray of course had been trying to explain the same thing as well to the rest of us, for so many years.
During Tom’s last days as Ray Reported: “It’s the feet Ray, it’s the feet, isn’t it? Yes Tom, it’s the feet.” (Paraphrased) Both great horsemen smiled & understood and respected each other all the way to the end, June 11, 2003. The Real Beginning!
Ray Hunt Memorial Clinic
This is a time when we get to celebrate not just Ray but each of our dedicated lives to lifemanship itself, a time to realize one thing! None of us are successful in life without many great teachers, educators and people who gave us courage, taught us integrity in life, discouraged taking the low road in life (the quick fix w/o thought) , but gave us a map to the high road in life.
Ray Hunt: made us “THINK & Just asked us to TRY!”
Please Read: Bill Reynolds article Dec, 2009 Western Horseman Mag; Page 86 & 87. “The Force is with Us All! Thanks Bill
Vaya con dios amigos.
Miguel Ricardo Tomas (Irish Wet-Back)
Eclectic Horseman Magazine and Emily Kitching
Personal memories of Ray Hunt were so extensive they could not all be included in the May/June 2009 magazine issue (available the third week of May 2009) and have also been published on the website. We congratulate Emily and the EH staff for this incredible archive of our friend’s life.
Ray Hunt was not human. He was a horse disguised in the human mantle. He was the best friend/lawyer the horse ever had and he could prove in any court the integrity and honesty of the horse!
"Memories of Ray Hunt" contributed by:
Martin Black; Joe Wolter; Bryan Neubert, Bill Riggins, Buster McLaury, Bill Muncaster, Paul Dietz, Jack Young, Marty Marten, Verilyn Klinkenborg, Lee Smith (herself), Frannie Burridge, Erin Franks, Jeff Darby, Mary C Keenan, Jean Blake, Margaret Beeman, Joe Rockburn, Marta Esposito, Paula Zima, Gee Wood, and John Saint Ryan.
Articles, Poems and Authors:
Friends of this website, please look long and hard at the Eclectic Horseman website! Emily and staff have done a marvelous piece of work.
Mike Thomas (Himself)
It took a horse to bring the Trinity of Horsemen together - these three who, over the years, became the center of the Inner Circle. If it had not been for one horse, the Trinity of Horsemen probably would never have happened. One horse changed the world of horsemanship forever, and Hondo was that horse!
Bill Dorrance rode until two weeks before he passed away in 1999. Up to his last two weeks, he conquered physical pain, stress and inconvenience through innovation, and, saddling a horse named Beauty, still rode at Mt. Toro, California.
Tom Dorrance, growing up in the 1900's on a ranch in Oregon, was thought to be the best horseman in a family of great horsemen - the four brothers, Fred, Jim, Bill and Tom, and their father, Church Dorrance.
This website celebrates their lives and contributions to thousands of aspiring horsemen and horsewomen who stayed true to the Inner Circle. These are men and women who dedicate their lives to the Horse, and not to show biz or self-aggrandizement.
This website can't possibly list all possible qualified Friends of the Inner Circle. As time goes by, others will be added as my time and age permits. For those I miss, I just wish we could have met and ridden together over the years.
Ray Hunt (Himself)
Ray Hunt started developing his style of doing clinics in the mid-1960s – early 1970s. There really wasn’t anyone in the country that had his ability to saddle 20-30 head of colts on a given Monday, to start the clinic off, and explain the horse’s viewpoint. The next four days were colt classes in the morning and horsemanship classes in the afternoon. Later on, Cow Working and Ranch Roping Classes were given. Every clinic was more phenomenal than the one before.
In the mid-1970s, when Ray came to Montana, we quickly signed up 4-5 colts in every colt class, and the same in the horsemanship class, at every single clinic we could reach, for several years in many towns, cities and states. The results were amazing! Not only did every colt turn out to be terrific, but so did the young people who worked for Madison River Cattle Company at the time. In those early days there were many critics of Ray. Some even thought he had tranquilizing needles in his finger tips. All of us who believed in Ray and rode with him and Tom were, and are, very proud of his lifetime of contributions to the horse, and yes, people.
Our participation in the clinics brought a lot of notoriety to MRCC and our horse program. People in several states finally figured out that Ray Hunt was larger than life itself - this man who always spoke so reverently about Tom and Bill. Ray brought Tom along on several clinics as well, in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, and those clinics were really special in so many ways.
It wasn’t too many years into Ray’s doing clinics that others tried to get on the “Clinic Bandwagon.” Even a few of Ray’s students tried their hand at it. The results were fairly pathetic; they couldn’t even come close to what Ray had to offer to the horse. The difference was "night vs. day"! Over the years, Ray has revolutionized the horse industry and almost everywhere you look, you can see people trying to put some of his teaching to work, even though many never met him.
The horse industry owes Ray Hunt and The Trinity of Horsemen a great debt of gratitude. I know if the horse could vote, the results would be overwhelming. Even though there are some great Horsemen and Horsewomen, many included in this website, there will never be another Great Horseman like Ray Hunt, who took these teachings to the world.
At Tom’s Memorial Service in Carmel Valley, I heard Steve Dorrance eloquently inform a lady about the Truth of The Trinity from the Inner Circle. Steve told her that his Dad (Bill) and his Uncle Tom could never have taken this level of horsemanship to the world because they were "home people", for the most part. Then he proceeded to say that "if it wasn’t for Ray Hunt taking this horsemanship to the world, it would have died two weeks before when Uncle Tom passed away on June 11, 2003".
This website is dedicated to the Trinity of Great Horsemen from the Inner Circle of Quality Horsemanship. I do so with deep humility and pride and thankfulness for having been a small part of it.
“Thanks Ray, Tom and Bill!”