On The Cart With Compton: Shirley Roth Answers Critics

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TC: I’m here with Shirley Roth for this special Congress edition of On The Cart and I think it’s about time people heard the other side of the story.  Shirley, thanks for joining me.

Do you think it’s a little ironic that I’m sitting here interviewing you right now? I mean, given the fact that I was involved in the other most significant painted leg case?

SR: No, why would I find that ironic?

TC: I’m basically the only other one who’s been caught…at least that attracted this much publicity. My case was very public and your case is very public. We both got caught with infractions. And the irony is that you were part of the camp that turned me in?

SR: I didn’t have a clue you had lost your Congress title that year until the World Show. We tied with you to win that class at the Congress. And at the World Show, they told me that we’d won the Congress because you were disqualified. I didn’t even question why they took your title away. They told me you were disqualified and I didn’t even know why.

TC: Really?

SR: Yes, really. Honestly, I didn’t even find out how until the deal with me now.

TC: How’d you feel when you saw the article about you on GoHorseShow.com? I mean, you have it posted on your stalls here at the Congress.

SR: I was disappointed in the fact of, well, I guess the picture of the spray can bothered me a little bit because it makes me look unprofessional. It’s not good because that wasn’t the situation. The fact is, the leg was not sprayed to cover anything up.

TC: We might as well just come out with it, then. The question on the top of everybody’s mind is what was the deal with the painted leg? What can you tell us about that?

SR: I can’t really comment on that because my lawyers won’t let me until after the trial. But there is a lot more to this than the public sees. I can tell you that. A lot more. A lot more. The members of the whole association are getting very very very misled and I did not realize how much until this deal.

TC: Okay…I can respect that. Let’s shift gears a little bit then. Tell me your top-five, all-time favorite horses you’ve trained?

SR: Vital Signs Are Good, One Hot Sister, Cool Lookin Lady, Ona Impulse (long pause) and Ima Due Gooder Too.

TC: Okay, which one is your favorite horse of all time?

SR: Vital Signs Are Good, “Lucy.” From the time I started her as a yearling, she was just one of those horses that was just so happy about going and doing anything that you made her do. She had such a personality like you could go ride her around in the yard and she would try to buck you off. But you went down to the riding pen and put your hand down and “boom” go to work. It was just amazing. You never really had to horse train her. You just rode her, kind of taught her the things, but she was so happy about doing it. It was just easy for her. You would ride her and she was pretty and she would just go do it because it was natural for her to do it.

You know what…I’d like to add Zip Me After to my top-five list.

TC: Shirley…Zip Me After, that was a nice mare that died last year. Do you care to comment on that?

SR: It was just a freak deal in Tulsa. I went out to the pen and came back and I thought she was cast and she couldn’t get up. There were rumors about that one. That was a freaky deal. They had done a full autopsy and had it sent to three different labs. That was something that mare was going to have whether it was then or two years later or a year earlier. It was just something that was going to happen.

TC: So, what did it officially die of?

SR: She officially ended up dying of her white count was like 100,000 in her spine from the infection or whatever it was. And she had a stroke in her brain. They were initially thinking and they really don’t know if that new herpes virus, nobody knows this, but they were going to quarantine all those horses there on the Tulsa grounds. And they’re still not sure if that wasn’t what caused the major spinal white count and her having stroke-type episodes in her brain.

TC: What about the Botox rumor? Where did that come from?

SR: Where do people get anything? Over 11 years I’ve had four horses die. That’s it. And the public knows about every one of them. That’s the thing about it. Most trainers have four a month. I don’t even know where that started. But can you imagine the cost? If you think about this logically, what it would cost for a big massive muscle. It’s $1,000 for one of those small little bottles. Can you imagine what the cost would be? It’s not even logical.

Another one was here at the Congress. It bucked me off and ran and slid and hit a bus.

And a mare that I took to the Tom Powers, she colicked and we had the vet out and we had to take her to his clinic and they did surgery and she had where the small intestine had a hole between it and her stomach. There wasn’t anything they could do for her.

TC: Let’s talk a little bit about Shirley Roth as a person. Tell us about your personal life, your family, your upbringing. Who are you?

SR: I come from Grafton, Ohio, and my mom and dad did their best. My dad was a truck driver. I grew up there, went to school there. I was a straight A student and I hardly went to school. I thought that I would take a year off from school and show and then go to college. Well, that didn’t work out so well because I just ended up staying with the horses.

TC: What were you going to study in college?

SR: I was actually going to become a lawyer. (laughs)

TC: That kind of blows me away.

SR: I was going to be a lawyer and I just got wrapped up in the horses. I didn’t like school but it was easy for me. I never had to go to class and I could get straight A’s.

TC: Do you think you would have had the passion to follow through with being a lawyer?

SR: I’m pretty hard headed. When I get something in my head that I want to do, I’m gonna’ do it. If that’s what I thought I wanted to do, I would have done it.

TC: What kind of law?

SR: Probably criminal law. Catching people has always been my passion, like crinimals and stuff. Like being a detective and being able to figure out how they’ve done stuff.

TC: You watch a lot of CSI?

SR: (laughing) No, I really haven’t watched a lot of it but it’s just how you watch criminal activity and put it all together and a be a good lawyer at doing it.

TC: So pretty normal working class childhood?

SR: Mom and Dad struggled hard when I started showing quarter horses and paying the training bills. I knew since when I was a little kid when we’d buy one that we couldn’t afford to go show it and keep it like a pet. I knew that when we bought it, if there was a chance to sell it and make some money off of it, that I had to do that. So then I’d have to go sell it and get another one and then try to make that one work and go and get another one and try to make that one work and use my own money to do it.

TC: Have you ever thought about getting married?

SR: No, actually here in the last 5 years that had been a thought. When I was younger it was never in the equation. It was nothing but horses. I don’t do any other activities. Just horses.

TC: Do you have any pets?

SR: I had a dog that just died this year. I had her for eleven years. (fighting back tears)

TC: Are you gonna’ get another dog?

SR: I actually bought one here. This is a really touchy subject. (crying)

TC: I can tell.

SR: (long pause) It’s a little wiener dog named Lucy.

TC: Now you’re getting me all teary eyed. Are there any horses that have that kind of sentimental value to you?

SR: There are some that have sentimental value. The ones like Vital Signs are treated like princesses. They have a big place in my heart. Any of the great ones…they have a pretty special place. They are pampered and they can rub on you and do stuff that other trainers would hate. They can wallow around and rub on you in the cross ties and most trainers would just kick the snot out of them. But not mine you can’t. The people around me, like my horse shoer knows better than to whip on them. They’re allowed a little bit of silliness…they’ve got to have a little bit of personality.

TC: Who are the people you’ve idolized?

SR: Jody Galyean, Keith (Whistle). Back in the day it was Jody, Keith and Steve Heckaman. I’d come here (to the Congress) before I ever thought I could compete and those guys were celebrities to me.

TC: Who is your biggest fan?

SR: Keith (Whistle). He’s always on my side and I’m on his side.

TC: Tell me about that relationship, is it pretty smooth or is it rocky at times?

SR: We may argue at times, but it is never really rocky.

TC: It seems like Keith has gotten all of the glory. Is that hard to accept? Is it easy to let him go in the pen?

SR: It’s easy. I don’t really much care for showing. I get just as much glory because everyone knows who trains them. Actually probably more because they know I can train them and have somebody else go in and show them. They’re not tricky to ride.

TC: There is a lot of controversy surrounding you…we both know it. What has been the most disappointing part of your career?

SR: All the jealous, vindictive, trainers and people. The misconceptions, unknowing, thinking I’m a snob. They don’t know me. I’m just focused on what I do.

TC: What causes this public misconception?

SR: One, I’m a female. Two, I’m very successful as a female playing in the “good ole boys club”, and three I really don’t know why it becomes such a big focus. Any kind of accident, anything. Vicious rumors about training or this and that. None of this is true. You can take this challenge. Ask every client who has been in my barn and 99% of them will tell you that for the past ten years, their horses have been in the best care and taken care of the best. The care and the training is the best that they’ve ever gotten.

TC: You believe you’ve been picked on?

SR: That’s right. When you’re in the limelight and in the public eye, you’re watched and anything you do, it doesn’t matter, it just starts.

Everybody has a good year. So and so will have a good horse and have a good year. Maybe every four years someone will have a good year. Since Keith and I started, he won the Congress in the 2 year old five years in a row. Every year we’re going to try to have a good horse. And that’s probably why it’s more controversial. Not that you win every year but every year we have a good horse that’s a threat. So that’s why it’s such a talk. Most of them have a good year and go three or four and don’t do anything. Then they’ll come back and have a good year. We’ve been pretty consistent and had good years.

TC: You don’t think it has to do with the fact that you’re more of an aggressive style of trainer?

SR: I’m really not, though. That’s the perception that you don’t see. I’m not really a more aggressive style trainer. I’m really a softer type of trainer. I will take horses and I will tolerate a lot of stuff that most trainers whip them for. I will baby them through it and then you get that softness. There are some that need discipline, not aggression. Because if you’re more aggressive and you’re thumping and you’re beating them, all you’re getting is a hyper horse with quick legs and not soft and quiet.

TC: If you could do one thing different to this point in your career…if you could have one do-over, what would you do differently?

SR: That’s a hard question. What I would do different if I could, is just be more personable. I haven’t realized coming through that people have this perception of me. I’m so focused and people have that perception that I’m mean or a snob. I don’t like that because that’s not me. I would try to be social and still try to be focused.

TC: At what point have you known that’s the perception?

SR: I haven’t really known up until the last three years. The only reason I know it is that my customers would tell me that so and so is scared to come talk to you and I’m like “what?” I couldn’t even believe it because it’s not me. It’s like there are so many people that don’t know me.

TC: Do you think you’re getting softer as you get older?

SR: I’m soft, I’ve always been soft.

TC: So, in the past three years it’s been brought to your attention, will you make any efforts…

SR: (interrupts) yeah I’ve made a lot more efforts to talk and meet folks. I try to make an effort.

I guess they always say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But, I’m just the type of person that if you’re my friend I will jump over a bridge to help you. But if you’re my enemy, I don’t want to talk to you. That’s just me. There’s no talking to you and then stabbing you in the back. You’re going to know exactly how I feel about you. There’s no gray area. I can’t put on a front. That’s probably my biggest problem but I can’t do that.

TC: Say someone is considering sending you a horse and they’re skeptical given all the controversy…what do you tell them?

SR: I’ve heard all these rumors. But, I would say you’re more than welcome or anybody in this public is more than welcome to come unannounced to my place at any point in time and see how their horse is ridden, how their horse is fed, how their horse is treated. Don’t rely on a rumor, come see for yourself because anyone who has come has been very happy. You can go ask every one of my past customers. Anyone of them will tell you the same thing, they’ve all heard it and been reluctant about coming.

TC: When you lie in bed at night, what worries you the most?

SR: I don’t sleep much at all. I’m a real anxious person, lots of anxiety. I lie in bed thinking about how I can make my horses better. What I can do differently. How I can try to achieve and be better each year, each horse, each situation. I will analyze a situation that I can’t figure out for a long time and worry about it. How do I get a horse from doing this to not doing this in the best way?

TC: You’re obsessed with horse training?

SR: Yes, and I don’t think that ever goes away.

TC: What comforts you the most? What’s the best thing about Shirley Roth?

SR: I have a big heart. I have a big heart. A lot of this stuff bothers me because I take it personally. A lot of any of the jealousy stuff and rumors and stuff bothers me because I take it to heart.

TC: Has it been your whole life or do you feel like it’s just been in this industry?

SR: Yeah, it’s just been in this industry because that’s all I do.

TC: What are your goals from here on out in your career?

SR: I enjoy having broodmares, raising the babies. My favorite time of the year is the comings 2’s. You have a whole new group and you start them fresh and see what you’ve got and my goal now is just to continue. I do enjoy raising them.

TC: You’re working toward becoming more of a breeder?

SR: The last few years I have done very little buying and have raised a lot of them. I like when I have them as a baby. I know that they’re cared for, I know they’ve got their shots and the right nutrition, they’ve grown up the best way.

TC: What else would you like to accomplish?

SR: My whole goal is to try to straighten the horse business out to where the average person likes to come play and feels like they have a shot. Because that’s what we’re losing and it’s going to go where we’re not going to have a job. That’s my focus right now is to stop a lot of the bulls#@* and make the average person who is scared to come do this want to. I have ten customers tell me “I know what goes on and there’s no reason for me to buy a slot or do the NSBA deal.” And if they can feel comfortable doing that, they’ll all come do it. We are losing our industry over nothing but jealousy. No one ever questions the people in charge and that’s the problem.

TC: Why did you agree to do this interview?

SR: I guess to let people know about me. There are so many that are so afraid and have so many misconceptions about me.

TC: Do you think this will help?

SR: I think if it’s written down that it’s okay to walk up and talk to me and shake my hand and they’re not going to get their head bit off…yeah. I think it will help a lot of people who are scared to come up and talk to me and introduce themselves to me.

TC:  Hey, Shirley.  Thanks. 

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