On The Cart With Compton: Troy Sits Down with The Legendary Doug Carpenter
Doug Carpenter is a legend and if you’re too new to this industry to know who he is, I urge you to take the time to learn about the man who is one of the most influential people the pleasure horse industry has ever known. Carp literally wrote the book on western pleasure. He has raised, trained and shown some of the very best horses to ever step in the show pen. He has won World and Congress Champions, coached youth and amateurs, brokered some of the biggest horse deals ever done and gone on to be successful in both the reining and working cow world as well.
But to me, that doesn’t even begin to describe who he is or the man I know. The older I get, the more I acknowledge the significant people in my life, and Carp is one of them. He has been a mentor in so many different aspects of my life. He taught me how to trade horses, conduct my business, and to treat people ethically and with respect. He sat down on the cart with me recently to discuss all of this and more. I present to you, On The Cart with Compton…Doug Carpenter.
TC: Carp, it’s been a while since you were on the top of the hill in the pleasure business. Tell us a little about your background for some of our readers who might not know.
DC: I was born in Rhode Island and my family was pretty dysfunctional and it didn’t work out really good. At a young age I started hanging out with a friend of mine who had horses and we went to horse shows together and that was a way out for me. I used to go with him to the shows and my part of the deal was to get the horses ready for him to show. Then in 1970, I was 13 years old and I hitchhiked to the Congress. I had to go see it. I knew my parents wouldn’t let me go. I slept in the old Coliseum on the bleachers for four or five days. I called home collect and my parents were screaming into the phone and I hung up. Then I came back. But I had seen it and I knew that’s what I had to do.
TC: You were hooked? The Congress had you hooked?
TC: Wow! Okay, so go on.
DC: So, then one thing led to another and I left home early. I went to Connecticut in 1972-73, Jack Farrell had a farm and I stayed there with him and his family. That was a good place. Actually, I didn’t really ride and compete there, I just liked being around the horses. So, I kind of fell into it. Later as I moved up, I got more and more interested in the showing and competing and got a little better with my riding because it wasn’t really natural for me to ride. It was a cumbersome thing for me to ride and train so I really focused more on that. From that I took a job in Ohio and stayed there for two years. Before I went to Ohio, I turned down an opportunity to work for Tommy Manion and that always haunted me. As the job in Ohio slowly fell apart, another opportunity came open at Tommy’s in 1978 and I jumped on it.
TC: And that had to be a huge turning point because Tommy was at the top of his game.
DC: Tommy had it all covered. He would win the halter, he did the trail back when trail wasn’t cool, the western riding, reining, he pretty much dominated all of those classes. You don’t really see that anymore now that things are so specialized but Tommy would win the Maturity Western Pleasure and he would make the finals every year in the NRHA Futurity. He covered every aspect of riding and halter. Tommy really dominated every event.
TC: So, was Tommy a role model to you?
DC: Oh yeah! Tommy is such a great salesman. He taught me how to speak to people. I’ve seen him defuse more situations by never getting upset. And this was back before motivational speakers. Tommy was just that person. If a customer was really upset, within two minutes he could defuse them and have them smiling. He is just really really good with people, just a good people person.
TC: Okay, so you got your chance to go to Tommy’s?
DC: Right, I went to Tommy’s in 1978 and that was my first year that I showed in the Pleasure Futurity at the Congress. As far as we were concerned, there was only one real two year old class at that time and that was at the Congress. Tommy gave me a mare in June. She was unbroke so I had from June until October to get her prepared for the Congress. So, as I got close to the event, she started riding really good. But, I never let Tommy see her because I was afraid he was going to take her from me. He was famous for doing that. He would jump ship like that if he saw a better horse to show. So, I kept her hidden and he never saw her until I got her in the pen at the Congress.
I remember those days there were 15 cuts in the two year old pleasure. It took all day. I showed in the first go-round and even though they didn’t announce the placings everyone knew that I had a pretty good run at them. Then the second go-round came. Scott Stubblefield won it on Certain Success and I was Reserve and that was the first time I showed at the Congress and it was a big big deal. I won $10,000! That was 1978 and that was a huge thrill. I beat Tommy and he was so competitive. Tommy, in his own funny way, came up to me and said ‘Well, Doug, how’s it feel to come in second?’ I said, ‘I don’t know Tommy, how’s it feel to come in third?” (Laughs.) He just looked at me and walked away. I was kind of cocky back then and I could get away with a lot of stuff like that with Tommy.
TC: So seriously, you’re telling me that Tommy had never seen you ride the mare and you were Reserve the first time you ever showed at the Congress?
DC: Yeah, he was a little perturbed but they had a buyer for her before I got done showing that day. Tommy told me ‘You need to let me know when they start going like this. Don’t keep it a secret.’ I told him that I would but I knew what would happen if I did.
TC: From a business standpoint he taught you a lot?
DC: Oh yeah.
TC: What about from the horse perspective?
DC: Tommy would show me what to do but what really connected with me was when he would get those really good horses riding and he’d let me get on and ride and I could feel what I saw. If he had a really good loping horse, after he got it where he was really using itself, he’d jump off and say ‘Feel that.’ Then I understood the feel and how it felt through the seat of my butt. We got to ride some unbelievable horses.
TC: Well, he definitely set the trends and he did it with his own style, but somehow he made it work. Would you agree?
DC: Oh yeah. He integrated the Texas style horse with the bridled West coast style and he was successful at it and really set the trend. Tommy being at the top of the game, they accepted his style. Tommy was so competitive and he had such a great name so when he brought one in really bridled up, it was so new to those judges that they accepted it. Anybody else coming in with them would have been gated for a couple of years.
TC: What happened after you left Tommy’s?
DC: I went through some disgruntled times in my life. I was showing and I got pretty aggravated. I went to the Congress in 1981 and had a really good mare named Miss Docs Melody and I didn’t make the cut there. I was pretty aggravated and had made up my mind that I was going to quit. I had always really followed the car racing quite a bit and I thought that’s what I wanted to do. I went to the World Show and thought this would be my last horse show and then I’d go to North Carolina and start all over. I was mad and aggravated. In fact, I didn’t even dress up. In the go-round I had an old work shirt on. I was just going through the motions. My amateur, Karen Sullivan, had won on that mare so that perked me up a little bit. But I had made up my mind I was done. I wound up winning the first round of the junior pleasure. After that, people were telling me that I needed to dress up for the finals. They told me to at least put on a clean shirt! (laughs) I ended up winning it and I stayed in it.
TC: Otherwise it was going to be NASCAR, really?
DC: Yeah, I had always watched car racing. My brother and I followed AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and what little TV we got to see, that was a big thing to us. So I was going to go down there and I think I really got inspired in ’79 when Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough got into a fight in Daytona and I thought that’s what I want to do. I got a big charge out of that. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
TC: Did you want to drive?
DC: I just wanted to be a part of it. I would have liked to try to drive and see if I was any good at it but I was just going to go down there and start like anyone else. I would have started at the bottom, sweeping the floors in the shop, whatever, just like I did in the horses.
TC: Do you regret not pursuing that more?
DC: Not really. Some of the NASCAR drivers later got into the horses and I got to meet them. I don’t regret that I stayed with the horses.
TC: It seems like when people get disgusted enough is when things turn around for them.
DC: You’re right, Troy. I have learned over the years that you just have to buckle down and stick with it. If you keep working hard and are passionate, it will turn around for you no matter how bad things get.
TC: Then you went to work for John Mulholland and you really got the really good horses at John’s, right?
DC: I went through a stage where I was on my own for a year. I had Hotrodders Jet Set and showed him and was competitive with him but I had run into some hard financial times. I had lost a lot of cattle in a flood and I was pretty much upside down with the banks. I had some bad loans. I remember I had 16 head of horses in training and they weren’t very good. I wound up deciding which ones I wanted to keep so I called the owners of all the ones I wanted to send home. When I was all done, I had two horses in the barn and they were both mine. Hotrodders Jet Set was left and a little cutting mare named Sophie’s Star that later went on to be the mother of a Superhorse that Terry Stewart bought from me. It told me something right then and there, that I could actually buy my own horses and train my own horses. It hit me all of a sudden that the only horses that were any good were ones that I had picked out. I tried doing some of the owner stuff and the trading and it didn’t work out. So financially I had to go work for John. I moved to his place in 1982 and at that time, John had some really big time mares. He had all the great mares. He had started stacking up the nice yearlings and twos. He had a great eye for a horse. He was very determined and he was difficult to work for. But, discipline-wise it was good for me.
TC: A lot of the same things you learned at Tommy’s, John instilled harder into you?
DC: We worked together every day and he was my ground man. I really think you need that in the pleasure. You need to have a good ground person. John would tell me ‘looks good’ or ‘I don’t care if it feels awful, it looks great,’ and we built a pretty good relationship that way. In 1984, I hit a pretty good lick in the two year olds. I had a really nice mare named Ms MBJ Mudlark and back then they had the Grand Twenty in Arkansas, Texas Classic, and the Congress and those paid really well. I went to Arkansas and I didn’t do very well in Arkansas. I knew I had the goods but that mare just needed a little more finish. Then I went on and was second in the next three futurities and I wound up winning $85,000 on that mare that year. That’s a lot of money in 1984. Ken Banks said there’s no way I won that much money in the 80’s but I sure did. I won $31,000 at the Congress for being second.
TC: They paid legitimate money back then in the pleasure. So, then what happened?
DC: In 1986 or ’87 I kind of wanted to get into race horses. I moved to a place in Memphis and when I got over there, the guy I was going to work for decided to quit. Back in Oklahoma it was pretty depressed and I didn’t want to go there. The banks were failing, kind of like what we were seeing last year and there wasn’t much activity there. So when I was in Memphis, I went to a local show in Hernando, Mississippi and they had 45 amateurs in the pleasure on a Friday. I thought I could make it work there. Pleasure in Mississippi and Alabama was pretty big down there so I decided to stick around.
TC: Right there is a turning point in your career. You went from being a showman to taking a back seat to Keith (Whistle) when you formed a partnership with him. Was that intentional?
DC: Showing at that point to me…Keith had gone through some problems and…I didn’t feel sorry for him because I don’t think that way, but I kind of stood back and let him show the horses. Actually, I think it helped him mentally to be honest with you. I just let him show and come back because he had gone through a year of some hard times and to me, the showing part of it at that point, it really didn’t mean that much. I was kind of tired of it. I liked the training part and I enjoyed getting them ready for Keith, just like I did for Tommy. It was a re-run of that. So I got them ready for Keith and I focused on getting them ready and competitive and let him get on and show. It was a lot of fun. To me, whether I did it myself or was just part of someone else doing it, winning is still winning and that’s how I look at it. A lot of people don’t, but that works for me.
TC: And you could get one ready better than anyone and back then, Keith could get one shown better than anyone. You and Keith were quite a team.
DC: It reminded me of my days with Tommy. Tommy made us all feel part of the team. Even the stall cleaner was just as important as I was and he made that clear. It was never all about Tommy, it was about the team. Back in the 70’s that was really rare. Tommy did a lot of stuff back then that was really ahead of his time. With Keith, it was still being part of a team and having good horses and being competitive.
TC: You and Keith were so polar opposite. How did that ever work?
DC: Totally opposite. Keith and I had been friends for years, long before we did business together. But for some reason, it just kind of worked.
TC: Was it as simple as you would make up for his short-comings and vice-versa?
DC: Yeah, I would make mistakes and he would bring it to my attention and I would learn from them and he’d do the same to me and he would learn from them. His style of business and mine were completely opposite. His accomplishments were more public and the minute I tried to make mine a little more public, I’d turn around and get my butt kicked! So, I just decided to keep my mouth shut and that worked better for me.
TC: You guys were so different. He was so flashy and you were the extreme opposite. I remember at the Congress, you were the only one in the Gilligan with no stall curtains. I remember you had a big “DC” spelled out in duct tape on the end of your stalls instead of curtains. And that was just you, huh?
DC: I took these trash cans and put a board on them and covered it with a towel and that’s where we put the Congress trophies. The year I did the trash cans, I took it to the extreme. But I was low budget and it was a little bit of my personality because it was ridiculous and comical and it was the extreme opposite of everyone else. Joe Edge had his huge spread with the lights and he put the trophy in a case. That was just a little bit of my way of poking fun at other people. I’ve always taken my own path.
TC: Well, you’re definitely not a showy kind of guy.
DC: I wanted to show my stuff in the pen when I won. It wasn’t me to have the big truck with my name on it. That’s just me, personally, the way I do things. That was my way to show my existence in the world was being competitive and winning.
TC: You and Keith had some incredible success together. Then what happened?
DC: I got a little burned out when I was with Keith.
TC: What caused your burn out?
DC: I wasn’t happy with some of the business stuff that was happening. Keith has his own style and it works for Keith and sometimes it didn’t work for me. I’m not saying I was right and he was wrong but I got a little tired of some of the politics and I was a thorn in his side for a year and in the end it was easier to step back and say ‘I could sit around here and complain or I could just dissolve it,’ and I chose to dissolve it. It was a graceful exit and we parted amicably. It was around 93-94 and he went on and has been really successful.
TC: Right toward the end of your deal with Keith, you had Rodney Miller as your non-pro and you guys did a lot together. I’ve used him as a model with my own customers on how he did the non-pro thing and you helped him and coached him and I thought that was the happiest you have ever been.
DC: It was. I had a lot of fun with Rodney. He got to be a real good friend of mine.
TC: And he was killed tragically in a truck and trailer accident.
DC: It was a loss for me that was devastating. (Tears up)
TC: He was a huge loss to the entire horse community and industry.
DC: (long pause) Rodney was just a fantastic person to do business with. He had that charisma that people really liked. He had a sense of humor that was so funny, he could have been on TV, he was that funny. That was difficult for me. When I lost Rodney, I lost a true friendship and that was really tough on me.
TC: I think you lost a little bit of the pleasure horse desire as well.
DC: I did.
TC: That’s when you and I got together and we still did really well but I saw that you wanted to fade away at times. You were still trading but I saw you drifting to the West Coast…
DC: Yeah, I was getting a little more into the reining. The pleasure deal at that time was going through some changes that I didn’t agree with.
TC: Like what?
DC: It started when they were really going sideways down the rail and their heads were bobbing a lot. Their legs were not moving in a way that I liked. They were a lot choppier. People were really gearing into going slow, slow, slow. I find that when I start complaining about things, I try to re-adjust myself and I realized I could either shut my mouth and go along with it or change directions. I realized that instead of making myself miserable I would get out and go do something different and that’s when I decided to get more into the reining.
TC: So, basically, you didn’t like the direction of the industry, your partnership with Keith had run its course and Rodney died all around the same time. Did all of that kind of come together as sort of a boiling point?
DC: Rodney died and Keith and I stayed together for a year or two and that phased out and then that newer, different style of pleasure that I didn’t like was starting to come in. It all came to a head. It all culminated with that little mare, WW Satin Dream. I went to the Congress and I loved that mare. She was so great. She was nervous in the Celeste and I could have gone out there and made her do it but she tried so hard and I could see her trying to tell me that she didn’t like that building. And she was trying to do everything and I decided I wasn’t going to car-wreck her just to get her through the finals. I just rode her fresh and showed her and I was eleventh. They paid ten monies and for eleventh place I won $400. I said to myself ‘I’ve been here two weeks and I just won $400. Hmmm.’ After winning all that money in the 80’s, I decided I’m not going to do this anymore.
TC: Then you completely changed your deal and became a mobile, high-end horse trader.
DC: I discovered when the trainers were on the road and going show-to-show that I could hardly get them to stop and look at my horses, so I started going to them. I would take a group of horses and move into their place and let the trainers pick out the ones they liked. That gave them the opportunity to make sure the connection worked and that they got along with the horse and they knew that the horse was legitimate.
TC: Don’t you think what we fight with so much in the pleasure horse industry is all of these put-on deals where people think they’re getting cheated out of their money? You took a completely different approach to that. That was a lot different than what you did with Keith in Hernando.
DC: When we did it in Hernando, it was an in-house deal. When we had a horse like Racy Rumors, we would swap her in the barn. You never wanted to turn loose of that horse. You wanted to keep it in the barn and in the show string. When I went out on my own and traded my own horses, I realized I couldn’t do that same thing. I had to release the really good ones and it was so big to me when those horses would go on to win in another program. It meant a lot to me that I sold a really good product and I really wanted to match up the right rider with the right horse and it would reflect well on me and I would get more business.
TC: That’s a great thing. You were one of the first people who ever did that and who cared about the sale instead of laughing about how much money you made. It goes back to honesty. I never heard you lie to anybody. You treated it like a business and looked at the long-term value of your brand.
DC: I wanted those horses to win. People would always say to me after they won something big ‘I bet you wish you hadn’t sold that one,’ and I would tell them that I was glad I sold them. That’s a success story that I want to hear. I always had an open deal that if you bought one from me and it didn’t work out, you could bring it back and swap it for another one. I always left that door open. A year later, if they brought it back sound and not all tore up, or even if it was tore up they could bring it back and we could adjust on the price. But I always had that verbal agreement with people.
TC: Has your role diminished in the horse brokering business?
DC: It has diminished a lot in the last two years. There are a couple of things that have happened in the horse industry. One of them is the internet. The internet has wiped out the quick turn sales. The little breeder in the back yard can walk out and take a picture and the horse can be for sale on the internet in five minutes. Why do you need a guy like me to help locate these horses? The other thing that happened in the industry is that a lot of the trainers, especially in the reiners, bought their own stud and bred them to their own mares. We have turned our buyers into breeders which is good and it’s bad for the industry, but it has hurt me. All of my buyers have turned into breeders. I woke up and they have their own studs, their own mares and two year old programs. I used to do really well buying yearlings and selling them as two year olds but now it’s a challenge for me. It has caught up with me and now I wonder where I go from here. The beauty of it is that if I can keep them until they’re three, then you can get the big bucks for them. I got lazy a little bit. I would buy all my yearling reiners and cutters in December and by June and July they were gone and I took the summer off. In the last 18 months I’ve realized that I have to keep them longer. But the longer you keep them, the more expense you have in them. I have to make sure that I have the goods, one that I can get $150,000. So I’ve kind of gotten left behind, that’s what has happened to me.
TC: You mentioned the internet. What are your thoughts about the internet?
DC: I’m not a computer whiz but I’m making myself get into it because if you don’t, you won’t survive. It’s here to stay and where everything is at. There’s no other way around it. All this Facebook stuff, it’s overwhelming. But it’s got some very positive things about it. Like, from somebody who wasn’t at the Congress, I could keep up on it every day. I’m finding out that not everybody can go to all of the shows and what you guys are doing is making it so we can all stay tuned in. People can stay a part of it and you covered it in a positive way.
TC: We laughed when you commented on one of Dakota Diamond Griffith’s stories during the Congress.
DC: Troy, you called me while the show was going on and asked me ‘Carp, is that really you? Did you really do that?’ I laughed. I didn’t realize I was that big of a deal that people would even notice. I have been good friends with Dakota’s family for years. I was so impressed with her coverage. She’s 17 and has that much self confidence to write about adult topics as well as fun kid stuff and I found it fascinating
TC: So you’re able to stay involved whether you are going to the shows or reading about it on the internet. What do you see today as an outsider looking back in to the pleasure industry? What’s it look like to you?
DC: I went to the Reichert this year and I thought the horses have changed and evolved back. I watched some of the guys show and I thought to myself ‘I’d like to ride that horse’. I think the legs have gotten better. The upper-end horses look really good. Ten years ago, I didn’t want to ride those horses but I like the way they are behind and they’re flatter up front than they were. They are cracking through themselves better and have a stronger top line, they are steadier headed. They used to bob so much and were so slow. The slower you go, the more things give way.
TC: The all-around people are demanding those types of horses now. Where we’re selling them at, they have to be able to go on and do other things.
DC: We got so specialized that it was almost like having a halter horse, the pleasure horse could only do one thing and if you weren’t the winner, it wasn’t worth anything. I think the trainers are making better horses because of it. They realize that for their customer’s sake, they have to be able to do a better job.
TC: Carp, you’ve gone at the horse industry from all aspects. You’ve bought and sold with your own money, you’ve brokered great horses, you’ve shown World and Congress Champions, youth coach, amateur coach…you’ve done it all. You went on to the reining and working cow. Now you’re working with Clinton Anderson who is reaching the masses. Tell us about that.
DC: I have learned a lot from Clinton. He is really street smart. He came to the United States from Australia in 1999 and he had nothing. He is running a $30 million company right now so he’s moving at a high rate of speed. I was a little offended at first by all the clinician stuff but then I realized, there’s a real need for that in our industry. These people were buying horses and going home and getting hurt. What I liked about Clinton’s program was that he was brutally honest with people. He would tell them that the horse could hurt them, showed them where to go and where to stand and he had a very step-by-step process that was easy to follow. Clinton makes it easy. It works. He has one of the best trailer loading processes, it will work 100% of the time. When he was a kid in Australia he would go to horse sales and watch people try to load their horses but they couldn’t. He would tell them, ‘For $50, I will load your horse’. He waited until the end of the day and he’d get three or four of them to give him $50 to load their horse. I did it at Scott Graham’s the other day, it took me 20 minutes. Scott and I were laughing about the training procedure. But, when I got done, I had that horse on a 14 foot lead rope and by the end it, ran into the trailer.
Clinton’s deal is all about being safe. I’m 54 years old and I’m really careful about getting bucked off because if you get bucked off at my age, stuff breaks and it’s a long time to heal. There are huge dollars there and a lot of us missed that. We got so focused on our little world and he came in behind us and he’s making it work, big time.
TC: We were catering to the high end people and he caters to the masses.
DC: He has a TV show once a week. To actually go down there and see it is incredible. He has his own production company, he does all of his own filming and editing, all in house.
TC: How did you meet him?
DC: He wanted me to buy his horses for him. I had heard of him and he came up to me and knowing Clinton now, I laugh about it. He just pushes his way. “No” and “can’t” are not in his vocabulary. He told me that everybody he knew got their horses from me and he kept wanting me to find horses for him and I was like ‘Yeah, yeah.’ He pulled me aside and said ‘I want YOU to buy MY horses for me.’ So, we were at the reining futurity and there was one horse I really liked, a little daughter of Shiner. I told him I was going to buy this one, she’s my first pick. He told me he would never buy her. I told him he could either be in our out, it didn’t matter to me. He told me he would partner on her with me, but he would never buy that horse. I broke her out and he wanted to see how I was doing. He came down and saw her and bought me out of her the first time he saw her. She went on and made the open finals and won $60,000. From there we started doing a lot of business together and it made it fun for him to invest in the horses. Then I got to be really good friends with him. We are able to keep our friendship and business separate and it has helped me out in my life on how to separate those things.
TC: You and I have been able to be friends and do business together at the same time.
DC: Troy, you have a lot of talent and I try to surround myself with people with talent. I watched you and your ability and the way you carried yourself. You were always clean and didn’t do foolish things in the public eye and I liked guys like that, so I watched out for you.
TC: It was the weirdest thing. You really took me under your wing and I remember you chewing my ass one time and you said ‘Why do you think I’m hanging out with you?’ and I said ‘I don’t know, because you want to make money with me?’ And you said ‘No, because I like you.’ That made a really big difference to me. Everybody respected you and that meant a lot to me. I have talked to a lot of people about the lack of mentor relationships these days. Why do you think that’s the case?
DC: In the beginning, everybody would compete and we’d all go drink beer together at night. The competitive spirit has changed. If the guy wins today everybody else gets cranky. The sportsmanship has changed a lot it seems like.
TC: I think there’s a big lack of guys like you in our industry. People don’t feel a sense of obligation to the industry. It gets frustrating these days to put your faith into somebody and they do something foolish and they’ve got your name attached to them.
DC: I agree. Clinton taught me about the importance of giving back. We were at the World Show and my kids were little and they were there with their 4H group and Clinton went and got a box of books and signed all of them. When I tried to pay him for them, he told me that it was important to give back and that has stayed with me. If you don’t give back, you can’t take. That inspired me to start the Celebrity Reining for Make-A-Wish at the Reining Futurity in December. It has turned into a pretty big event.
TC: I can see how big of a deal your Celebrity Reining is for those kids. Anyone who hasn’t seen it really needs to check it out sometime.
DC: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of the kids tell us that they liked that more than they liked their wish. It’s gotten so big, it’s almost turned into a full-time job. But Clinton deserves some of the credit because he really inspired that in me when he gave us those books.
TC: Speaking of books, tell us about your book. You literally wrote the book on western pleasure.
DC: I did it back in the 90’s but I think a lot of it is still applicable to today.
TC: I agree. I wish we could still get a hold of some of them.
DC: I really broke down the class on how to show, how to pick your spots and how to compete. That book helped me sell horses. I didn’t really make any money from selling the books but that book helped me sell horses. I got a lot of activity from that. It’s funny, I listen to Howard Stern every once in a while and he talks about how writing a book makes you an authority. I did a lot of things and accomplished a lot and everyone just saw me as a horse trainer. But, once I wrote a book about it, I was somehow all of the sudden this authority on it. Stern talks about how he did all these things, but it wasn’t until his book that people considered him the authority.
TC: Funny. So, what are you going to do now?
DC: Good question. At my age, I can’t really ride as fast or as well as some other guys. I’m looking at getting into some other things. I’m still going to keep my horses. I really want to start a company where I can have something in ten years that I can resell. The sad thing today is that I can’t sell my company. I’m going to focus on finding something that I can build up and sell in ten years. It will be in the horse industry.
TC: Do you still crave riding every day?
DC: I love to ride. I don’t have the drive to ride ten head a day but I often think about what it would be like to not ride every day and I don’t think I would like that feeling. I think I want to ride every day. I would have to allow two hours a day to ride. I just love being around the horses. There’s something inside of you that can’t compare. When you feel that self-accomplishment, you can’t compare it to anything. When you build a horse up, the self-accomplishment is incredible. I guess maybe it’s like a painting or anything else. You complete it and look at it and think, ‘Wow, I did that.’
TC: So, if it’s like a painting, what’s your Mona Lisa? What’s your biggest accomplishment?
DC: My two daughters. They would be it. They are 15 and 17 and that has been a challenge raising kids. They are different people from who I am. I wanted to win so bad and they’re a little bit easier going.
TC: I got a kick out of watching you bowl the other night with your daughters.
DC: Oh yeah! No matter what it is, I want to win and I want to win by triple figures and second place isn’t good enough. And then there’s my daughter and she didn’t care. She and her friends are over there texting and I’m thinking ‘The game is going on! You gotta win!’ Towards the end she got more into it. They are just a lot easier going than me and I need to pull back a little so I’m not that dad. They do really well in school, but the hard thing for me is finding something that they are passionate about.
TC: I think your daughters are a great accomplishment. But, when you walk down the alley at the horse shows, how do you want people to remember you?
DC: A vicious competitor who loves horses. The one thing I have prided myself on is honesty and integrity. I have never had a bad dealing with anybody. I don’t have to worry about running into someone who I had a bad deal with. It might cost me a little financially, but don’t lie, I don’t cheat and if I make something wrong, I face up to it.
TC: How do you instill that in the next generation of horse trainers?
DC: It seems like more and more, in all facets of the industry, we’re losing that. I love horses so much and I see stuff being done that I don’t agree with.
TC: Well if you’re talking about your love of horses, you’re talking about more than just honesty with the clients. Are we talking abuse?
TC: I remember one time you were at my place when I was getting into one and you said, ‘Troy, what are you doing? You’re tearing up your product!’ You always emphasized to me that you’ll have a better product in the end if you just take your time. You taught me it takes a year and a half to train one of these horses up…the right way.
DC: When you have a customer-base that is really wealthy and they expect certain results, you have a tendency to tear into these horses and throw them away and get another one. I learned that the hard way because when I started slowing down with them, my vet bills dropped from $15,000 to $6,000 a year because I stopped pushing the young horses. I got into this because I really truly loved the horses. I didn’t get into horses to be famous. I got in because I really liked horses. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’ll knock one around if I have to, but much like a football player, to motivate them to get to their talent level, you have to take your time with them and help them develop. You can’t make them develop. I’ve seen a lot of nice horses get wrecked because people expect them to be a machine.
TC: What can the trainers do differently?
DC: I don’t think the trainers have the ability to talk to their customers. Don’t keep training on them if you know you’re just going to give the horse back. There is a trainer who sends DVD’s to all of his clients on the 28th of every month and includes it with the bill. They take one day at the end of the month and film every horse so the customer can see the horse’s progress with the bill. What a great idea. Even a check-list so an owner can trace their progress…kind of like a report card. I think that would be really cool. I’ve seen it now from an owner’s standpoint, now that I’ve sent some horses out to some trainers. I just think that when things go wrong, many of the trainers don’t know how to deal with it. As an owner, I used to not feel like I had the input to tell them that I don’t like what I was seeing. So, now I lay it out for them from the get-go. I will have input, if the horse has to go to the vet you tell me first, if I don’t like what I’m seeing I will take the horse home. I tell them if they can’t deal with these things, I’ll go somewhere else. If you tell them up front, then it’s out there. A little communication goes a long way.
TC: I agree. Carp, you’re a great communicator and we really appreciate your time today. Thanks for being On The Cart.
DC: You’re welcome, Troy. Thank you.