Sunday, February 3, 2019

Cowboy Culture: An Interview with Pepper Stewart by Gina McKnight

Cowboy Culture: An Interview with Pepper Stewart
by Gina McKnight
Archived from the January 2019 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission.

From Texas, USA, Pepper Stewart is a seasoned rancher, TV personality, and commentator. A former Farm and Ranch TV host, Pepper knows who’s who when it comes to rodeo and ranch. He enjoys the smell of horses, cattle, living the rural lifestyle and cowboy culture.

Welcome, Pepper!

GM: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Pepper, and talk about your horses, professional career, and ranch. What was the name of your first horse?
PS: I was probably 4-5 years old, and my dad was using "Buck" a buckskin gelding. He was kinda my first of what became many horses over the years. I would ride him around and around the fenced-in yard pretending I was the Lone Ranger. I'd say that would be my first recollection of horses. After that, I spent my time growing up on the ranch riding colts and tending to cattle. 

GM: You’ve seen many horses in and out of the rodeo and ranch gate. Describe your ideal horse and what it takes to be a rodeo or ranch horse…
PS: The ideal horse is in the eye of the reins holder, but for me, it's a horse with a level head good bone and enjoys their job. I like a horse that is all-around, that can work cattle on the ranch and get a check in the arena. You have to mix up the two to keep your horse enjoying their job. When you have a horse whose job is in the rodeo arena or show pen, from time to time you need to take them out to a pasture or trails and let them be a horse. Think of those of you who work a 9-5 just looking to get out there on the weekend and go for a nature hike or trail ride with friends, it's the same for horses, too. So saddle up, grab your friends, and go ride on a nature preserve near you.

GM: Working a cattle ranch requires long hours, stamina, wisdom, and a good horse. What horse(s) do you currently own?
PS: I've ridden a lot of different breeds, using Quarter Horses over the years and, as I aged, so did my favorite breeds. As a youngster riding colts and day working Hancock horses was the way to go. A good breed foundation Hancock horse can outwork you on the ranch, but be ready for no apparent reason to ride out a few bucks along the way. As a youngster it was fun and you liked to spice it up, but over the past ten years or so it’s been Two Eyed Jack all the way. Two Eyed Jack bloodlines horses, called by some a super horse, not only to look great, they are versatile and excel in everything. A simple google search of Pitzer Ranch in Nebraska and you will see what I'm talking about.

Of using horses - we have now my go-to horse that you see me pictured with on 90% of internet photos and ads is an '07 model out of a Two Eyed Red Buck son, called Me Watch Eyed. She is one of the last few I started from scratch; we had a pen of two years, I was started and putting 90 days on for sale but the more I rode her the better I liked her. She is a fan favorite anywhere I go, she aims to please and enjoys her job. I can work cattle all day on her or haul to a penning event and always pick up checks. I'm not a fan of stalled horses. I know some people have to and that is their choice. When it's time to work you go to the barn and whistle a few times and then hear a thunder of footsteps coming. She is the first to the barn with her head down waiting on her halter. Saddle up, open the trailer, and she hops right in; open the trailer gate, say back up, and she's out ready to work. Currently, she's not happy with as I brought in another buckskin mare that has been getting most of the attention. 

GM: As a TV personality, you have met many cowboys/cowgirls living the life. What does it take to be a top cowboy/cowgirl on the rodeo circuit? 
PS: To be a top rodeo athlete you must WT want to; focus, work-strong ethic, and determination. Like any other sport, get out of it what you put in. Set milestones along the way by starting with your local rodeo associations and as you achieve success on a local level, expand. To many rodeo athletes expect overnight success and that’s not happening. Keep at it as long as it's still fun and you enjoy it no matter what success you have, the story will outlast your career.   

GM: As a rodeo commentator, you have seen many tumbles and successes. Who’s career stands out the most?
PS: It's hard to say who stands out the most, but as far as success goes it'd been Roper Trevor Brazile known as the king of the cowboys is one that stands out to everyone. Since joining professional rodeo in 1996 Trevor has won 23 world titles with a 6.5 million dollar PRCA rodeo career. 

GM: What is your insight into the future of rodeo?
PS: Rodeo is changing, and has for decades; the future looking good and is still a crowd pleaser when the rodeo comes to town. The rodeo committees and associations are getting better about rodeo knowledge to the general public. Even though it's 2018, many people are clueless or have been given false or misleading information about rodeo events. If you have questions do your own research and use multiple sources.

GM: Throughout your career, what rodeo scenario or cowboy story stands out?
PS: Over the years I've seen a lot of things cause I've done a lot of things, so I’ll dig deep and pull out a few. Not sure if you have ever seen Cowboy Poker, when four guys set at a table in the arena they turn a bull out and the last guy at the table wins. I was one of the rodeo clowns (bullfighter) at the event and while waiting for the bull to clear the table I decided to stand on the table. Standing there I realized the table legs were sinking in the sand and there is no way I can jump off this flimsy card table. As the bull charged the table, I jumped up best I could and walked down his back as if that was the plan the whole time.
GM: Wow! That would have been cool to see! Being a cowboy is a 24/7 job. What do you like to do on your day off?
PS: What’s that even mean? Ha Ha. There are no days off when you own cattle, it's the life you live. Every couple of years we do actually take a break and leave the country for a few weeks. We have traveled to England a few times and just came back from Ireland a couple months ago. We like to get out and see the history of the world and how it all comes together. While there recently, we come across some information that the first cowboys in America came from Ireland, hmmmm.  

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
PS: Horsemanship is all about a partnership, working together as one. Once you build that trust between horse and human there isn't any obstacle you can't accomplish. Horses are smarter than you give them credit for, they can feel and sense when things are going right or wrong. No matter what you and your horse are going through, penitence is the key to success.

"I've never whispered to a horse ever, but I was heard." - Pepper Stewart 

Connect with Pepper…

Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio, USA.

Pepper with Winner - Mike Lee
Pepper Steward, Cactus Ropes

Hore Abbey Founded 1266, Cashel Ireland
Ned Pepper Steward, 7Sc Ranch Roundup 2014

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