I’ve always felt very fortunate to have been born to the situation I was, and to be exposed to the lifestyle I grew up in. Almost everything about my life has some relevance to the horse. They’ve been a part of my life, in one way or another, since I hit the ground. My folks had a 1,000 acre horse operation in Sierra Valley in the northern California mountains where they ran upwards of 120 broodmares consisting mostly of Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Welsh ponies.
After my folks split up and sold the ranch when I was 11, my brothers and I went to Mexico with Dad where he started ranching in Culiacan, Sinaloa. After 5 years of Mexican adventures, I came back to the U.S. to finish high school, heading to the family cattle ranch in Marysville, California (my brothers, cousins, and myself being the 5th generation on the ranch) to hang my hat for a while.
The next several years I spent playing with horses, rodeoing some, working cattle quite a bit, doing some horse showing, and generally having a good time. I spent some time in my late teens and early twenties picking the brains of a few trainers I admired, swapping riding their colts and problem horses for knowledge. It was a good bargain for both of us.
In 1981 I was hired to come train horses for an outfit in Connecticut (never having been east of the Rockies before that, I had to look at a map just to see where it was located), so I loaded up my dogs and gear in the truck, and headed east. About a year later, after a few requests from people, I decided to start my own training business. Since then I’ve been in my own little world, training horses, helping them, and learning from them.
All through my life growing up, I’ve been exposed to the California vaquero’s traditions of horsemanship, through story and by example. Of all the things I’ve been , that made the biggest impression on me, and has always been a major factor in my work. Although there wasn’t much call for traditional vaquero horsemanship (jaquima a freno) in the east, the philosophies have served me very well in all aspects of the diverse work I’ve done here.
When I started Vaquero Training Center in 1983, not many even knew what the word “vaquero” meant, and only a handful outside the west coast regions had much knowledge of the vaquero horsemanship traditions. Although it’s gratifying to see a resurgence in awareness in the Californio horse traditions, people should understand that it’s much more than wearing a specific attire, being able to speak the “lingo”. It’s a philosophy. Of the Horse. Their most valuable asset. A testament to their lives.
In the show ring, Mike has countless accomplishments along with many World, National and Local Championships in Multiple Disciplines and with Multiple Breeds. More than 50 years of history.
Laura has been riding for over 50 years and comes from a diverse background of horsemanship spanning several generations. Some of her earliest training was with the Glastonbury Pony Club and at Henley Farms in Andover, CT where Pam Goodrich was trainer. When Henley Farms burned, Laura honed her jumping skills as a working student of Beth Baumert at Cloverlea Farm in Columbia, CT.
Eventually Laura focused primarily on Dressage and worked with both Beth and Sarah Geikie, owner of Angushire Farm. Throughout her youth, involvement with the U.S. Dressage Federarion’s Young Riders program, Laura benefited from the instruction of clinicians such as; Jimmy Woffard, Denny Emerson, Gunnar Ostergaard, Lendon Gray, Kathy Connelly, Max Gahwyler, Volker Brommann, Pam Goodrich, Reiner Klimke and Gerd Reuter with an invitation to apprentice in Germany.
In 1986, Laura represented CDCTA as a team member with Sarah Geikie, Karen Roberts and Claudia Tarlov at the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association competition held at the U.S. Olympic Headquarters in Gladstone, NJ. She celebrated her 16th birthday riding down the center line of this event. Throughout almost four decades of riding, Laura received numerous championships and year end awards in Dressage, Eventing and Hunters: USDF, CDCTA, NEDA, Tri-State Horseman’s Assoc., CDA, US Pony Clubs. Additionally, Laura’s involvement in the US Pony Club and Connecticut 4-H programs offered her opportunities for equine educational recognition in Horse Judging, Hippology and Quiz Bowl at both state and national levels. In 1987 Laura received the Reader’s Digest Presidential Award at the National 4-H Congress and was the recipient of one of six AQHA scholarships, out of over 200,000 applicants, as well as a full tuition scholarship to UConn’s Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture, studying Equine Science, and rode as a member of the school’s competitive teams, including their Polo team.
Laura owned and operated Nightingale Farm in Hebron, CT, a full service boarding facility prior to working with Mike.