The Extreme Mustang Makeover of last week got me to thinking about the stallion I bought in 1965 as a two year old, untouched, straight out of pasture. Never haltered, never brushed. Mustang trainers often say that the mustangs are easier to train because they come with no human created issues and once they trust a person, they will give their all and that was my experience with Judge. If I were in my thirties now, I’d definitely be in on the whole Mustang thing. The clipping is from 1967.

above: photo, Judge and Eileen from old movie, winning reining at Aztex Quarter Horse Show
below: newspaper clipping about Ardmore Quarter Horse Show, 1967

Here’s the story of Judge Lasan and me, or part of it anyway:


The Gentling of Judge Lasan

By Eileen Sammons Tidwell


The winter day was cold and windy. I was standing in a large corral with a Speedy Cockrell, a cutting horse trainer, at his place near Fort Worth. We were looking at a group of three two-year-old quarter horse stallions that had been advertised for sale.

Each colt was priced at $200, a reasonable and reachable-for-me sum at the time, which was winter of 1965.

One colt’s color really caught my eye, a grulla, or mouse color. But a bay had a better hip. I can’t even recall what color the third colt was.

I commented on the bay’s hip but his thin neck concerned me. The knowledgeable trainer replied that the neck was going to be a good one, not crested or thick. Nodding in agreement, I told him that I would buy that bay colt. Money changed hands and I drove home to get my trailer.

Once I had my one-horse trailer hooked behind my pickup, I stopped by my local veterinarian’s office and told him that I was going after an unbroken, almost untouched colt and asked for a shot of tranquilizer. He complied.

Back at the ranch, the colt was separated and run into a loading chute, where my open trailer waited. The trainer climbed into the chute behind the bay, then forceably ran him into the trailer, and slammed the tailgate.

I waited for all hell to break out. But it didn’t. The colt seemed intimidated by his situation and froze like a rock. I drove home without having given him the shot. But I prayed from the time we started to load him until I got home with him.

Once home, I backed the trailer to my horse lot gate, opened it and let the colt slowly find his way backward from the trailer into his new but very limited freedom.

Once all four feet were on solid ground, he snorted,  ran to the back fence and stared at me. I knew then that I’d taken on a really big challenge.

I didn’t try to touch the colt, whose registered name was Judge Lasan, for days. Instead, bundled in my black and white spotted, hooded car coat, I would put out his feed, then back off to the gate, and sit down inside his pen and just talk to him for hours at a time.

In a few days he was coming over to me, and had decided that I was a curiosity, maybe even a friend, not foe. However, the first time I went to the lot without that spotted coat, he was wary again. But within minutes he recognized me as I spoke softly to him.

Each time he came to me, I would talk quietly to him, whisper to him, and gently blow my breath into his nostrils. I’d learned about that from my grandmother, who was part Indian

The bond between us grew quickly and within days I was able to run my hands over him, down his legs, under his belly, all the while whispering and talking to him.

When he trusted me enough to nicker as I came to his pen, I decided I could start haltering him.

Carrying a rope halter and lead, I entered his space and approached him. He stood quietly. I took the lead rope and rubbed it up and down his neck, over his back and down his legs. He seemed to enjoy it.

Then I went to his other side and repeated the process, always quietly talking to him in a conversational manner.

I turned and walked away a step or two and looked back at him over my shoulder. He was watching me intently, and then he stepped forward. I turned and stood still. So did he.

So I stepped to his shoulder again and rubbed the lead rope on his neck some more. Then I moved it up to his jaw and kept rubbing gently. He was still quietly accepting it all.

With the lead rope lieing over his neck, I reached up and put my hand over as well, and with my left hand, moved the halter up under his jaw so that I could reach it with my right hand on the other side. With it in both hands, I eased it onto his head.

Once I had it on him, I rubbed him some more and left the lead rope over his neck and walked away. I went outside his enclosure to get some feed from my feed room, brought it back and stood there hand feeding him for a little while. Then I took the halter off him, and poured the rest of the grain into his feeder.

Enough for that day. We had come to and through our first big step, I thought to myself.

As the days went by, I worked with Judge, leading him, backing him, asking him to stand with lead rope dangling to ground as I brushed him. He became more and more friendly and actually dependent on me, willingly meeting me at his gate each time I came there.


Finally I decided it was time to introduce him to the saddle.

After brushing him and leading him forward and backing up, I led him to where I had placed my saddle on its blanket on the ground. I gave him time to smell of it; certainly it held the scent of my mare Jiggs, so he could easily recognize ‘horse’ on it.

I moved the saddle off the blanket with my right hand, holding his lead in my left. Then I picked up the blanket and offered it to him to smell more thoroughly. He did, and he didn’t seem at all afraid of it, on the ground or in my hand.

Still holding the lead in my left hand, I started rubbing the blanket on his shoulder. He tilted his head to watch, flicking his left ear toward the action.

Shortly he lowered his head a little, and seemed even more relaxed, so I moved the blanket up his neck and back to his shoulder, then along his side, all the while rubbing him gently with it as I would have used a brush.

He sighed, cocked his left foot and I knew we had the blanket conquered. I went on rubbing him with it, over his back, over his hip, down his legs. Then I walked around in front of him, switched hands, and did the same thing on his right side, ending the rubbing by laying the blanket over his back.

I walked around his front end again and all the while I was doing everything I was talking to him, of course. The more we talk, the more they seem to understand. That’s my thought anyway. And everyone will agree that they pick up on repeated words used with certain things, movements, actions and they definitely pick up on tone of voice.

At this point I had never one time raised my voice to this horse. All he knew from me was soft, friendly conversation.

I moved back and forth from one side to the other, adjusting the blanket forward then backward, up and back down again.

No problems, so I rubbed his face and stepped aside to pick up the saddle.

Again I was holding his lead in my left hand, and I held the saddle on both arms, stepped out in front of hims so he could see it. Then I moved to his left side, took the horn in my left hand while still of course holding the lead, and then switched the weight of the saddle to my right hand, holding it by the horn. I had put both stirrups over the seat as well as the cinch, so when I raised it and placed it on his back, there was nothing dangling, nothing to bump him.

He again turned his head enough to see what was going on, flicked that left ear, but didn’t move. I steadied the saddle on his back, and kept on talking to him and rubbed my hand and the lead along his neck.

What a good boy! I wouldn’t have been surprised it he had jumped out from under that saddle the minute I raised it up to put on hid back. I was elated.

I moved to his right side, still no problems. So I gently let the right stirrup down, careful not to bump him with it, and just as carefully took the cinch and eased it off the saddle and into a hanging position.

When he still wasn’t protesting, I pushed the cinch gently against his girth area, and rubbed it back and forth. No reaction.

So I moved to his left side again, and very, very carefully reached under, grasped the cinch, and pulled its free end to me, then I again pressed it against him. I was watching him to be sure that if he jumped in any direction, he wouldn’t get me.

But he stood like a statue.

So, since things were going well, I decided to try cinching up. I pulled the latigo free, threaded it through the cinch and eased the cinch up against his girth area again, read to let it go if he reacted.

He did tense somewhat but still stood there. So I did my three wraps of the latigo through the cinch and eased it up until it was tight enough to hold the saddle on if he should start jumping around. I put the cinch tongue through and secured the rigging.

Whew. I’m not sure if he sighed with relief but I certainly did.

I was ready to hang on if he began bucking; sure didn’t want him taking off loose from me with a saddle on, even though I had him in a confined area in my back yard.

I let him stand a bit, then tried to lead him. He hesitated, but then took a step. Then he jumped forward about a step, the stirrups bumped him lightly, and he jumped forward another step. I kept leading him and yakking away to him about what a good boy he was and he settled down and walked normally.

I walked him around the area a couple of times, then asked him to trot, which he did. All was good! So I stopped him, loosened the cinch, freed it, and lifted the saddle up and off his back. Placing it on the ground by us, I took the blanket, rubbed him all over with it again, and laid it over the saddle.

Then I brushed him all over again, took him to his lot and turned him loose, went to the barn and got him a small measure of grain as a reward, and that was the end of that day of training.

Tomorrow would be a big step, I would definitely step into the stirrup!


I’m a very cautious person. I don’t like to get hurt. That caution was serving me well in these slow steps to gentling this two year old stallion who had never been handled before I got him. And I never forgot that he was a stallion, either. Although he was so quiet and sweet that it would have been easy to do.

Judge was a foundation bred Quarter Horse. The only Thoroughbred blood in him was from early in the 20th century. His pedigree carried the names of King and Leo close up. His sire was an AQHA Champion, a cutting horse named Calhouns Lasan. This breeding accounted in no small measure for his sensible, quiet disposition.

The next day I prepared Judge as I had done, brushing, rubbing, slowly saddling and of course talking, talking, talking.

After leading him around at a walk and trot, I put my hackamore on him and adjusted it. The bosal was relatively flexible, not as stiff as many bosals are. I liked that about it. I was by no means a hackamore expert, but I’d bought this one a few years prior to use on my little mare. It fit Judge just fine.

The reins I had on it were cotton, soft and thick. I placed the right rein over Judge’s neck in front of the saddle, walked to his left side, and took slack out of the left rein, placed my hand on his neck, grasping both reins, and put my boot into the left stirrup. Barely into it.

I stood there with right foot on the ground, talking to him. No movement.

So I eased up until I was standing in that stirrup, still with my boot toe barely in it.

No reaction. I petted and rubbed his neck a little with my rein hand. The movement of the reins attacked to the hackamore didn’t seem to bother him.

Then I stepped down and out of the stirrup.

I repeated this about half a dozen times until I was sure he was not only fine with it, but bored with it. Then I eased my right leg over, keeping my knee bent, ready to bale off if he protested too much.

He didn’t. I straightened the knee and eased the right leg down along the stirrup, all remained quiet. I sat all the way down.

Still nothing. Whew!

I eased out of the saddle again, led him around a little, then went through it all again.

I probably got on and off that horse half a dozen times that day. I didn’t ask him to go forward, just to be happy with my weight.

The day after that I went through it all again, but feeling confident now, I put pressure on Judge’s sides with my legs. He had no clue what I was asking. So I applied the pressure, but also pulled on his head with my left rein, and put most of my weight in my left stirrup, causing him to step to the side to keep his balance.

I praised the heck out of him. Good boy! Then did it again and again and again until he was moving a step or two any time I squeezed. I didn’t care what direction he went as long as he moved forward. A few times he put it in reverse and backed up. When that happened, I gave him slack, but pulled his head around, again causing him to step sideways to balance. He figured out within a little while that going forward was easiest.

From there it was just ride him around the pen (I was doing this in his lot, or corral where he lived) and work on steering him this way and that. I was surprised at how fast he was responding.

For the next week or so, I rode him every day and every day he made progress. Each day he started the lesson where he had stopped the day before. There was no backsliding for this horse.

By the time I’d been working him less than a month I had him trotting circles, stopping, turning.

He wasn’t going into reverse in confusion now, so it was time to teach him to back up.

Expecting me to ride him forward, when I stopped him and kept my reins taut while I squeezed with heels and legs, he was confused so he stood like a rock.

I pushed my weight into my right stirrup, kept both reins taught but really pulled back on the right one, tipping his nose toward his shoulder. He finally gave in and stepped back with his right foot to balance himself. I relaxed and let him stand still a few seconds. Then I did it with the left. Back went his left foot. Stand and relax. Right back foot. Stand. Left back foot. Stand … we seesawed like that for a little while, until when I put pressure on his rein and weight in that stirrup, he willingly stepped back. It was only a matter of minutes of doing this until he was backing up with light pressure on the reins.


I live in a rural neighborhood where the homes are on small acreages. At the time I was training Judge, the streets were still dirt and there were many open, grassy areas with no houses.

I was in the routine of riding my mare in the area, crossing acres that had no fences, going along the creek bottom, across the creek and up into the hills above it.

Therefore once I was comfortable with riding Judge in my horse lot, it wasn’t a big step to ride him out and down the dirt road.

The first time I took him out I was a little nervous, hoping that nothing popped up to frighten him out from under me. I kept talking to him, rubbing his neck and we just meandered along, taking in what sights there were to see. I rode maybe 2 or 3 city block equivalents, turned and came home, rode him some more on my property, and then quit for the day.

Each day I would warm him up walking and trotting in the yard or horse lot, then go out on the roads, riding further each time.

At this point I had never asked him for a canter.

One afternoon as we headed down the road parallel to the creek bottom, I had enough courage to try it. Squeezing with my legs and leaning forward I urged him into a faster and faster trot until he picked up a lope. Hooray, we’d broken the lope barrier. I cantered him about a quarter of a mile, slowed to a walk and finished my ride.

This horse had never bucked one time. Not one time!


I’d started riding with my cutting trainer friend, Curly Talmage during the 1960s, so it was only natural for me to take Judge to his place to ride.

Curly spoke about Monte Foreman and the great things he had learned from that legendary horseman. He showed me how he could move his horse sideways to open gates and more.

I’d read an article in one of my two horse magazines, either Quarter Horse Journal or Western Horseman, on starting from the ground training for the sidepass, or using leg aids. The article had pictured using a plain wooden dowel from the lumberyard as an extension of the handler’s arm/hand. I’d bought a very small diameter dowel for about a quarter and had started using it to apply gentle pressure to my horse in the rib area, releasing when he moved away from it.

Those exercises from the ground, coupled with Curly’s demonstrations inspired me to work with Judge daily.

Since Judge was moving away from the dowel when it was in ‘spur’ position, each direction, I started asking him from in the saddle, using my heel. At the start I had to kick, but within minutes he was moving off my heel, moving his hip away from it.

Then I started asking for front end movement from in the saddle. Holding him steady, facing a fence to stop forward movement, I moved his hip over a step, then kept his hip from moving while asking him to move away from my heel at girth position, all the while holding his head and neck straight using both hands on the reins. He didn’t get it immediately, but within minutes he did and we had moved two steps … one step in back, then one in front.

I kept working until he moved several steps in that direction, with me more or less keeping his body straight.

Then we worked on the other side, and again within minutes, we were moving.

Since I had a metal gate with a wire body that swung easily and was relatively lightweight, I used it as my first gate to open and close from horseback. It worked very well, since I could actually pull it into Judge’s side and body, reinforcing my leg asking for movement. It wasn’t heavy or hard enough to hurt my leg when it pressed on me as well as the horse.

Interesting what we can find to use as ‘aids’ when training a horse …

Back out at Curly’s place doing turnback for him while he worked his horse, I had opportunity to keep reinforcing Judge’s lateral movements.

Curly was very encouraging of my efforts, and offered to let me start following a goat around a corral, coaching me on teaching my horse how to maintain a proper position and distance in order to have the goat go where I wanted it to.

It was such fun that I wanted a goat for my own place, so Curly sold me a Spanish nanny heavily pregnant.

That gave me opportunity to work my horse at home, and in addition when the nanny delivered twins, it was fun for me and for my little daughter.

During the same time frame, I was also taking Judge to our local riding club arena. The club had been formed by a group of calf ropers, and in the process of developing the club and its properties, they had built an arena which was set up for not only roping, but rodeos.

My husband was a roper and had trained his buckskin gelding. Up to this time, I’d been roping off the gelding’s dam, my buckskin mare. I had done her only training, and she never did get really good in the box. My solution was to turn her rear to the arena and when my calf was released, I wheeled her around and she went to it for me to rope. Unorthodox, but it worked well enough that I was able to have a lot of fun roping with the rest of the fellows.

I’d been taking Judge to the arena all along, so now I started him on roping. We eased into it by spending a lot of time in the box, letting calves out without chasing them. Also trailing, or following the calves as we returned them from the pens at the far end of the arena to the roping chutes.

I dragged my lariat off Judge, swung loops, practiced throwing a loop and stepping off as I stopped him, all at home as well as at the arena.

When I felt like he would follow a calf, I took the plunge and backed him into the box and had the men release a calf for us. I urged Judge out of the box just after the calf released the barrier (a rope across the box in front of my horse). He smoothly sped from the box and with minimal help from me, rated the calf. Most of my attention was on swinging my loop and looking for the right time to throw. That happened about 1/3 of the way down the arena.

My loop settled o ver the calf’s head and I pulled Judge up. I wasn’t great at jerking the slack out of my rope, but did a fair job, and the looped stayed secure, stopping the calf.

My husband rode to the calf, dismounted and released it, while I kept Judge backed up enough to hold the rope taut.

We did that a few times then I figured I was ready to dismount when I caught one.

I threw, loop settled, calf was caught, so I started down off my horse and he sat down and stopped beautifully.

But before I could get around his front end to grab the rope and go down it to the calf, the calf turned and ran toward us. Seeing me it, turned again to run away, but by then my backing horse had gotten a front leg over the rope.

Judge kept backing, took slack from the rope, all the while with the rope between his front legs.

Other ropers made moves to come to the rescue of what they saw as a wreck in the making, but Judge never panicked, just held the rope while I got to the calf and pulled the loop off it.

“What a lot of sense that horse has!” they were exclaiming.

Truthfully, I had never even thought for a second that we were in jeopardy. Judge had shown nothing but quiet good sense the entire time I’d had him so far.

Some weekends I’d go to Curly’s and turn back and try working at cutting a little; some weekends I’d rope.

But whatever I was doing, I was always working with Judge on his reining and handling.

I had an area of deep sand at my house and we worked countless hours on loping circles, narrowing down to spins, sliding stops and more. I’d do the same wherever I took him to ride.

I’d memorized the few patterns the AQHA had for reining in the 1960s. It seemed that most shows used pattern 1 or 2. I figured that if I worked all the elements of those patterns that maybe we could do a reining pattern sometime.

The first time came when Judge was 3 years old. There was a Quarter Horse Show in Fort Worth at a saddle club arena.

I loaded up Judge and went.

When the reining class came up, I saw that there were not many entered, maybe 8 or 10. And all of them were men.

It came my turn to work the pattern and although I was nervous, Judge did well.

When the results were called out I had tied for 5th and 6th place with legendary trainer Pine Johnson. He was gracious enough to tell me to take the 5th ribbon home with me. Naturally a placing like that meant more to me than to him, after all there were no points awarded for it. But to this day I remember how nice he was to a first timer, a woman in a man’s sport at that.

Some years later I actually rode with Pine at his place doing some cutting. He and his grandson Keith trained my Appaloosa mare Candy Bar Charge and won cutting in the Appaloosa show at the Fort Worth Stock Show in 1985.

But back to Judge’s story.

In 1966 my husband had died, my 10 year old daughter and I lived alone. We were surrounded by friends, many of them saddle club folks, who loved us and encouraged us through those few years we were alone.

My daughter, Danni would often ride her Daddy’s buckskin gelding and I’d ride Judge on trail rides and at playdays and other events.

One day we had started out on the horses for a ride, and as was his occasional habit, the buckskin began bucking and threw Danni. She wasn’t hurt, but she and I switched horses and she rode my stallion Judge and I rode the gelding the rest of the day. That was typical of the kind of horse Judge Lasan was.

So far I’d done reining, roping and some cutting on Judge. I had started him on barrels and other timed events, too.

By 1968 he was running superb open barrel times and doing a good job in other events. He was a true all-around horse.

At one playday that summer he and my best friend June’s gelding tied for first in barrels, with the first 17 second barrel run ever in our playday district.

Again, it was typical of the horse he was.

I bred my buckskin mare to Judge twice. The first foal was a bay, stocking legged, blaze faced filly. The second was a champagne buckskin filly. Both mares turned out to be great horses, total all arounds that I competed on and my daughter competed on. The bay, GoGo Lasan, won AQHA classes in halter, barrels, and rail events. Danni would show her in rail, I’d run speed on her.

GoGo Lasan, bred to another stallion I later owned, Bar Money Charge, produced Miss Go Lasan. Miss Go Lasan, bred to a son of Docs Lynx, Sterlynx Silver, produced the mare I am riding in the 2000s, Lynx Lasan.

The buckskin mare that started it all in 1950 was ‘Jiggs’, the great grandmother of Lynx Lasan.

Jiggs and Judge were benchmark horses. I have been privileged to keep their blood alive.

The end

Here’s the mare line from Jiggs.

Jiggs free jumping into truck[1].jpgGOGOD~32.jpglasan and young lynx.jpg

Jiggs free loading into truck; GoGo and Danni; Miss Go Lasan and Lynx Lasan