Famed cutting horse trainer and longtime Ranching Heritage Association member Buster Welch passed away peacefully at home in Abilene, Texas, on June 12, 2022.
Though a new generation of Western enthusiasts might know him as “one of the three gods in the state of Texas” from his cameo in season 4 of Yellowstone, Welch was a legend long before this television appearance. He was one of the rare links to the world of old-time cowboys and the open-range methods of working with cattle and horses.
A Texas native, Welch knew he wanted to cowboy from an early age. As a child, he would often skip school to visit the stockyards. There, he learned to ride broncs. At 13, he left home to work for cattlemen Foy and Leonard Proctor in Midland, Texas. This launched a lifelong career working for ranches; after leaving the Proctors’, he honed his horsemanship skills working for prominent ranches including the 6666 Ranch, Pitchfork Ranch, and King Ranch.
By the early 1950s, Welch had begun making a name for himself as a cutting horse rider and trainer. In a competition career that spanned decades, Welch collected awards and accolades beyond measure.
He won the National Cutting Horse Association World Championship four times and the NCHA World Championship Futurity five times and was inducted into the NCHA Members Hall of Fame, the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, and the Texas Cowboys Hall of Fame. He also received the Charles Goodnight Award and AQHA’s 30 Year Breeder Award.
In 2012, he was chosen as the recipient of the National Golden Spur Award for his “outstanding contributions to the ranching and livestock industry.”
Though possessing only an eighth-grade education, Buster was a voracious reader and lifelong learner. His unadulterated passion for his lifestyle, incredible grasp of the history of his people and his land, and his authenticity and ability in every setting attracted people of all stripes to his sphere. World business leaders, heads of states, prize-winning authors, and the jet-set of Hollywood were drawn to his easy charm and prepossessing charisma. Working cowboys and horse trainers would flock to his ranch to hang on his every word for insights into his otherworldly abilities with horses and cattle. Vast and varied are the people whom he called friends.
In lieu of flowers, Buster’s obituary requests that donations be made to the organizations he supported, including the National Ranching Heritage Center. If you are moved to support the mission of preserving the ranching way of life in Buster’s name, you can make a memorial contribution here.