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Legendary trainer who understood horses, raised champions

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Buster Welch was an American cutting horse trainer and inductee into the NCHA Members Hall of Fame, American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, NCHA Rider Hall of Fame and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He was also named as a recipient of the 2012 National Golden Spur Award for his “outstanding contributions to the ranching and livestock industry”.

Buster remains a legend in horse training, having won the NCHA World Championship four times and the NCHA World Championship Futurity five times.

Buster Welch biography

Buster Welch smiling

Fay Owen “Buster” Welch was born on May 23, 1928, near Sterling City, Texas in the United States of America.

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Buster Welch career

Buster Welch on a horse

Buster was a stubborn boy when he was little and would often run away from home. At the age of 13, he ran away again and led a foul old horse named Handsome Harry away from the house so his family would not hear the horse bawling when it bucked.

From there, he went on to work for Foy and Leonard Proctor, cowmen who handled as many as 30,000 head of cattle a year. Buster began a lowly job by breaking broncs, grubbing prickly pear, chopping firewood, wrangling horses and holding the cut when a big herd was being worked. However, it was a useful skill that he would utilise throughout his illustrious career.

After leaving the Proctors, Buster worked for many prominent ranches, such as the 6666 Ranch, Pitchfork Ranch, King Ranch and Long X, where he honed his skills as a rancher.

At the age of 18, Buster joined the National Cutting Horse Association in the early 1950s and began to establish himself as a horseman able to train a horse to “some degree of finish”. However, his initial dream was to become a cattle rancher. He was running 800 head-on leased land. But a drought shifted his focus to training horses.

Buster worked on a ranch which belonged to Homer Ingham in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he claimed to get “my first real opportunity in training horses”. Buster broke and trained horses for him and also for Warren Shoemaker, his neighbour. Convinced by Shoemaker, Buster bought a six-year-old unbroken stallion named Chickasha Mike for $125 from Ingham. With Chakasha Mike, Buster entered his first competition where he won in five events in 1952.

Throughout his career, Buster trained other championship-winning horses. One of them was Marion’s Girl which was given to him by an oilman named Marion Flynt, who witnessed the young horse trainer’s performance with Mike. Marion’s Girl became a world champion in 1954 and propelled Buster as a celebrity horse trainer.

Other championship-winning horses that Buster worked with include Chickasha Glo, Rey Jay’s Pete, Dry Doc and Peppy San Badge. He also won other three NCHA World Championship titles in 1956, 1974 and 1976. In addition, Buster held the record for the most NCHA World Championship Futurity titles with five title wins (1962, 1963, 1966, 1971 and 1977).

Apart from winning championships, Buster received several awards and honours for his work in the NCHA and Quarter Horse industry. They include the following:

  • 2012 National Golden Spur Award
  • 2006 Western Horseman Award
  • 2004 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame
  • AQHA’s 30-Year Breeder Award
  • American Cowboy Culture Working Cowboy Award
  • Charles Goodnight Award
  • Foy Proctor Memorial Cowman’s Award of Honor
  • Zane Schulte Trainer of the Year
  • Stephenville, Texas, Walk of Fame
  • National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame
  • National Cutting Horse Association Riders Hall of Fame
  • Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame

Also, Buster appeared as himself in the popular television series, Yellowstone. He was in the fifth episode of the fourth season, titled: “Under A Blanket Of Red.”

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Buster Welch’s net worth

Buster had a net worth estimated to be between $6 million to $10 million before his demise.

Buster Welch family

Buster Welch with his wife

Buster’s ancestry dates back to Tennessean roots and family settlements in Texas before the American Civil War. His mother died shortly after he was born. So, he was raised by his grandparents on their stock farm. Buster’s father remarried and moved the family to Midland, Texas, where he worked for Atlantic Richfield.

Buster married Sheila Morris, who was also a cutting horse trainer and competitor. Sheila also won several championship titles and earned over $1 million in NCHA earnings. Buster and Sheila ran their ranch together in Rotan, Texas until she died on December 7, 2014, at age 76. The couple had four biological children: Ken Welch (Dixie), Ruth Ann Welch Williams (Ronnie) and Greg Welch, who is deceased. Additionally, Welch had two stepchildren: Dolin Morris and Nina Finley.

The couple also had 16 grandchildren, some of whom are Amy Welch King (Joshua), Katy Welch, Kelly Welch, Lance Welch (Jacque), Jenny LaSeur (Matt), Abby Howard (Tanner), Dawson Burns (Rebecca), Kirby Meadows (Ward), Brooke Morris (Cole), Charlsi Bethea (Tyler).

Buster had two sisters: Beth Joy (Bob) and Nann McCoy.

Buster Welch age

Buster was 94 years old at the time of his death.

Buster Welch death

Buster died on June 12, 2022, at his home in Abilene, Texas.

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