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Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale caps a year of education

April 18, 2011
Coleman Cornelius

Brandon Naysnerski grew up riding horses on his grandparents' cattle ranch, and he followed his passion into professional riding.

Brandon Naysnerski For six years after high school, Naysnerski worked as a professional hunter-jumper rider at Blue Cloud Farms near Longmont. He rode high-spirited warmbloods and thoroughbreds, seasoned equine athletes that often easily clear 4-foot fences on tight, timed courses. Naysnerski traveled to shows throughout the West. He earned championship ribbons, and even year-end honors for hunter-jumper riders in Colorado.

Then Naysnerski, of Longmont, heard about an equine sciences class at Colorado State University that teaches students to train young horses. He jumped back into school, and traded his English saddle for a Western one.

“This has been the biggest learning experience of my horse career, this horse right here,” Naysnerski, 27, recently said, patting the neck of a 2-year-old bay mare named Sixes Trix, who stood quietly in an airy CSU barn and nibbled her trainer’s sweatshirt. “It’s been everything I wanted and more.”

Legends of Ranching sale

Naysnerski’s work with “Trix” will culminate at the sixth annual Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale, held by the CSU Equine Sciences Program at the B.W. Pickett Equine Center on April 30. About 60 quarter horses – more than half of them young horses trained by CSU students – will be offered for sale during the event.

The Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale showcases student achievements gained as a result of industry partnerships, Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, said.

This year, some five dozen CSU undergraduates either trained young horses offered in the sale, or gained experience through related courses in equine sales management and equine event management.

 “The Legends program is significant because it supports experience-based learning for students in one of the nation’s best equine programs. It provides our students with the insights and skills they need to succeed in the agricultural industry,” Beyrouty said. He noted that a majority of CSU Equine Sciences Program graduates go into ag-related careers, ranging from farm management to veterinary medicine.

Top Western ranches involved

This year, the Legends program involves 19 horse ranches, including some of the largest and best-known Western horse operations. Consignors provided yearling and 2-year-old quarter horses to the Equine Sciences Program last fall, allowing students to gain valuable horsemanship and training skills throughout the 2010-2011 academic year.

The Equine Sciences Program then will sell the young horses, along with others consigned, in the Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale this spring.

The average price for horses in last year’s sale was $4,700, and the price of the high-selling horse was $20,000, an indication of pedigree quality. Auction proceeds underwrite sale costs, contribute to student scholarships, and go back to consignors.

Event supports high-profile program

The Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale has helped the CSU Equine Sciences Program earn its reputation as one of the best in the country.

Begun in 1986, the Equine Sciences Program was the first in the United States to offer a four-year equine-science degree; the Program remains one of the only to offer an equine-science major at a public research university. Nearly 400 undergraduates from 39 states are enrolled, according to records.

Clare Schmale, a junior who has trained a 2-year-old blue roan mare nicknamed “Cara,” said the Legends of Ranching program has cemented her career desire to manage her own horse barn, and to train horses and young riders.

“I look back on the point when I got Cara, and I’m shocked at how much I’ve learned, as well as how much she’s learned,” said Schmale, who grew up in Littleton and earned her riding lessons with barn work.

Students train horses in lab

This year, each of 36 students in the Equine Science Program’s horse-training laboratory was assigned a horse at the outset of fall semester. The challenge: With guidance from faculty, transform the halter-broken yearlings into well-mannered and saddle-broken 2-year-olds, nicely started in the Western discipline.

For Naysnerski, working with Trix was the polar opposite of his earlier riding: Instead of riding seasoned competitors, he was challenged to train a filly that spooked at a bag in the wind when he first met her last fall.

Now he deems her quiet, smart and eager to learn.

“I really care about her, and I feel like she’s been good to me,” Naysnerski said. “I’ll definitely miss her, and I’ll definitely feel really proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team. I think whoever gets her will be really pleased with her.”

Sale information

Legends of Ranching Performance Sale. 1 p.m. Saturday, April 30. B.W. Pickett Equine Center, 735 S. Overland Trail, Fort Collins, Colo.

For more information, (970) 491-8373 or  


Contact: Jim Beers
Phone: (970) 491-6401