John Tolbert 1954 – 2020

April 29th, 2020
John and Clayton Tolbert in 1995.
Sally Harrison photo.

NCHA received word on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, that NCHA Hall of Fame Rider John Tolbert, 64, Andrews, Texas, has passed away.

Tolbert’s many accomplishments as a trainer include the 1993 NCHA Futurity championship win on Bobs Smokin Joe, and the 1985 NCHA Super Stakes co-championship on Boons Sierra. He also claimed two NCHA Futurity reserve championships, in 1984 on Boons Sierra, and in 1991 on Mr Peponita Flo, and was champion of the 1988 PCCHA Futurity on Lenas First Patent.

Tolbert grew up in Goliad, Texas and studied Range Science Management at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. It was while breaking colts at the famous Scharbauer Cattle Company, west of Midland, that Tolbert attended the Stock Show and Rodeo in Odessa, Texas.

“It was one of the first big cuttings that I’d ever seen,” he remembered. “We got to see all of the greats, but Matlock (Rose), in particular, I never will forget. He was riding (NCHA World Champion) Peponita. I had heard about him and about Peponita, but just watching him warm that horse up was one of the highlights of my life. I will never forget that day. I never got to ride any horses that he trained, but after I got to cutting, I learned a lot just by watching him.”

Tolbert joined NCHA in 1978 and became professional in 1981. He realized his first major success in 1984 with Boons Sierra, and although he never had an opportunity to show a horse trained by Matlock Rose, he did show Peponita’s son, Mr Peponita Flo, in the 1991 NCHA Futurity, where they were narrowly defeated, 224 points to 223.5, by Little Tenina and Greg Welch.

In addition to his 1993 Futurity win with Bobs Smokin Joe, Tolbert also showed the Bob Acre Doc gelding, owned by Ping Gough, to win the 1994 Abilene Spectacular and to claim the reserve championship in the 1994 NCHA Derby.

“It’s really fun being associated with a guy that’s a real cowboy,” said Graham, Texas rancher Gough, after the NCHA Futurity win. “John is a real cowboy and a real horseman.”

Details and arrangements are pending.