Legendary cutting horse trainer Buster Welch, 94, passed away on June 12, 2022, at his home in Abilene, Texas. A recipient of many honors, including induction into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame, as well as the National Cutting Horse Association Riders and Members Halls of Fame, Welch leaves behind indelible tracks not only as the trainer and rider of some of cutting’s greatest champions, but as an inspiration to generations of riders, and as an impassioned promoter of the cutting horse as a legacy of the American West.
A famous photo of Welch and Mr San Peppy, working a cow against a vast herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle on an open range, tells much about the man and his methods. “There is something about doing things with a purpose on a horse that is different,” said Welch, who learned from watching seasoned ranch hands that he worked with and admired as a youth. “More than going out and wandering around or loping in circles, his mind is alert and he learns from that. He seems to sense you’re doing something with a purpose.”
Born on May 23, 1928, Welch was raised on his grandparents’ stock farm and attended public school in Midland, Texas until, at the age of 13, he began working for daily wages on local ranches. By the time he was 15, breaking colts and riding herd at the Proctor Ranch outside of Midland, he was committed to a future with cattle and horses. Over the next 10 years he graduated to outfits of other large and storied West Texas ranches, where he continued to cultivate his natural talent for working with horses and people.
By the early 1950’s, Welch found he could make extra money training cutting horses for contests offered by the recently founded National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA). With clients like Marion Flynt and S.J. Agnew, and horses such as Marion’s Girl and Mr. San Peppy, Welch became an innovator and moving force in the cutting industry.
He won the NCHA World Championship in 1954 and 1956 on Flynt-owned Marion’s Girl, and showed Mr San Peppy, owned by King Ranch, to win the 1974 and 1976 NCHA World titles. In 1977, when he sold Mr San Peppy’s son Peppy San Badger (“Little Peppy”) to the King Ranch, Welch became cutting horse trainer for the world’s most celebrated cattle empire. His fifth NCHA Futurity win, that same year on Little Peppy, is a record that still stands today. His other NCHA Futurity wins include the event’s first two titles, aboard Money’s Glo in 1962 and on Chickasha Glo in 1963, and 1966 and 1971 wins on Rey Jay’s Pete and Dry Doc, respectively.
Preceded in death by Sheila, his wife of 42 years, son Greg Welch, granddaughter Whitney Welch, and grandson Sterling Wilson. Buster Welch is survived by sons Ken Welch and Dolin Morris; daughters Ruth Ann Williams, Georgia Welch, and Nina Finley; as well as 10 grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.