The horse’s hooves fall softly on the loose arena sand. The occasional creak of the saddle carries on the breeze as the equine and rider move in tandem, working a cow back and forth against the back wall of the cedar plank-lined pen.
The horse, a quarter horse stallion named Hollywood, begins to turn and box the cow on his own as years of training and conditioning take over. This is something that thrills his owner and rider.
“Did you see him? He got in there and just turned her,” said Troy Rogers from astride Hollywood. “Good boy.”
For more than two decades, Rogers has been working to get where he is today — on six quiet acres in Los Trujillos, south of Belen.
He shares it with his wife, Diane DeBlanc, who is an equine veterinarian, a friendly pack of dogs, several horses and a few dozen head of cattle.
But Rogers isn’t what would be called a “gentleman rancher.” He has worked diligently to become one of the best competitors in the stock horse world and one of the most highly sought instructors in the southwest.
He is a versatility ranch/stock horse and working cow horse competitor, clinician and coach. Rogers has had success and won championship awards in numerous performance horse events, including working cow horse, reining, versatility ranch/stock horse, team penning and ranch sorting.
Rogers has put his skills to the test and taken numerous home awards in the last few years, including being named the Region 5 – Open Division All-Around Champion and an American Quarter Horse Association Working Cow Horse and All-Around National Champion in 2010.
Rogers is also an AQHA judge for versatility ranch horse and with the American Stock Horse Association.
To get to that level, Rogers is up early every day, training and teaching, traveling the region hosting clinics and events. His students have enjoyed success over the years in youth, novice and non-pro classes most everywhere they go.
His success wasn’t easy and it didn’t come fast. Working full time for Purina Mills as an equine nutritionist, Rogers traveled the region selling high-quality feed and helping breeders and owners set up their own feeding programs.
After 25 years, Rogers retired from Purina this year and can now dedicate himself to his labor of love and passion — his company, 4R Performance Livestock, which was built during vacations and free time while he worked.
He draws students from southern and eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado and Arizona. Rogers teaches them and their horses how to be competitive, high-end, versatile cow horses.
“We turn out all around quality horses. You can rope from them, do ranch cutting, team roping. People bring me their horses after they have some good foundation work,” Rogers said. “I help them work on controlling the head and neck, shoulders, rib cage, hips, so the horses can do these movements. It’s like figure skating on a horse.”
In the end, his clients end up being “pretty high end. This is performance horsemanship. It’s a niche I have here.”
The niche Rogers created here in Valencia County comes from his deep family roots in the farming and ranching way of life. Born and raised in the small rural community of St. Francis, Kan., horses and cattle were no strangers to Rogers.
Both sides of his family worked farms and ranches; his uncles were team ropers and bulldoggers.
“I grew up with all that,” he said.
When he was 11, his parents divorced and four years later, he and his mother relocated to Albuquerque. There was much opportunity for a single mother to make a living in ranch territory, he said.
Even though he finished high school at Sandia High in the middle of the city, Rogers never quite shook off his upbringing. Holiday trips back to Kansas were full of riding, ranch work and the occasional early morning birth during calving season.
After he graduated from high school, Rogers went to the University of New Mexico and earned a bachelors in business. With his degree in hand, Purina Mills offered him a job.
“They liked that I had the hands-on experience with horses,” he said.
After all, you can’t sell a product unless you know the customer. As an equine nutritionist, Rogers got to set up feeding programs for ranchers and horse breeders across New Mexico and Arizona.
“I met and rode with a lot of horse owners and made friends throughout New Mexico and Arizona,” he said.
He also found a lot of good customers there too — riders who wanted to perfect their reining, cutting and cow-horse skills.
“These folks are very passionate about learning and getting better,” he said. “To do this is a personal passion for me, a joy.”
Some of the joy of teaching riders and horses how to improve comes from the competitions he and his students enter. While there is some prize money for top placers, it’s not enough to offset expenses.
“It’s more of a love of the lifestyle — the spirit, the thrill of competition, challenge of competing,” Rogers said.
Life on his six acres isn’t all about the competition and the prizes, Rogers says. Yes, he wins awards, breeds horses and teaches, but the two-dozen head of cattle he keeps on hand goes beyond the convenience of having a live animal for a horse to work.
He buys them small, fattens them up on quality hay and grain, and sells them back for a small gain. And if he gets a sick one, he doctors it and nurses it along.
“It’s not just about riding and competing. It’s working with the cattle,” Rogers said. “It’s something in my blood, what I grew up with.”
A big part of the reason he wanted to continue the lifestyle he was raised in was to pass it on to his daughter.
“I wanted to able to offer this kind of life to my daughter. It’s very rewarding. The cowboy lifestyle is about family working together to accomplish a common goal,” he said. “You can’t build that life and be successful without the help of everyone.”
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