by Corey Fagan
Women are diverse in many applications of life. I believe that when we are in alignment with who we are, we will choose the things in life that we love. We will be able to find pride in what we accomplish, because it is within direct association of that which defines us. Careers are then joyful, hobbies bring about satisfaction, and life is peaceful and strengthened with love. By choosing what we love, we are able to stay within the moment, and the outcomes become that which we cannot measure, for they are matters that fill space within the heart. Gifted with the ability to love without condition, teach as we speak, listen without bias, lead with purpose, and encourage despite our own struggles. I am continually honored to meet these women throughout this incredible journey.
Bonnie Martin, of Las Vegas, Nevada is one of these amazing women. A feeling of peacefulness overcomes me upon arriving at her serene, exquisite, and breathtaking ranch. Immediately greeted by equine friends grazing nearby, I am drawn to a sign warning me to drive slowly, due to deaf dogs and children playing, which immediately brings me into present time, aware I have stepped into a life, although the scenery depicts a Norman Rockwell painting.
Bonnie’s story didn’t begin here, although she has lived the better part of her life building this ranch, along side of her husband of 43 years, Frank Martin, and raising her two boys Guy and Jerrod. Bonnie’s passion for horses and God’s vision for her life is what her heart followed. Bonnie said, “God gives you the vision, there are so many people to touch out there, and this is such a spirit filled sport, until God gives me a passion for something else this is where I need to be.” Bonnie remembers the very first time she started loving horses, and it never let up. Bonnie said, “I didn’t have a horse when I was young, my parents couldn’t afford it, and so I would clean corrals just so I could ride horses.” Her parents did all they could to get her interested in “ANYTHING” else. When she first began riding a horse, her mother, Doris Bryan, was pretty serious when she said, “Don’t ask to join any clubs…” Bonnie remembers this with a heart filled smile. “My mom said she thought I was born in the wrong era. They even tried to buy me a dog, if I would just stop wanting a horse.” Chuckling, Bonnie told me “I agreed, I was a young girl and thought, alright I will get Rin Tin Tin!” However, Christmas morning came and a tiny basket in the corner of the tree held a little fluff of a Pomeranian. Not quite what Bonnie had in mind. So back to her true passion went her heart. Bonnie found out later that horses are in her genes and decided…don’t fight it. Her grandfather, Elijah Broadhead, broke horses for the army back in the late 1800’s. While we shared a moment of her grandfathers old photos hanging proudly in the hall; she said, “This was a time when soldiers rode horses and the world traveled in covered wagons.” We realized that although it was some time ago, it wasn’t that distant after all. Reminding us of the important jobs these amazing horses had carrying our soldiers, and how we depended on their steadiness and honesty.
After continually begging, at 14 Bonnie was gifted with her first horse named Dotty. Her dad was a painter and he was painting a school in Alamo, Nevada. Every time he headed home there was this little Paint Mustang in a pasture of a house he passed by. One day he stopped in and said, “I notice you have a horse, would you like to sell it?” The owner wanted $75. Her dad said, “I don’t have an extra $75 but I do have some paint left over... I’ll paint your house for the horse.’ Bonnie now had her horse, and her first bareback pad was an old toilet seat cover. She entered gymkhana events and taught Dotty tricks. A couple years later when Bonnie was 16 her dad sat her down again! “This time my dad said, “if you sell your horse I will buy you a car”. He even gave her a choice of the newest Ford Mustang, or Ford Falcon.” Bonnie laughed “I didn’t want to give up my horse, but my dad said sleep on it.” Well, we can all figure out that there was no need to sleep on it. Bonnie was keeping her horse. “So I would clean the pool, mow the lawns, clean my two older brothers rooms earning an allowance to keep my horse. “ She said.
The horse world continued from there for Bonnie. She got great at running barrels and met and began dating Frank Martin, her husband, through a 4H group they were both involved in. “We would have found each other eventually, but it happened through the horses. This is something we always have had in common.” Bonnie stated affectionately. They were married right out of high school. .
Frank found a love for Cutting and Bonnie went into Rodeo. But, this arrangement kept them apart much too long. So Bonnie decided to try Cutting. And first time out, she thought “I can do this!” Although, she didn’t quite realize the commitment it was going to take to excel at this sport, she knew it was the right choice because it meant they could do it together. “There is a lot more to this than meets the eye. “ Bonnie said. “We started cutting without a trainer, and found out quickly that it was more than just getting out there in the herd… They have been training since the mid 70’s with trainers like Troy Davis, Scott Weis, and currently with Phil Hansen. Bonnie said “We found out many things along the way; it costs as much to feed a mediocre horse… as it does, to feed a show horse. We learned to practice on a “Practice Horse” and show on your “Show Horse”. “
A great trainer can see the big picture. Bonnie said that Scott Weis was a great coach. He could coach you during your run quickly, because he was so talented that he could read your moves, while knowing what the cow was doing; he could see the big picture with the ability to coach you through it. Phil Hansen is great because he knows our weaknesses, and he watches. “You have to remain coachable.” said Bonnie.
All of that training has paid off, as Bonnie was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame in 2010. Frank and Bonnie were also inducted into the PCHA Hall of Fame that same year. “This isn’t something you go into expecting this outcome. I feel blessed for this honor and even more blessed to have made a second family.” Bonnie says you create special bonds with the people you spend time with in this industry. “You cry when they cry, you laugh when they laugh, you genuinely care.” She remembers, while being inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame, she was so excited to introduce her children and their families to her second family of Cutters. Unlike historical days, when these families would only get together during ranch sorting, with current technology everyone gets to stay in touch all year long.
Bonnie loves this sport because she can travel with her husband. She loves the even playing field, and the individuality. “I am completely in the moment, trying to master the sport. When I go to the herd, I cut the cow I want and then I just want to beat the cow…” she continued “ It’s not about winning or doing better than someone else. If I do my job then the scores take care of themselves. The last thing on your mind shouldn’t be your score, when you go into that herd. It should be your run. “
Bonnie followed God’s plan and realized her dream. She raised her boys on her now 17 acre ranch. All of which comes together through dedication and hard work on everyone’s part. Her boys would go to school, 25 plus miles away, and then come home to do chores and cut. Her youngest, Jerrod, was in high school rodeo, and made state and national finals two years in a row. Bonnie’s daily routine is to tend to 30 to 90 head of cattle and work the two year olds. Then in the middle of the day, maybe she has to switch hats and get ready to be by her husband’s side for an important business dinner. So she dusts her boots off, and gets ready. Her biggest high, is to watch new life come in during foaling season. Bonnie said “There is nothing better than to watch these babies born. This is my dream, when these babies look up at you and take that first breath of air. This is coolness.” The rewards are endless with now with two daughters-in-law, Trish and Sara, and five grandchildren. The kids come out to play on the ranch. She is proud of each of them and their passions. Makena, a softball star; Garrett, the Karate champ, Travis loves roller hockey, and Ryann is very active in the school band. Olivia, may hold those Broadhead genes true as she is grandma’s little cow girl. She is over the top with compassion for animals and a natural around the ranch.
Frank and Bonnie are very active with Opportunity Village in Las Vegas, Nevada. “My Uncle Lavelle had some challenges in life, and around the time Frank started his own business, my Uncle would come in and fly his paycheck proudly. It might have been very small, but the sense of pride was huge. Someone counted on him and it gave him purpose, he felt needed. This has always made such an impression on Frank. This began the zeal for this charity. The Martin’s were very instrumental in getting the new campus built in the Las Vegas area. Each year they hold a fund-raiser at their ranch. Bonnie says “It’s a way to share a little bit of our life with others.” She continued “People enjoy coming out to the ranch, they enjoy supporting a great cause. We put on some demonstrations with the horses and they just love it.” It happens to be right around Rancho Murieta, but thanks to dedicated efforts, and the great little airport in Murieta, she makes it happen.
I asked Bonnie her most memorable moment in the industry. She replied “The few years that I showed Kittens. Riding her was awesome, and you remember that, when you have been overly blessed in a few short years.” I asked, “What made Kittens so unique?” She replied, “Her style, the way she dre w a cow to her and completely mesmerized the cow. She loved her job and people would come to watch her because she had such style.” Kittens, now an eight year old, remains a part of the ranch family, they now have seven Pepto Boonsmal babies from her. She is currently Bonnie’s most memorable horse. Bonnie shared her greatest experience with me, “I won the summer spectacular in March 2010 in Fort Worth with Ruby’s Royal CD; when you win at Fort Worth you feel like you have accomplished something and it’s just two and a half minutes of everything coming together. But, it sticks with you.”
Bonnie sees a lot of upcoming talent in the Cutting Industry within our youth. She would say to those getting started in the industry; “Understand the financial commitment, find a trainer that you know is very successful right now today. Styles in the industry continually evolve. Make sure your trainer has some successful non pros. You have to be coachable and your trainer has to be able to train in the middle of your performance.” Bonnie would also say to follow God’s plan and have faith in that plan. She left me with a powerful scripture from Hebrews 6:10. A delightful woman, who is definitely following God’s plan for her life, while touching so many others around her.
I think, now as we begin the year 2012, and reflect on these women filled with grace and strength. We can gather hope and power as we approach our goals and visions by remembering to “Follow God’s plan” allowing the true vision of our lives to play! I believe it will be beautiful.