The sounds of Pow-Wow music, colourful dancers, riders and horses, along with a thousand smiling faces was the major theme at Rocky Mountain Turf Club this past weekend. The event was well attended and the handle on the two pari-mutuel races was outstanding again.
The Blackfoot Canadian Cultural Society, along with Rocky Mountain Turf Club were the sponsors and coordinators of the event and based on the success of the event this year in both the spring and fall meet, you can rest assured that it will be back bigger and better than ever next year.
Rusty Smith is truly one of the good guys in the horse racing world and is proud of his Aboriginal roots. Rusty was surrounded by horses at a very young age. Horses were his families transportation when he was a child and they were used to fetch water and wood, among other necessities of life. Rusty was soon involved in breaking horses for his family. His parents passed away when Rusty was young. His grandfather was Tom Yellow Horn, who was heavily involved in the horse world at the time.
Rusty's father was a rodeo rider and Rusty followed his father's background and began training horses for team penning. Rusty also rode Buffalo at the Calgary Stampede as a young man. He claims Buffalo make Brahma Bulls look like nothing to ride in comparison.
Rusty soon began apprenticing in training thoroughbreds at the race track. After a few years of that, Rusty went on his own as a full-time trainer. Rusty says today at his age he is focusing on helping young native people get involved in horse racing and it's working out well. Cody Eagle Bear is one of Rusty's prized pupils and Rusty says with great pride that Cody has a horse that has qualified for a big race at Los Al. Rusty thinks Cody will carry on to have great success.
Rusty also takes pride in helping out young riders who come to the track. Corrine Andrus is one example of a young rider that Rusty has helped out and she later went on to Woodbine race track in Ontario as a rider. Rusty says he's not here to say, "I do this and I did that, I'm just hear to help people". Rusty prefers to stay in the background and if someone needs help, he's there to provide it. Rusty plans to train horses and help young people the rest of his life. Rusty will do whatever he can to help motivate young people. When someone asks Rusty why his horses do so well, he explains that horses are like people, if you treat people good they will treat you good and the same goes for horses, if you treat them good, they will treat you good.
Rusty likes to pick up horses that have problems and figuring them out and turning them into good race horses. One of Rusty's horses, "Wirebound", came to Rusty with problems and Rusty was able to get to the root of it and go on to have some wins with "Wirebound" this year. Rusty talks about some of the nice horses he's had such as "Cherokee's Glory" and "Eighty-Eight". He is proud that he retired "Cherokee's Glory" as a sound horse and this is the last year, "Eighty-Eight", will be running. Rusty takes pride in the fact that "Eighty-Eight" has been used for the Indian Relay Races and then returns to being a race horse. Rusty's goal for "Eighty-Eight" is the same as for all of his horses that are retired, and that is finding a good home for him.
Rusty will be looking for a couple of new horses next year. He looks for horses that have a few problems because he loves to figure them out and turn them into good race horses. Rusty says he has never claimed a horse in his entire racing career and doesn't think he ever will. Rusty feels if he likes a horse, he will go and ask how much the person wants for the horse. Rusty feels that way there is no animosity with anyone. Rusty feels he has enough of his own problems to take care of and doesn't need to add to anything. Rusty keeps to himself at the track and if anyone needs help, he's there. Rusty says there lots of people who helped him along the way and they know who they are. Rusty loves to have a reason to get up in the morning and hopes are that reason for the rest of his life. Rusty stands about 6'3" and you could probably add another two or three inches with the cowboy had that is part of his anatomy. In spirit, Rusty stands ten feet tall as as a quality human being.