Ronnie Willis was a contemporary of Tom Dorrance’s, and they worked as cowboys on different ranches in California as young men. Ronnie could get more done with a horse, with less effort, than anyone else I ever got to ride with. I consider him a mentor and he is one of the voices I hear in my head when I ride and teach.

At a gathering in Fort Worth in 2001, honoring Tom Dorrance, I asked Ronnie to tell me his favorite story about Tom. Here it is:

In the early ‘70s , Ronnie was riding a gelding that he really liked, except for the fact that, about every 6 months, this horse would buck him off without any warning. Ronnie asked Tom to come over and have a look. Tom sat on the fence and asked Ronnie to ride the horse off at a walk. Two steps into it, Tom said “Wait. Come back.” Ronnie came back, and Tom asked him to walk off again. Ronnie rode his horse about 5 steps, and Tom said, “I see it.” Of course, Ronnie was completely puzzled.

The answer: Tom said, “You’re not taking your horse with you when you leave. You’re leaving him behind.” Ronnie told me that to him, this meant including his horse in his intentions to leave.

I love this story and I think of it all the time as I bring my life up and ask her to go with me.

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