Lyle Lovett with horse

Cowboy Man: Lyle Lovett

On Horses and Life

PHOTO BY ELIZABETH HAY PHOTOGRAPHY

Grammy Award-Winning Musician Lyle Lovett on his Life, Deep Love for the Horse and Once-in-a-Lifetime Connection to Great Reining Stallion Smart and Shiney

Music has defined so much of who we are. It’s there for the good times, engraining itself in the soul, enlivening the human spirit and breeding invigoration and unabashed joy. It’s there for the hurt and melancholy too, soothing, commiserating and somehow listening to all that ails us. Note by note, music stands beside us as we celebrate, cope, love and attempt to define who we are and what exactly we’re feeling in the moment. The voices that bring a lyric to life grow to become like old friends who we count on to unwaveringly be right there when we call on them. One such voice who has so poetically crooned the American spirit is the unmistakable Lyle Lovett. Waters run deep in the soul of this man; someone who the world knows for his voice set to music. Ask anyone who’s had the opportunity to take a more personal look, however, and they’ll tell you that he’s, in fact, most comfortable with his boot in a stirrup. While music may have made his dreams come true, the horse is truly what calls to him.

“I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t have something to do with a horse.”
— Lyle Lovett, American Quarter Horse Breeder, 4-Time Grammy Award-Winning Recording Artist and Platinum Performance® Client Since 2005

Decades before the limelight, Lovett’s story starts in a small Texas town where his love of a simple life and his passion for the horse were woven into his soul from the outset. Born in 1957 outside of Houston, Lovett was raised on his great-great-grandfather’s farm. Established in the 1840s, Lovett is in the fifth generation of his family to call the hallowed pastures home since birth. Now, years later, he and his own family still reside there. The land is sacred to Lovett, with views that meld memories of his past with the here and now of a life well lived and a future for his young children amongst the wild Texas landscape and the horses that he loves. “I can go out and stand under a live oak tree that my grandfather planted when he was a young man, and that I got to stand under with my grandfather when I was just a boy. That physical reminder of him, it brings him back to me, it brings my family back to me and it brings my growing up back to me. My mom, uncle and several cousins still live on the farm. It’s our family home, and I just feel so lucky to still be able to raise my children here,” says Lovett in earnest of the land that built him. With world travel, fame and a permanent place amongst the most storied stars of country music, Lovett is just as proud of his Texas roots. “I’ve traveled enough to figure out that home is where I really want to be,” he says. Lovett has seen more than most in his lifetime and experienced the extreme highs of otherworldly success in music. He’s a four-time Grammy Award winner, singer, songwriter, actor and record producer whose public life is juxtaposed with a private life beyond the footlights and, instead, under the wide-open sky of southeast Texas.

Lyle Lovett on horse, Smart And Shiney

Lyle Lovett rides his Equi-Stat Million Dollar Sire, Smart And Shiney
PHOTO BY JOHN BRASSEAUX

Lyle Lovett playing the guitar

Grammy Award-winning musician Lyle Lovett has always had a deep love and appreciation for horses.
PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

A proud member of the Texas A&M University class of 1979, Lovett began his career like most, penning music and performing solo acoustic sets at the beloved local dive bars just off campus in College Station, Texas. First approached for his songwriting talents, Lovett quickly earned a recording contract with MCA records in 1986 and went on to release 13 albums and 25 singles, amassing international recognition along the way. “It is the biggest privilege in the world to be able to do something that you like to do every day of your life,” he says with sincere gratitude. That’s the thing about him: he’s genuine, contemplative and exceptionally grateful. Perhaps it’s his roots on the family farm that showed him the value of hard work. There, he saw his dedicated family follow their hearts and teach him to do the same. “I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to grow up and be able to do what you want to do?’ I feel so fortunate that, every day of my life, whether it’s in the music business or getting to work with my horses, I spend every day of my life doing something that I love to do. That’s one reason I enjoy the horse community so much, because the horse trainers I get to work with, the real professionals, they’re immensely talented, but they are people who do what they love to do every day of their lives. It’s nice to be around people who are happy like that.” Those sentiments are truly indicative of who Lovett is — after so much success all he really ever wanted was to be happy. Reaching the pinnacle in an industry he loves is an accomplishment any musician, including Lovett, tirelessly strives for. Behind the scenes and throughout it all, however, he always came back to the horse as his respite and the piece of his past that continued to feed his soul for the future. “I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t have something to do with a horse,” he says looking back.

Lyle Lovett childhood photo
Lyle Lovett childhood photo

On the family farm, riding horses was simply part of daily life but so was racing horses. Lovett’s uncle was an avid Quarter Horse racer and often saw a young Lovett tagging along to the tracks from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Ruidoso, New Mexico. “I didn’t grow up going to horse shows,” confirms Lovett. “It wasn’t until much later that I was really exposed to reining.” It was 2001 when Lovett and wife April Kimble — a fellow Texan and his girlfriend at the time — attended the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) in Katy, Texas, with friends. He watched famed reining trainer Tim McQuay pilot Smart Shiner and saw countless other stars in the reining world run, stop and spin that day. “I thought, ‘Gosh that looks like fun. This is the best thing ever,’ ” remembers Lovett. The rest, as they say, is history. Lovett never looked back. He fostered a passion for reining and reining horses that lives on to this day. As in most things that capture his interest, Lovett dove into the reining world with purpose, becoming close friends of the McQuay and McCutcheon families and developing into a skilled competitor and breeder in his own right. It wasn’t until a handful of years later, however, that Lovett’s path would cross with the horse that changed his stars. “You hear people talk about great horses, those once-ina- lifetime horses — I didn’t have that sense until the first time I rode Smart and Shiney,” he says of his first encounter with the stunning palomino stallion who has defined his breeding program. “I got to practice on him at the McQuay’s and then show him. I thought to myself, ‘He makes me feel like I know what I’m doing,’ ” Lovett says with a laugh. “It was just awesome. I realized right then, ‘Gosh, I know what they’re talking about when they say there’s a difference among horses.’ You know, there's not a bad horse and all horses can be as good as they can be, but just like with people, some horses are better at some things than others are. Riding Smart and Shiney to a stop was a feeling that I had never experienced until I sat on him and did that,” says Lovett, still in awe of the horse that gave him freedom and an incomparable sense of exhilaration in the saddle.

“You hear people talk about great horses. Those once-in-a-lifetime horses. I didn’t have that sense until the first time I rode Smart and Shiney.”
— Lyle Lovett, American Quarter Horse Breeder, 4-Time Grammy Award-Winning Recording Artist and Platinum Performance® Client Since 2005

Lovett may hold the horse community dear to him, but perhaps what draws that community back to him so strongly is that he’s not simply a celebrity with a fleeting fascination for the sport they love. He’s a horseman, a scholar of the horse and a kind and gentle soul whose mission is to ensure he leaves the Quarter Horse better than he found it. Renowned for the attention he pays to the care and betterment of his horses both in the show pen and the breeding barn, Lovett is respected in both reining and veterinary circles. “I’ve worked with great veterinarians like Drs. Cliff Honnas, Leslie Easterwood, Kurt Heite, Dickson Varner and Joe Carter,” says Lovett of the horse doctors who have so thoughtfully cared for and healed his beloved herd at one point or another over the years. “When you meet a person who’s involved with horses, you have something in common immediately and you speak the same language. I just have so much admiration and respect for these veterinarians,” he insists. A key piece of Lovett’s breeding program and success in competition has been his focus on nutrition. “I feel much better when I eat right, nutrition is just so important. Horses are such magnificently complicated animals, they’re so grand. If you don’t give a horse the proper nutrition, then their health can go backwards way quicker than it can go forwards. We’ve always done our absolute best to feed the very best to our horses, and Platinum has been a part of our program for 20 years. It’s the only supplement that was recommended by every veterinarian I worked with across the board.”

Lyle Lovett on horse, Smart and Shiney

PHOTO BY JOHN BRASSEAUX

Smart and Shiney

Lifetime Earnings: $150,000+

Owned by Lyle Lovett, this stunning Palomino Stallion by Smart Shiner and out of Tronas Pearl is currently standing at Tom McCutcheon Reining Horses in Aubrey, TX.

Highlights:

  • Equi-Stat Million Dollar Sire
  • 2010 World Equestrian Games Team Bronze
  • 2009 NRBC Open Classic Top 10
  • 2008 Cowboy Capital Classic Open Derby Champion
  • 2008 NRHA Open Derby Top 10
  • 2007 NRBC Open Derby Finalist
  • 2006 NRHA Open Futurity Top 12 Finalist

Other Accomplishments:

  • 102.5 AQHA points with a Superior in Reining
  • Top 10 at the 2009 NRBC Open Classic
  • 2009 NRBC Open Prelim Co-Champion
  • Top 12 Finalist in the 2006 NRHA Open Futurity
  • Finalist in the 2006 NRHA Open Futurity
  • Finalist at the 2007 NRBC Classic Open Derby
  • Split 6th at the 2006 SWRHA Open Futurity
  • 5th in the 2008 High Roller Reining Classic Open Derby
  • Split 4th at the 2007 NRHA Primetime Derby
  • 5th at the NRHA Primetime Derby
  • 2007 World Show Qualifier Junior Reining and Performance Halter Stallion

Smart and Shiney’s Platinum PAKs® include: Platinum Performance® CJ, Platinum Potency® and Platinum Motility Plus®

Inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2012 and awarded the National Reining Horse Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, Lovett’s devotion to the horse and to reining has been valued and recognized by people who matter deeply to him. “Through the years I’ve met so many wonderful horse folks. Carol Rose sold me my first performance horses and trained them for me. I’ve gotten to work in the reined cow horse with Robbie Boyce and with Todd Crawford and in the reining with Tim and Colleen McQuay and now Tom and Mandy McCutcheon,” he says listing just a brief roster of significant players in the horse world who Lovett calls his close friends. “It’s the horse who introduced me to all those people,” he says, acknowledging the animal who’s given him so much. “I’ve always thought that success is being able to do well enough to be able to keep doing what you love. I love being connected to the land and to my heritage and being able to do it through having a few horses and raising a few babies.

Lyle Lovett riding horse

PHOTO BY MEGAN PARKS

Lyle Lovett

PHOTO BY DAVID R. STOECKLEIN

It’s a wonderful feeling to breed a horse that goes on to have accomplishments in the show pen.” Lovett has come full circle in a way. Born and raised on his family’s beloved farm, then venturing out to show the world his gifts. Today, he remains a worldwide superstar, but he’s gratefully right back where he started in the best of ways. A devoted husband, father and student of the horse, Lyle Lovett is a man who surrounds himself with what he loves — family, good friends and the horses that bring him fulfillment. “Horses hold a mirror up to your character, they teach us about ourselves,” he says thoughtfully. While his voice will continue to endear crowds for years to come, his gentle touch and kind dedication to the horse will be his quiet legacy. It’s an almost lyrical sight to watch the legend that is Lyle Lovett in his true element. Ostrich boots slide into leather stirrups and a suede chap-clad leg swings over the saddle. Smart and Shiney and Lovett take a synchronized breath, deep and slow. They’re together, content and at peace, right where they’re both meant to be.

Jessie Bengoa

by Jessie Bengoa,
Platinum Performance®

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