Tracy Barton was born in Idaho and grew up in Redmond, Ore. An uncle, Jess Turner, was a cutting horse trainer and cowboyed in the area, and from the seventh grade through high school, Barton worked for him.
“As soon as I graduated,” Barton says, “my uncle told me, ‘If you want to be in the cutting horse business you gotta learn to handle cattle.’ So I went down to Arizona and stayed there eight months punching cattle. From there I got a job in Millsap, Texas, with Greg Welch [son of cutting horse legend Buster Welch]from 1984 through the summer of 1987.”
Barton started TTB Cutting Horses in 1997 in Penhook, Va. His willingness to haul horses tens of thousands of miles each year from Virginia to compete in a large number of high-quality shows where he could showcase his talents resulted in increased exposure and, eventually, unprecedented success. Over his 25-year career, Barton has earned more than $1.7 million in winnings and more Congress Championship titles (34) than any rider in history. He was inducted into the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2005.
“It’s not a nine-to-five,” Barton says. “I got into the business because I love horses. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.”
Barton attributes his success, in part, to having worked with legendary cutting horse trainers like the Welchs and stints with various trainers in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Barton also credits his accomplishments to the loving support of his wife, Sue, and their children, Travis and Emma Rae, who often travel to shows with Barton, where they all live in the family RV.
Last year Barton uprooted from Virginia and moved his TTB operation and family to North Ridge Ranch in Pierre, S.D., where he teamed up with ranch owner and cutting horse breeder Jerry Ward. Famous as the backdrop of the film Dances with Wolves, this 6,000-acre ranch has a new, state-of-the art indoor facility and plenty of room for the 45 horses Barton typically keeps in training.