Trainer, showman, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, judge: these words all describe Mr. George Rose, but the one word that could describe him best is friend. George Rose was born on September 15th, 1914, and was a life long resident of San Benito County, California. George and his brother Harry, who is also in the NRCHA Hall Of Fame, were on horseback from a very early age, and before breakfast their chores consisted of feeding, watering and cleaning the horse’s stalls. The chores didn’t frustrate him and even in his free time George spent as much time with the horses as he could.
George was featured in a 1991 edition of San Benito Magazine. The article describes his immense talent with horses and the good cheer and admiration that fills the air when people talk about him. He learned about hard work at an early age, when at 8 years old, he worked with 7 men, and 8 horses operating the Jr. Monarch hay press which produced 50 tons of hay on a good day. These long hard days built a work ethic and a longing for perfection into George that would last his entire life.
George eventually began training horses, not in corrals, but on the hills of San Benito County. He believed that working them on the land produced a better-finished cow horse, and he never tried to force a horse into something it wasn’t. He just trained the horse to do the very best at what it could naturally accomplish.
In 1936 George began showing the horses he was training. He quickly won acclaim in hackamore and stock horse bridle classes showing in California, Nevada and Oregon. George was soon at the top of the industry, and after his first big wins at Gilroy in 1946 and Salinas in ’47 on Jug, he started filling his rooms with trophies and his trunks with buckles.
1955 was a very special year for George. Winning the Hackamore, and both the Lightweight and Heavyweight bridle classes, he captured the Triple Crown at the Cow Palace. And that same year, his daughter Dianne was chosen out of 28 girls as Sweetheart of the California Rodeo. Considering how he felt about his family, his daughter’s win was probably the biggest win of them all. George went down the road for many years racking up championship after championship. And along with showing, George also judged reined cow horses. If you were showing at the very first Snaffle Bit Futurity, George was marking the cards.
Bolado Park is where the original stock horse competitors honed their skills in the show pen long before the California Reined Cow Horse Association was formed and George rode in the very first show. He didn’t miss one for the following 58 years. Bolado Park hosts a museum that Benny Guitron likens to the cow horse version of the baseball hall of fame… and George Rose is remembered and honored in this prestigious setting for all of his contributions to our industry.
Student, and long time friend Martha Anderson-Cliff gave a personal tribute to George, and said, “The first thing you will notice about George is the vivid sparkle that never leaves his eyes. You don’t even notice their color… just that never ending look of unyielding pride mixed with quick witted humor.” She said, “Wherever George was, there was an order based on an age old wisdom rarely found anywhere, almost an elegance. George was a master, and he commanded respect.” Horse ears and eyes looked differently at George than they did at anyone else. The order of the barn and tack room, the way he did anything from tying knots to holding the reins was with a Zen-like precision. The wrong way to do anything was quite simply never an option.
George was full of pride and said that he had never fallen off a horse while working cattle for 70 some years, but he also added that lots had fallen on him… and they liked to roll around a bit before they got up. It was believed that George held the record for the number of broken legs in the county, but that never stopped him.
George sold many great bridle horses, and gained a reputation in Europe as a legendary trainer and horseman. He sold and exported horses to many countries in Europe and even helped his Italian friend Claudio Massi find a ranch to purchase in Panoche and managed it for him for several years. George also trained Tasa Tivio and Jamine Tivio for the Jensens when they were getting the Doc Bar Ranch started.
One thing that brightened George’s life and put a smile on his face was children. He loved to work with and teach kids about horsemanship and building strong character. He was credited for teaching so many children and teenagers to ride, and many have gone onto championship careers of their own. Longtime student and friend Carol Wangenheim said that if George had not been so generous, she would have never shown cow horses, and ultimately, she owes her entire cow horse show career to him.
George’s first 13 years of showing were done at rodeos and fairs, but it was becoming clearer each year that an association was needed to help govern the competition of the reined cow horse, so in 1949, George, his brother Harry and his good friend Dick Deller joined 24 other cow horse competitors at the Milias Hotel to discuss the founding of a cow horse association. George was one of the NRCHA’s proud founding members.
Dick Deller said, “George inspired a great deal of devotion, love, and friendship, and he had a great life doing what he loved. Alzheimer’s disease slowly took George away from us, but Janice, his devoted wife of 37 years, and many other family members and friends stood by his side and nurtured him at home. Even in his later days, his student and friend Martha Anderson-Cliff remembers visiting him when she didn’t know if she would be recognized. George looked at her and started laughing. He made a gesture with his hands and mumbled about her falling and landing on her rear end. You see; George used to tell her that he was going to get her a parachute to wear when she was working cattle with her horse Buck, and he remembered.
George never lost the sense of humor and charm that captured the imagination of all who knew him, and although many things have been said about him, a poem titled Why God Created George, that was written for his 75th birthday sums up this amazing man very well.
When God created George, he gave us a special friend
To help us understand his world and truly comprehend
The beauty and the wonder of everything we see
And become a better person with each discovery.
When God created George, He gave us a special guide
To show us ways in which to grow, so we can all decide
How to live and how to do what’s right instead of wrong
To lead us so that we can lead and learn how to be strong
Why God created George in his wisdom and his grace
Was to help us learn to make our world a better, wiser place.