Lane Leon Pritchett was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon to Neil (Bud) and Edith Pritchett, where his father was a ranch manager. His father had draft horses, a livery stable and his father’s father had logging horses in Oregon. “My great grandfather came there by a wagon train on my father’s side and settled in Oregon. Mother’s side of the family came over from Italy.”
Pritchett began riding as soon as he could get on a horse with his father. He started riding in earnest when he was five. “I grew up in the ranch world, not the show horse world. My father was very interested in the California Vaquero type tradition”.
Summer branding time coincided with the Klamath Falls rodeo which had a stock horse show. It was very prestigious and brought traditional California Vaquero horses and riders to the area. Smoky remembers, “The horsemen from San Juan area would come up and bring their good bridle horses and brand on them and then they had a big stock horse contest at the rodeo at Klamath Falls. That was my first indoctrination and I fell in love with that.”
Years later, in 1968, Smoky would win the All Around Stock Horse Championship on Ten Dimes.
Smoky roped in rodeos, while his friend Les Vogt rode bareback horses. But it seems both truly wanted to ride in the stock horse events.
Smoky planned to go to Oregon State with his friends, but his father had other plans for him. Winning the Oregon State Fair FFA Judging Championship gave him the extra edge to get him into Cal Poly. To put himself through school, Smoky began taking a few horses in for training on the side. The head of the horse department saw Smoky’s talent and encouraged him to pursue training. Soon veterinarian goals were replaced with what would be a phenomenal show career.
Before graduating from college, he took a job at the Cottonwood Creek Ranch but the owner was reluctant to get into stock horses.
An ecstatic Smoky was offered a job by Don Dodge. But just before he started, he broke his leg in a roping accident. “The next morning I called Don from the hospital and told him my woes and he just laughed at me. And I thought what a cruel sucker. I was devastated and he thought it was funny.”
Laid up in a cast for nine months and then on crutches, Smoky decided the best use of his time would be to complete his Cal Poly education.
After doing so, he returned to the Cottonwood area and struck out on his own. He rode many colts and ranch horses and started showing quarter horses. Yet there was something missing.
My whole future to me was, I was yearning to go was to the CRCHA and show with the great guys. I wanted to show against Tony, Bobby, etc., that was where I really wanted to go. To me I was in the minor league and I wanted to go to the majors. I wanted to cut in the NCHA – I wanted to show in the Reined Cow Horse Association. But Smoky had to bide his time and show in multiple breeds and a variety of events.
He recalls, “It takes a long time to get to the level of a top reined or cutting horse showman. There were no ‘How To’ videos and the top trainers were tight-lipped. I would watch Tony and Harry Rose and I would pester them until they finally told me something.”
Smoky even considered a career training race horses. He trained them and fit them himself and then sent them to the track. From the track, Smoky took several horses and made Supreme Champions out of them and he ended up training more Supreme Champions than any other trainer in history.
“The first time I made the finals in the hackamore class at the Cow Palace was one of the first big things I made. It was a huge accomplishment for me because I was just a little rough ranch kid and had not been around the show horses at all.”
His goal of competing against his idols kept him inspired. “I thought I was never going to make the finals at the Snaffle Bit Futurity.”
Of course, he finally made it and since has won every limited age event except the futurity, where he has won everything from Reserve down.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees have an uncanny connection. They have been friends and competitors for decades. Smoky remembers, “We were all in the rodeo circle together and were all horse oriented and we studied, worked and partied all together, maybe not in that order but it’s very strange how we all ended up in the same field, doing the same thing, competing against each other and have been lifelong friends.”
Smoky has trained over 50 AQHA Champions, won countless saddles and trailers showing at the breed shows, won the Snaffle Bit Triumph on Lena’s Miss Starlet, won the Hackamore Triumph on Doc’s Malbec, the Two-Rein Cow Horse Championship on Doctor Gunsmoke and the Stockhorse Triumph on Freckle Face Clyde.
Smoky has served as the National Reined Cow Horse Association President. He was the 1995 NRCHA Stock Horse Man of the year – and is one of NRCHA’s lifetime money earners. He also places a tremendous amount of focus on educating judges. He believes the reined cow horse is probably one of the hardest things in the world to judge because it is so diverse and that people take judging too lightly, regardless of the effect on trainers, owners and breeders. I think a lot of people step into the pen and judge that aren’t really qualified and they don’t really realize that they are having an impact on a person’s life, occupation and livelihood. That’s why I spend so much time giving seminars. Smoky was chairman of the NRCHA judges committee for many years and has judged hundreds of AQHA Horse Shows.
Smoky wishes to be remembered as a true horseman. “If I could be remembered as a great horseman like the people that I looked up to that come from the grass roots of a ranch cowboy and made it to the Hall of Fame, like my heroes have, that’s how I would like to be remembered as. And other young people could do the same if they really put their mind to it and worked hard.”