Grant Golliher is a horse trainer, author, rancher, Wyomingite, and renowned speaker. He owns and operates Diamond Cross Ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he runs corporate workshops and demonstrations using his horse training methods to share valuable lessons about life and leadership. His memoir “Chasing a Dream” is available now and he has a new book about leadership coming out with Putnam Publishers on Father’s Day 2022.
We caught up with Grant and his wife Jane Golliher to ask him about life as a horse trainer and the lessons they’ve learned.
Grant, thank you for being willing to share your story with Vogt readers! We love to tell our audience about Western legends and that certainly applies to you. Tell us a little about your background.
I always wanted to be a cowboy. I grew up in Colorado on a peach farm. My dad raised mules so I cut my teeth breaking mules. When I was 19, I ran off to Wyoming on a mule with $500 in my pocket. I worked on ranches and eventually met a girl out on a cow camp who was training polo horses. I went to Texas and got a job breaking colts for Tommy Wayman, one of the greatest American polo players. He was a legend. So I really got my training career started playing polo, and I ended up playing professional polo for 15 years. It’s a great life. Polo’s a neat sport because it kind of crosses over between English and Western. There’s a lot of cowboys who rode cow horses but could really train a horse and play polo. It’s a mixture but it’s all about horsemanship.
After I retired from polo, I moved back to Wyoming and worked on a ranch in Dubois and married Jane, whose family had homesteaded in the Jackson Hole area since 1912. We’ve been married 24 years and had a really great life, all around horses.
Luke wears: The Way of the Buffalo Scarf Slide
At home on Diamond Cross Ranch outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Can you talk a bit about your approach to horsemanship? How do your beliefs and values shape the way you train?
I grew up learning the old style: Make the horse do it, restrain them, use bits and hobbles, take all their freedom away. The more fearful they are, the more restraint you put on them. Then I saw what trainers like Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance did. You work with the mind. You ask them to center up between your hands and legs. You love your horse. In the old days, the horse was always kind of afraid and he wasn’t happy with his life. He was more of a slave. I don’t want a slave. I want a partnership where we work together, and both of us enjoy our jobs.
How did you begin leading corporate leadership demonstrations for CEOs and business leaders?
The corporate demonstrations started as entertainment during a chuckwagon cookout we were doing, and it really developed from there into education. Horse training contains a lot of leadership lessons. I got a lot of practice in front of the audience with a cordless mic and eventually we built a facility here on the ranch. I’m still amazed people enjoy it as much as they do. I think corporate leaders love bringing their teams out here to get inspired and see applicable leadership theories in action. It’s a new experience that takes them a little out of their box. They leave here changed.
According to your website, “business leadership from Microsoft, Alibaba, General Electric, Toyota, Disney and countless other Fortune 500 companies have traveled thousands of miles to the Diamond Cross Ranch to watch Grant Golliher break a young horse to ride or work with a troubled one.” Clearly your demonstrations are about more than horses!
A lot of us are visual learners. If we see something, we really get it. These demonstrations really grab people because they see themselves in the demonstration, in the relationship between the horse and the human. They think, “That’s me. I don’t release in time. I put pressure on my people.”
Brad Smith, the very successful CEO of Intuit® which is a $40 billion company, told me they immediately started implementing these leadership ideas at Intuit® after he returned. Another leader said she wanted to bring her group back out for a 2-day training because she wants them to understand they have freedom to be creative, and that they won’t be criticized if they fail. She wants them to be motivated to explore. It’s pretty neat to see leadership qualities come out around animals.
You wrote a book about your life, Chasing a Dream: A Horseman’s Memoir. What was the message you wanted to share with your readers?
For me, working with horses has been about chasing a dream.
Two things happen with a horse: They’re either scared to death and moving too fast or they stop and freeze up. Both are bad. We want their feet to free up but they have to move before they learn. If a horse is willing to move his feet, you can train him.
Jane and I believe in the freedom to move your feet. We raised our kids to know it’s OK to fail. They grew up without any limits because they’re not afraid to move. It doesn’t bother them if something doesn’t work because you move on, no big deal. Failure is part of life, that’s how you learn.
We loved this shoot with you and your son Luke, showcasing Vogt products in the context that inspired their creation. What has been your experience with Vogt products and what do you value about the brand?
We have been familiar with Vogt products for many years, and that they are timeless, made to last and never go out of style.
Horse training is also an old tradition and represents what many believe to be a dying way of life in America. Why is it important to protect these old traditions? What do they have to teach today’s generation?
Society is going so wrong so fast, people are really desperate for a changed mindset. Everywhere, people love cowboys. In New York they’re wearing Carhartts and Levis! It’s important we are willing to step up and say, “We teach respect, we don’t tolerate rude behavior. We still believe in opening the door for a lady, tipping your hat, respecting your elders.” Some traditions need to go, but we hold on to the ones that are good. There’s still a right and a wrong.
Our last question: Training horses has clearly given you a great deal of perspective. You’ve led an incredible life and impacted many people through your work. After the difficulties of COVID and the struggles of the last two years, we’d love it if you would share a word of advice with readers. What would you say to folks who are struggling right now?
In horse training, we believe in taking something bad and figuring out how to use it for good. One of the greatest horse trainers of all time, Tom Dorrance, was probably the master of this. Instead of getting mad at a horse, I help him work at his issues, using them to direct his feet until he is willing to face his fear and overcome his problem. In the meantime, I’m getting him ready for all kinds of different situations and scenarios. It really takes all the negative, angry fight out of life. Your mentality switches to, How can we use this for good?
Freedom of choice is one of the greatest freedoms Americans have. There’s a lot of freedom within legal boundaries. We all have different opinions of what’s going on right now, but lets figure out how to make the best out of a bad situation.
Thank you Grant!
Thank you to:
Photographer: Lucas Passmore
Featuring: Grant Golliher and Luke Long
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Thanks, Grant. Patience, understanding win. Chet: Always great news from Vogt,
it’s a crazy world out there.