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"I particularly enjoy Sorting because it is a true thinking man’s game. It's like chess. You've got to continually be planning several moves ahead" says USTPA member Brent Shaw.
It seems Brent Shaw has been "planning several moves ahead" for most of his life. Whether he was chasing criminals around the globe, playing high-stakes professional poker or courting his new wife, Brent has always been attracted to challenges that require a firmly planned strategy. No doubt reining-in his bride Jennifer Shaw was a coup but chasing criminals and playing big-money poker? You got it right! There is a lot more to Brent Shaw than just riding.
Those who know Brent from USTPA shows would certainly describe him as a colorful character but, did you know that he used to be an international bounty hunter, chasing white-collar criminals throughout the world? Or how about the fact that he is currently one of the top Texas Hold 'Em players competing internationally? That's right, long before he ever dreamed of spending the bulk of his free time on a horse, Brent was running around Russia, Eastern Europe, South America, Africa and many other sorted localities tracking down bail jumpers. Brent said the lifestyle had plenty of perks including giving him time to learn to play poker, really well. And finally, after getting shot at one too many times, Brent decided to quit gambling with his life literally and switched to just gambling financially as a professional poker player. Now ranked among the best "Seven Stars Status" players, Brent still travels the globe, looking to outsmart and outplay the competition.
So how does one get from man-hunting and poker playing to Team Penning and Ranch Sorting? Well, Brent views it as a natural progression for a man that loves challenges. "Back in 1999 I went on a trail ride with one of the horses at a dude ranch. While riding, I watched a practice penning and thought it looked fun" says Brent. He'd never owned a horse until that day. Brent promptly decided to buy the best steed he could find. And it just happened to be the 13.3hh, Mexican-bred Quarter Horse that he was riding at the Dude Ranch, named "Taco". Brent said, "Nobody liked him. He kicked. He bit. He was a tiny horse but ultimately he proved that he had a huge heart." Starting that day, Brent learned how to ride and team pen with "Taco". "Our very first year Taco won 18 buckles, 2 saddles and $26,000!", Brent exclaims.
Brent rode Taco for 18 months before deciding to buy his second horse "Shadow", a reiner. Working under the guidance of Nicole, Mark and Cliff Sigouin, Brent started training Shadow for penning. "I had no idea what I was doing when I was buying these horses. I just liked them and figured I could make them work" says Brent. Boarding with the Sigouin's, Brent developed his most important rule for choosing a horse, suitability for the rider.
"I don't consider myself a good rider" says Brent, "because of that, I can say that a good horse should solely be determined by the right horse for you. For instance, Nicole had a little paint horse that was widely considered to be one of the best team penning horses out there. But only 2 or 3 people could sit that horse. Good horse for her but not for me. It is very important that people find the right horse for them. If I start to fall from a big turn, I dig in with my feet. A lot of horses would move away but my horses take care of me. I pick and choose horses that compliment my ability."
Despite his humility, others might argue with his riding ability. Brent continually proves himself to be among the best at USTPA events and consistently ranks among the Leading Amateur Riders. "I could ride in any equine discipline that I want but I just love penning and sorting. It's about rhythm, partnership, action and reaction. It's a game in which horse power and horsemanship skills make all the difference. I don't consider myself a great rider so I have to play the game so that I don't have to make those great horsemanship moves. I play it like chess, making more than one move at a time, thinking two, three and even five moves ahead. I think that is what makes you a great", says Brent.
Strategy, competition and the prospect of a new challenge each time he enters the pen; these are the things Brent likes inside the arena. But he is also quick to point out the benefits outside the arena. "The best things about penning and sorting are that it is extremely competitive, which I like (laughing), but more than anything it is the social aspect. I stopped for a year but missed the social interaction. Horse people are a different breed. We can go through any of the 50 states and if we break down, I can call a Team Penner who will drive 50 miles to come and help us" says Brent. Among the closest friends that Brent counts on is Scott Sampson. No matter where Brent and Jennifer want to go, Scott is there with a horse for them to ride. "Scott is the kind of person that I'm talking about. Someone who will go out of his way to help" says Brent.
Despite his world travels to poker tournaments and horse shows, Brent and Jennifer call Pitt Meadows, British Columbia home. With his daughters Meaghan and Helena, Brent now has his own horse farm about 2 hours north of Seattle where he currently keeps 4 horses that all pen and sort. Brent enjoys his busy lifestyle and is quick to point out that he is "very happily married to a beautiful, intelligent, warm woman". "I truly enjoy the family aspect of penning with my wife" says Brent, "most couples don't pen together but we pen all of our available teams together. It's nice that we have this hobby in common." A horsewoman in her own right, Jennifer Shaw is a vet technician, farrier and just took home the buckle in the #3 Sort at the GoldStrike Spectacular in Tunica, Mississippi in July.
Be sure to introduce yourself to Brent Shaw at the 2010 World Championship Show and Celebration in West Monroe, Louisiana. Brent will be riding "Fancy", his 6 year old Quarter Horse/Paint "Color Me Smart" mare and Jennifer will mainly be competing on "Viper", an 8 year old Quarter Horse mare owned by Scott Sampson. If you can't find Brent on his horse, just listen for him in the stands, he'll probably be yelling for someone. "I really get into the game, even when I'm not riding. I love the competition, the clock, the fast pace and the quick thinking that is required" says Brent.
If he doesn't beat you in the pen at the World Championship, just be sure to watch your wallet, Brent Shaw will be sure to try to take you in a game of cards. And, if history proves true, he'll probably be figuring out a strategy to come out on top, five steps before you even know he is catching up on you. Life is certainly a gamble for Brent Shaw and he is all in to win!