By Frank J. Buchman
“There never was a day I didn’t want a horse, and to be a cowboy. I guess it’s a sickness, an uncontrollable disease.”
Matt Lange remembers growing up at Council Grove without a horse, but an unending desire to ride horses.
Today, the Alta Vista horse trainer is recognized throughout the country as truly one of the very “best horsemen.”
Proof comes with accomplishments at the recent American Buckskin Registry Association (ABRA) World Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Horses trained and shown by Lange and their owners collected armfuls of award tokens.
“It’s sure fun to be in the spotlight,” Lange admitted. “But people don’t realize the quality of horses, time, patience and training required to get there.”
Traveling 30,000 miles to Midwest shows annually, Lange trained horses win devoted American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) titles as well.
“These are real working horses,” Lange emphasized. “Some people just want show horses. The horses I show know how to making a living working in the Flint Hills.
“These are diversified all-around cattle and ranch horses that are also successful in the show pen. This is the objective of my horse training, and always will be,” Lange declared.
“Determination, dedication, learning from ‘the best’ and working for faithful owners of outstanding horses” are Lange’s philosophy for vast achievements.
From a meager start, Lange didn’t even have a horse until he was 15-years-old. “While my parents weren’t all that excited, I finally got a horse,” Lange said. “Against all odds, that horse called Cody turned out to be just right for me.”
The eight-year-old grade sorrel gelding with a blaze had been a stallion until he was five-years-old. “Cody had only been ridden a few times when I got him,” Lange remembered. “I rode him hard, especially in the pasture, and Cody turned out to be a good horse.”
When world renowned local trainer Dean Smith needed barn help, Lange jumped at the opportunity. “I was still in high school and wanted everything I could do to be around horses,” Lange said. “Cleaning stalls isn’t the best job, but working around horses was exactly what I wanted. Everything today must be credited to the initial opportunity working for Dean Smith.”
When the daily scooping, brushing, feeding stable work was done, Lange didn’t leave Dean Smith Training Stables. “I always hung around, watched Dean ride horses, asked questions, wondered this and that. I was a pest I guess,” Lange said.
The senior world acclaimed horseman could see Lange’s heartfelt interest in horses and everything about them.
“Dean was a top horseman who could train horses, more a trainer than into breaking colts to ride,” Lange said. “Dean gave me the opportunity to start riding young horses that he could train to be champions. Dean was very always very patient with me.”
Working for Smith nearly a dozen years, Lange watched, listened and learned. “I never showed horses for Dean, that was his deal. But I started riding the horses that Dean made into national winners,” Lange said. “I was privileged to ride a number of the very best horses in the country at that time.”
With several horses personally, Lange went into the training business himself. “Although I’d worked with Dean Smith, it took some time to establish my own training clientele,” Lange said. “Horse training became specialized with reining, cutting, halter and pleasure; not much owner interest in horses with all-around abilities.”
It was a boom of sorts for the startup trainer when breed registries started recognizing ranch horse classes. “That’s what I wanted and trained, horses that could do it all,” Lange said. “They had to look good, and have the ability to work in every situation with different calibers of riders.
“Ranch versatility classes are the best thing that ever happened to the Quarter Horse association and me too. That’s where the breed started, what Dean Smith trained in the beginning, and now it’s gone back to all-around using horses,” Lange added.
Building his own facilities including an indoor arena personally from scratch, Lange keeps a couple handfuls of horses in training. “There’s a waiting list all the time, but I usually have about four or five show horses and that many colts being started,” Lange said. “Dean emphasized that it was important not to take too many horses because there isn’t time to do them all justice.”
Demanded to conduct horsemanship clinics throughout the Midwest, Lange keeps that to a minimum as well. “They need to be in the fall and winter when people aren’t so busy,” Lange said. “I don’t have any students or haul any amateurs like some trainers do.
“However, I do work closely with owners of horses so they can show them too,” Lange continued. “I show the horses in open competition and their owners also show in the novice classes.”
While working for a number of owners, Lange acknowledged that Marty Bloomquist of Tecumseh has owned several outstanding horses. “A buckskin mare names JJM Middlecreek Chic won several titles for both Marty and me. Chic is one of the best horses I’ve had the opportunity to show,” Lange credited.
Standing a stallion for public and personal breeding service, Lange has done well with training, exhibiting and merchandizing home raised horses. “It gives special satisfaction to ride a top horse that comes from one’s own breeding program,” Lange said.
Behind every successful man, or cowboy for that matter, is one good woman, the horseman would have to admit. “My wife Heidi is an essential part of this business,” Lange insisted. “Heidi keeps us going, gets the entries in, and makes sure all of the horses and details are in place. She’s a talented horseback rider and show exhibitor, too. I couldn’t do any of this without Heidi.”
Following in boot steps of his parents, Hudson Lange, who is just turning 10-years-old, is already an accomplished horseman. “Hudson is good help around the barn and is doing quite well riding and showing successfully,” Dad acknowledged.
Demanded to do day work gathering and shipping cattle for area ranchers Lange said, “It proves my horses. Being in the pasture before sunrise adds to my workload, but is an added enjoyment to my profession.”
The family also has a beef cow herd as well as meat goat production selling a number of youth show projects.
Looking down the trail, Lange said, “Dean Smith was a true horseman. He had a certain inborn knack to train horses, keep working on details until a horse performed to its ability.
“Dean Smith is my mentor, and I hope to come close to his vast successes with horses. I intend to keep doing my best. Training and showing horses to their abilities for my customers who are my best friends,” Matt Lange assured.
Checking and gathering cattle in the Flint Hills help make horses have more all-around ability in the show pen, according to trainer Matt Lange, Alta Vista. He’s on Roosters Special CD, a state and national winner in versatility ranch horse work, while son Hudson is on Bulls Eye Boon. JJM Middle Creek Chick was bred by John and Joanna Murname (left) and is owned by Marty Bloomquist (center). Trainer Matt Lange, shown beside his wife Heidi, and Bloomquist have won a number of working ranch horse awards with the Quarter Horse.
Roosters Special CD, owned by Marty Bloomquist of Tecumseh and shown by Matt Lange of Alta Vista, was eighth in ranch cow work at the 2021 Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship. Heidi and Hudson Lange are also pictured. Matt Lange of Alta Vista is mounted on Bythewayimhere competing in cutting horse competition.