Article and photos by Kenneth Springer, originally published in the December 2000 issue of BHN
It’s not necessary to ever say his last name. At least not in barrel racing circles.
Speak only the first name of Talmadge and any self-respecting barrel racer knows you’re speaking of Talmadge Green. He’s many things to many people. To some he’s the $1 million barrel racing futurity cowboy; to others he’s the co-founder of the National Barrel Horse Association, and to others he’s the trusted trainer, coach and the one entrusted with finding their next winning barrel horse.
To Dana Green, he’s her husband of 13 years. To T. Green, 10, and Desiree Green, 9 months, he’s Dad. To J.R. and Dot Green, he’s a precious son. To Mike, Sherry and Janice he’s a brother.
Born in Greer, S.C., Green, from birth, loved the outdoors and admits to being a sports fanatic. When his older brother, Mike, started riding horses, he was more than interested in having one of his own.
“I was 10 before I got my first horse,” said Green. “We lived in a big subdivision and our horses had to be boarded. My first horse was part Walking Horse and part Saddlebred horse. I rode for pleasure. Mike started roping calves after he saw calf roping in a practice pen. Then the place where we boarded our horses held a horse show and Mike saw them run barrels, so he started training his calf roping horse to run barrels.”
Green doubts that he would have ever run around a barrel had it not been for the influence of Mike. A gifted athlete and the ideal size to run barrels, Green soon became a favorite rider for other people’s horses when there was money up.
“I was probably 12 or 13 when I started riding a lot of different horses for people whenever we’d go to a horse show where there was money up,” said Green.
By 1972, Green was the South Carolina State Barrel Racing Champion and hooked on barrel racing. During his high school days, he showed in 4-H and open horse shows. One of his biggest outings as a teen was to Columbus, Ohio, to participate on the youth team at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
After graduation from High School, Green quit running barrels for several months and worked only in construction. But the love of the sport brought him back. During the week, he was a construction worker, going to different parts of the southeast working big jobs. On the weekends, Green was running barrels at horse shows.
“My dream was to ride horses for a living,” said Green. “I was making great money in the construction business. I pretty much had it made with a steady paycheck. But barrel racing was what I loved. My daddy had instilled in me to try and be the best at whatever you do and I wanted to be the best in barrel racing.”
A defining moment came for Green in November 1984 when he headed West to the Champion of Champions Futurity in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“I had always heard the best were in the West,” said Green. “I went out with Jerry Mitchell and rode his horse Ricky Ticky. They had a matched barrel race between the men and the women at the end of the show. The women were on Martha Josey’s team and the men were on Dale Youree’s team. I ran the fastest time of the entire event. That trip proved to me that a little country boy from the East could run with the best.”
In 1985, Green formed a partnership with Ray Brown of Gainesville, Ga., which lasted through 1990. It was during those years that Green began earning thousands of dollars a year in futurity competition. Although he occasionally rode a futurity colt for a friend, Green’s primary mounts during those five years were Green/Brown ventures.
“In 1985, I finished in the top 10 futurity riders. The year 1986 was the first year I won over $100,000,” said Green. “That was the year I won consistently on five different 4-year-olds despite some of the leading trainers of the day telling me no one could win on that many.”
Always thinking about the future, Green began to dream new dreams. Being aware that an innovative three-division format was being run successfully at barrel races in the East, around Tennessee and Kentucky, Green had an idea for forming a national association that would promote divisional barrel racing.
“I figured out early in my barrel racing career that there were always going to be a few winners and a lot more that went home with nothing,” said Green. “I saw the 3-D as an opportunity to let a lot more people win money and with more entries, it wouldn’t hurt the top winners so that everyone would benefit.”
In the Fall of 1991, Green was contacted by Rick Sykes about putting together a big barrel race in Augusta, Ga., that would be similar to their annual cutting horse futurity. While Sykes was thinking along the lines of maybe a big barrel racing futurity with a huge open barrel race, Green saw an opportunity to present his idea of a national association.
“I agreed to meet with Rick at the Hypodrome if I could work my futurity colts after we finished talking,” said Green. “I had been working for a year on the idea of putting together a group of investors to start an association based on divisional barrel racing. It was fate that Rick called me at the time he did.”
Little did either party know where that initial meeting would lead. Ultimately it lead to the formation of the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA).
Although it was his vision, Green cannot imagine how the NBHA could have developed without the input of Bill Morris, Paul Simon, Pete May, Rick Sykes and Sherry Fulmer of Morris Communications.
“Mr. Simon was an associate of Mr. Morris,” said Green. “He was a smart businessman and insisted that we establish a solid foundation for our new organization. He said once we did that, then we could take it upward. We took his advice.”
Green feels the formation of the NBHA has been his greatest contribution to the equine industry and far surpasses his accomplishments in the arena.
“There are more people making a living off of barrel racing than ever,” said Green. “It has created a lot of jobs that didn’t exist before, not to mention what it has done for the demand of 2-D, 3-D and 4-D horses.”
With the NBHA currently being 20,000 members strong and growing, it gives Green a sense of satisfaction.
“I get more satisfaction from the success of our NBHA events than I ever thought imaginable,” said Green.
Green, 39, spends the majority of his time concentrating on NBHA business and serves as arena and ground director for the six, soon to be seven, NBHA National Championship shows, the NBHA Youth World, the NBHA Open and Senior Championships, and the Drysdales NBHA Super Show in Tulsa, Okla. For 2001, Green will add an early NBHA Super Show in his hometown of Marshall to his busy agenda, in addition to the Texas State Finals in early June.
Known for having been given more than his share of a pleasant personality, Green quickly turns to serious business when it comes to preparing any arena for barrel racing competition.
“When I was doing construction work and driving heavy equipment, I had no idea how much of that knowledge I would be using later in life putting on big barrel races,” said Green. “By the time I was 7, my daddy had me nailing down plywood. He taught me to work hard and do things right.”
Green wants the ground perfect for every runner and will take whatever measure is necessary to make it happen. He often spends time in deep concentration watching his tractor drivers work the arena, knowing that ground can change drastically during the course of a 20-hour day if care is not taken.
Under Green’s watchful eye, every banner must be placed in its proper position. I think he gets that from his grandmother,” said Dot, Green’s beautiful mother, who is responsible for at least half of his natural good looks and ingrained Southern manners. When Green produced his own youth barrel race in the late 1980s, everything had to look good, from the barrels to the awards presentation area, complete with red, white and blue bunting.
“That’s the way his grandmother was,” said Dot Green. “She always wanted everything to look pretty and match.”
Looking to the future, Green knows he cannot stand still. After school is out in June, the Talmadge Green family will be relocating from Marshall, Texas, to his native South Carolina, where he will be within an hour of the NBHA headquarters.
“I will be taking more of an active part in the day-to-day operation of the NBHA as well as focusing on marketing the NBHA to national sponsors,” said Green. “That is where I need to focus my efforts. I want bigger purses for our members. We have a great product to market and I want to spend more of my time doing it.”
While Green has no intention of hanging up his spurs, he has committed more of his time to the NBHA for the near future which will reduce his futurity competition.
“I’ll get back to my horses,” said Green. “For now I’ll keep having my schools, which I truly enjoy doing, and matching riders and horses, which I also get a thrill in doing.”
Needless to say, the NBHA owes a debt of gratitude to Green for his vision. But beyond that, other spin-off groups and organizations should take a moment to reflect on his contribution to their very existence. Had it not been for a young man who dared to dream and think big, divisional barrel racing would likely still be a well-kept secret in Tennessee and Kentucky. A
nd to think, it all started with a saddle horse at a boarding stable.