Tommy Allen discovered his talent for chatting up horses whilst sitting astride his pony, Chili Pepper, at age five. A self-described "country boy who's able to wear Abercrombie & Fitch," the 22-year-old is in town interning at the Edelman PR firm to earn credits toward a degree in public relations from Central Washington University. In the meantime, he keeps busy breaking and training Friesian horses on Sauvie Island, and hits the rodeo circuit to earn a few extra bucks/saddles/giant buckles. Ever industrious, Allen got his real estate license during the last school year, hoping to eventually sell property to horse aficionados around Bend and Ellensburg, and then train their horses, saying, "Everyone wants five acres and a horse, I figure."
What is "breaking" a horse?
Breaking is getting a horse so you can put a saddle on it, or you can get on it bareback and the horse doesn't run around and go crazy. The instinct of any wild animal is to run away from you. What I do is chase them around until eventually they figure they can keep running or they can stop and face you and be friends. We call that "joining up." There's a change in body position; the horse lowers its head and licks its lips, saying it wants to get accepted. Pretty soon it's followin' you all around and you can touch it and pet it and saddle it and ride it.
Have they ever broken you?
Yeah. I've had some wrecks here and there. I once had a horse that didn't want anything to do with someone riding it. It'd just buck and buck and buck. I ended up hitting the ground five times. So I sold the horse to a stock contractor. It's in the rodeo now and doing an amazing job, it bucks that good. It's worth $30,000 when before it was worth $200.
And for spare change you compete in rodeos?
Yeah. It's a blast. I calf rope, team rope, steer wrestle, ride saddle broncs, and do wild cow milking.
Wild cow milking?
Yeah. They take a cow that's never been touched before. They bring it off the hills—a big ol' mean ugly cow. I rope it, then I usually recruit someone from the football team, a big beefy guy, to grab it by its head and hold onto it while I run out and try to milk it without gettin' a kick. You gotta put milk in a bottle and run 'cross the finish line. There's a lot of money to be made at it.
Do you find that these skills you have work with women?
Sure do. Ya chase 'em around in circles and pretty soon they come back and look for you. It's basic communication, but it's also mind games and playin' hard to get. The horses do the same exact games these girls do.