Ed was a salty character who led an extraordinarily colorful life; he was what one would call a natural, a TRADITIONALIST and to borrow a timely, well-worn phrase, he was poetry in motion. He was a working man, a man of ACTION and DOING, and he didn't like basking in the limelight. HE WAS A MAN WITH LITTLE OR NO EGO, a perfectionist of the highest order. Not only was he a Master Horseman (he was known as the Dean of Reinsman in Europe), he was also a cattleman.

He was an ordinary man who didn't know he was extraordinary. He was a great storyteller. Among his best attributes were kindness, patience, sensitivity and above all humility. However, he had a hard time promoting himself. A humble man, he was never wrapped up in his own self-importance, but he could also be as tough as nails when necessary. HE WAS ALWAYS AVAILABLE FOR THOSE WHO NEEDED HELP AND WAS EXTRAORDINARILY GENEROUS WITH HIS TIME. Over the years, he received hundreds of letters asking for help. I remember him writing step by step explaining in minute detail everything necessary so that the letter writer would be able to understand. It was the same with the phone calls.

He was not a perfect man, and he could be complicated. He did what he wanted to do, and money meant nothing to him. It was sometimes a tough, lonely and solitary life, but it was a life the Vaquero chose and loved.

He did not tolerate abuse of any kind. It was not unlike him in his younger days to go after someone who mistreated an animal. That occurred a few times. He was fast and light on his feet, like a cat, possessing a keen sense of balance, timing and instinct. He had many close calls in his lifetime, but sustained only a few minor injuries. Ed always felt that the tumbling classes he took as a kid enabled him to learn how to fall. This ability helped him many times over when riding bucking horses. He always said that he had an angel on his shoulder.

Ed had a hard time adjusting to a new way of life. In the mid to late 50's, horses seemed to lose their popularity, and they were expensive to keep. Many of the ranches were breaking up, being sold and subdivided. Economically, times were tough for every one; my family was no exception. In addition, Dad's age was against him. My father worked for a Realtor, specializing in ranches; my mother was a nurse. At the time we were living in Bakersfield, California. It was during these lean years that he wrote REINSMAN OF THE WEST - BRIDLES & BITS. It was published in 1964.

He was known as "Whisperin' Ed" by many people. He always spoke softly and gently to the horse, and they responded to the sound of his voice. Even though I watched him closely a few times, I never heard or knew what he was saying. But I have seen unruly horses transformed the moment he walked in their presence. He seemed to have a sixth sense and could read their minds and the horses could sense that they were in very capable hands. The old-timers studied the horse's action and reaction very carefully. They learned how to anticipate what the horse was going to do.

Ed on Avalon, Ordway Ranch, Livermore, California
April, 1967
Ed on Old Abe
Livermore, California 1969

In 1965, Jack Carroll of Carroll Saddle Company drove to Bakersfield from Arizona to meet and to persuade Ed to go into business with him. Carroll Saddle Company began making Ed's saddle to his specifications; his original was built in San Francisco, California in 1934. Jack also began making Ed's reindadore equipment: hackamores, bosals, spade bit, reins and romal, mecates, etc. During the late 60's and 70's he wrote numerous articles for horse magazines.

Ed's working Saddle
Built 1934 - San Francisco, California

Ed 1973
McNeil, Arizona

Ed & Lupe 1973
Trip to Reno, Nevada

Ed Connell 1974
Courtesy of Dick Gardner

Ed Connell 1977
Courtesy of Ernie Morris, Vaquero Artist

In the early part of 1977, the ranch where my father was working in Livermore, California was sold. He drove to Millville, California to visit an old friend of his, Dr. Jack Chandler, whom he had known for many years. On June 1st, Dad flew to Williams Lake, B. C. Canada to conduct a clinic held by his friend, Dr. Gordon McKenzie. On June 4th, my father had a massive coronary in the arena and was gone in an instant. Needless to say, it was shocking for those at the clinic, as well as his family. Dr. McKenzie tried to revive him, but it was too late. He also told me that my father couldn't possibly have been held in higher esteem and respect than he was on the last day of his life. We shall be forever grateful that he did not suffer, as he would never have survived being incapacitated, nor would he have survived a nursing home. He just wasn't the type.

I hope this synopsis has given you some insight into Ed Connell's personality, although it only skims over his life. To all those who received replies from Ed regarding training problems, would you be willing to share the letters for future publication in a question and answer segment?

Ed & Jack in Millville, California
May, 1977

Ed Connell - May 1977
© Courtesy of K. M. Hansen

Throughout the years and on many occasions, my dad held presentations and clinics demonstrating the California Reined Horse. They took place at:

  • The Ordway Ranch in Livermore, California
  • Bing Crosby's ranch in Elko, Nevada (filmed by Bing's Hollywood cinematographer)
  • The Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakerfield, California (1958)
  • Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California (in the early 1960's)

There were many others. If anyone has films, videos or pictures of theses events, would you please contact me?

Leslee Connell Schwartz
Phone: (512) 787-3551
Email: hackamorereinsman@gmail.com

If Ed Connell were here today, he wouldn't change a thing. He wouldn't change the traditions, his method or his style in this politically correct world. There are certain terms that were used then as well as now, and they should never be changed in order to appease those who are easily offended.

I cannot begin to count the number of people who have written and called to tell me that my father's books are their Bible. KUDOS to all those who desire to learn the OLD WAYS and TRADITIONS. I have the utmost respect for you. Ernest Morris's book EL VAQUERO is an excellent read and gives a history of the Vaquero and his work. For more information log onto www.elvaquero.com.

This is the 71st anniversary of HACKAMORE REINSMAN. HACKAMORE REINSMAN and REINSMAN OF THE WEST -- BRIDLES & BITS are classics in their field. They have stood the test of time. As I stated previously, If Ed Connell were here today he wouldn't change a thing.

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