At 5 a.m. every morning, Winston Hansma walks into the concrete halls of his Weatherford, Texas, barn, flips on the first set of lights and dumps feed into the stall of his aging stud, CD Lights. He opens his tack room lined with well-worn saddles, snaffles and heavy-made correction bits. Then he retreats to the house for breakfast and a few cups of coffee with his wife, Danny Motes, before heading back to the barn to saddle his 2- and 3-year-old cutters at 7 a.m.
By that time, the sun is peaking over the trees that line their pipe-and-cedar pastures, and the Texas dew is still wet on the grass. But the clay and the sand of the arenas—both indoor and out—are all worked to perfection and the cattle are sorted into pens, ready for the day’s work.
Hansma doesn’t have nearly as many horses to get through anymore at the barn he shares with his son-in-law and fellow National Cutting Horse Association Hall-of-Fame Rider R.L. Chartier, so he’s done with riding his snaffle-bit clad colts by noon. For years, Chartier and Hansma shared a herd of about 125 head, comprised of colts, outside horses, broodmares and show horses, but the headcount at the ranch is down to about 75 now, with many of those horses belonging to Chartier’s customers.
Hansma—originally from Canada and the son of AQHA Hall of Famer Hans Hansma, who immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands—moved to Texas in 1987 with his brother, Paul. They soon went to work for the Bar H Ranch, where Hansma got to train and campaign CD Olena to the 1994 NCHA Futurity title. He met his wife, Danny, in 1991, through cutting connections and a mare named Carry Me Doc. Both Danny and Hansma cut on her, and she’d go on to produce Carry Me Starlight—the dam to Ryan Motes’ CD Rockstar and CD Starbucks.
In his career, Hansma amassed $2,337,050 in NCHA earnings on the backs of iconic horses like CD Olena and CD Lights, winning the NCHA’s World Finals, Derby and Futurity. He’s semi-retired now, only riding the horses he and his wife own. But even in his semi-retirement, Hansma’s yearning for a challenge still bubbles over, and luckily, just down the winding gravel road, across a few pastures, sits a well-groomed roping arena with steers wrapped and loaded, day in and day out.
That arena—owned by Hansma’s stepson and National Finals Rodeo heeler Ryan Motes—is perhaps one of the most well-used in all of Texas. It’s where this magazine conducts its annual photo shoots and where many an NFR team spends its practice time. It’s where Ryan makes his own rope horses, like AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year CD Starbucks, a son of the great CD Olena that Hansma first made famous in the cutting almost three decades ago. And now, that arena is where Hansma has found himself a new hobby, after all these years living just up the driveway.
“Other than riding horses, I like driving cars fast,” Hansma, 66, confessed. “I have a need for speed. A friend of mine who cuts has a Porsche 944 that he races. It’s fairly inexpensive racing—like $20,000 for a car. We went out and looked at cars, but I realized that group of guys is as much into the mechanic-ing as they are the driving. I don’t want to get grease on my hands, and I don’t want to spend my days and nights in a shop working on a car. So I thought I wouldn’t fit in with that group. I didn’t have the funds to have a pit crew and a mechanic that works for me. When COVID hit, and everyone was at home, I found I like team roping because I fit in with that group of guys. Having them telling me what I’m doing wrong all the time has been a blessing. I’m fortunate to have the best in the world right there.”
And that help is a good thing, because now that Hansma’s throwing a loop, he’s got his sights set on a new goal: the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s World’s Greatest Horseman competition in February 2022, where he’ll have to cut, rein, steer stop and go down the fence all in one bridle, on one horse.
This isn’t the first time Hansma has stepped into a different discipline. Hansma is and always was addicted to the cutting first and foremost, but thanks to his background showing across the board in the AQHA, he was always tempted to try something new. After years of success in the NCHA, Hansma tried his hand at the NRCHA’s Snaffle Bit Futurity in 2010, and again in 2013, when he won the event’s prestigious Limited Open title.
“He’s the only cowboy I knew that read Time magazine every week,” wife Danny said. “He knows more about American history than I do. He’s driven to learn, in general. He’s always wanting a new challenge and something new to learn. The downside of that is nothing is ever quite right. That’s what made him sort of notable in the cutting horse industry—you can always recognize a horse Winston trained. They’re never done until they’re perfect. He takes that same theory into everything he does. The Snaffle Bit started out as just being fun. But then, fun wasn’t enough—it had to be good and it had to be right. Now, it’s the same way with his roping.”
The roping bug bit Hansma just in time—Ryan, 40, was home in March 2020 after COVID-19 shut down RodeoHouston, and he was spending every day, all day, in his arena.
“Winston started out the first couple days, and he hadn’t swung a rope hardly at all in his entire life,” Ryan said. “He started out on the dummy without many pointers and just went to it. He started figuring out how to handle it and set it on there OK. He went for two months every day, three times a day. We finally convinced him he was ready to chase some horseback, so we [used the Smarty] for another month.”
After Hansma spent two full months on the ground and another behind the Smarty, Ryan suggested he move to the lead steer.
“Pretty soon one lead steer wasn’t enough so we started another lead steer, and now Winston has three lead steers,” Ryan said. “They’re probably some of the best lead steers I’ve seen in my life now. He gets about 30 loops a piece in on them every day. Trying to move and adjust the lead steer is really good, and it fits what he needs for developing his roping and his horses.”
The lead steer—loose in the arena—gave Hansma’s cow horses a focus point to lock onto and to stay behind, and it gave Hansma the chance to focus on his loop on a live steer.
“He did that for sure enough another month, and we were three months in before we chased a live steer out of the box,” Ryan said. “People want to rush into something, but he was more than ready to advance and waited just enough. He was more than ready whenever we took the next step each time.”
But Hansma, the consummate horse-man, wasn’t just learning to rope on a seasoned old head horse. When he set the goal to up his roping enough to compete at the World’s Greatest Horseman, he started his NRCHA Snaffle Bit Limited Open Champion gelding, Bossy Brother, in the heading as well. While a green head horse and a green header usually aren’t the best of combinations, Hansma’s know-how in the saddle made it work. The horse—who they coincidentally call Ryan—was so used to going down the fence and turning a cow that he always wanted to pass the steer.
“He’s talented and he had a motor,” Hansma laughed. “In the last couple weeks, we’ve worked through the issues. Ryan kicked out three old lead steers into the pasture west of his roping arena. There’s a draw and water, and I go out there and breakaway rope, and that’s helped him quite a bit. We’ve finally got him over the hump. It ended up being more challenging than I anticipated, but I wasn’t surprised it was either.”
“Winston’s riding ability is the key,” Ryan added. “When you take somebody who spends all day horseback, the riding comes so natural. Riding up there to the cow, that part comes pretty easy. For Winston, when we tell him something to do it’s an easier transition.”
By the time the steers are unwrapped and tucked into their pens and pastures at the end of each day at Ryan’s arena, Hansma has three head horses plumb tired. Aside from the horse he calls Ryan, Hansma spins steers for Ryan on a turnback horse he calls Fuzzy, and a CD Lights-bred stallion Smart And Bossy, who Ryan showed at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Finals and made the finals on in the Junior Heeling at the AQHA World Show in 2020. In terms of team roping, for Hansma, that’s a good day.
“In the afternoon, Ryan and Hock (Chase Tryan) are on horses they’re trying to slow down,” Hansma said. “I really honestly have more fun going and roping with them and being able to turn 30 head of steers than going to a jackpot.. If I get good enough to go to Clay Logan’s and JohnRyon Foster’s and help them in the afternoons, that sounds like a fun way to spend a day. I’ll jackpot a little, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I want to have some nice geldings. With the cutting horses, I always preferred to stay at home to train horses—I went to shows to gauge my training program. It was a necessary evil. I think it’s the same way with the roping. I like to spend time at home, for the camaraderie.” TRJ
Want to learn some of Hansma’s horsemanship secrets? Visit ondemand.horseandrider.com for his exclusive video series.