TIFTON -- He's worked as a professional rodeo calf roper and steer wrestler, jockeyed in Florida and tamed horses for a famous trainer. But a local horse lover said he won't consider leaving Tifton for more lucrative work.

Joe Reed, 39, has sat in saddles strapped to untamed horses since he was 15 and he can't think of anything he'd rather be doing.

"That's all I've ever done," Reed said. "I love these horses and some of them have more sense than some humans do."

Reed tames horses at his home on Branch Road. He believes he has the potential to make more money somewhere else, but has no intention of leaving.

Reed said he worked near his home with C.L. Smith for four years in the early 80s. Then he returned to his home in Houston, Texas, where his mother still lives.

On a trip in 2000 to Ocala, Florida to break some thoroughbred race horses for retired professional football player Freddie Hyatt, Reed stopped in Tifton to talk with his former employer.

"I decided to stay here and I've been here ever since," Reed said.

Reed said D. Wayne Lukas, a renowned horse trainer whose thoroughbreds have won Kentucky Derbys -- "Charismatic" in 1999, "Grindstone" in 1996, "Thunder Gulch" in 1995 and "Winning Colors" in 1988 -- tried unsuccessfully to get him to move to Kentucky.

"I rode horses for him (Lukas) in New Orleans and would break babies for him there at the fairgrounds before he had them raced," Reed said. "I could make some good money in Kentucky, but I can't stand the cold weather."

Patience and firmness in horse breaking and training is Reed's philosophy. He doesn't believe any horse owner wants their young colts and fillies returned with scarring or bruising.

Reed said he can break a horse in two or three weeks instead of the normal two or three months it takes -- without abusing them.

"I will whip them on the shoulder or the butt right when they do something wrong," Reed said. "That way they know what it means and remember.

"I never hit them in the head and never hit them hard enough to bruise or mark them."

Reed said he has seen some breakers beat the horses and throw them to ground during the process of taming them.

"I usually put on spurs so if the owners wants to use a set of spurs, the horse is used to them," Reed said.

The most time-consuming work, Reed said, is in the days before he saddles a horse for the first ride. The female and male Appaloosas, quarter horses and thoroughbreds that Reed breaks are first kept in a stall for a few days at Reed's place. There, he talks to the horses, brushes them and gets to know them and earn their trust.

Then, when he believes the time is right, he takes the horse from the stall and ties it to a tree.

"They stand there in the sun and it tires them," Reed said. "It teaches them patience and then they will stand still."

After several more days, when he believes the time is right, he saddles the horse for its first ride.

"I just about know how to keep one of them from bucking," Reed said. "If you can keep their head turned to one side with the bridle, they can't jump."

Some of the horses he breaks are called by the names on their "papers," but if they don't have a name, Reed said he sometimes gives them "the name of whatever comes out of my mouth."

Reed said that most horses stop growing by the time they are six. He breaks most of them when they are two.

"According to the Quarter Horse Association, all horses have a January 1 birthday, no matter what time of the year they were born," Reed said. "That's how we figure the age."

Reed has taken his share of falls, including one while he was a jockey.

"When I was riding horses in Florida, another horse bumped into mine and pushed my horse into the rail," Reed said. "My horse's shoe hit my ankle and busted it up. I've had some broken ribs before too."

A teenaged Reed was first introduced to horses by a horse breaker who lived down the street from him in Texas. Reed decided one day to ride one of the horses. He was hooked.

"My mom said I must be crazy because I just get back on the horses and ride again," Reed said.

Reed said he and his assistant saw wild mustangs running in a field near Waterloo and the owner agreed to sell them to him if he could catch them.

"They aren't used to folks at all and they love to buck," Reed said. "It took us two weeks to catch all of them, but we broke all eight of them and sold them."

Reed can be seen riding the horses he breaks for customers along Branch Road and on a dirt path behind his property. His advertising is by "word of mouth." People at horse shows, races and sales know him by reputation, he said.

Sometimes business is slow, but Reed said he stays busy enough.

"I'm a single man and I could move and make more money, but I'm happy doing what I do here," Reed said. "I like being my own boss."



To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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