At a towering 6-foot-5-inches and 305 pounds, former professional football player Jason Smith isn’t your ordinary cowboy. Growing up in a poor Dallas neighborhood, Jason had an innate love of horses and roping matched only by his natural talent on the football field. After five years as an offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams and New York Jets, Jason traded his helmet and shoulder pads for a Resistol and boots. Now, at age 28, Jason’s making a name for himself in the horse world as the driving force behind Twin Lakes Ranch and Arena in Fairfield, Texas.
APHA brought you Jason’s full story in the Spring 2015 issue of Chrome—members can read it for free online here. Check out “The Next Challenge” in the Colorful Character section of Chrome.
With an interest in horses kindled by a horse-owning neighbor, Jason and his brother, Duane, were taken under the wings of several local horsemen, including J.R. Gilder, owner of a local roping arena with an interest in helping inner-city kids discover horses, and longtime friend Glenn Caldwell. The latter was especially influential in Jason’s life—Glenn offered the fatherly guidance missing from Jason’s single-parent childhood, and the two became fast friends.
“He was the person most instrumental in my life,” Jason said. “He took me in as a teenager—all through high school and college. Glenn had good horses and he had them trained. He was going to team ropings, and he taught me how to ride better horses. It was always a learning process. It never maxed out.”
Taking a temporary hiatus from horses when he entered professional football—Jason was selected as the second-overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft—the equine industry’s siren song soon had Jason back in the saddle. He rode occasionally during the off-season, and when he retired from professional football in 2010, he decided to get back into horses full time with the purchase of the 750-acre Twin Lakes Arena in Fairfield.
In between farm maintenance, hosting barrel racing and roping events, community outreach and, of course, family time spent with his wife and young son, Jason enjoys perfecting his craft: roping. He keeps a string of roping horses for competition and practice, and the horseman’s enjoyed success of his own, including wins at United States Team Roping Championship and World Series of Team Roping events. Jason and heeler Jim Bynum finished fifth at the 2014 WStR #11 finals in Las Vegas, netting a $108,000 paycheck.
“For me, the challenge is being able to ride different horses and being able to catch and compete,” Jason said. “My football background has taught me how to look at my horses as athletes. What are they good at, and how do I maximize that? For instance, if a horse works good at the World Series of Team Roping, but he doesn’t work good at the USTRC, I need to keep him at the World Series events.”
In addition to talented roping prospects, Twin Lakes’ horse operation focuses on barrel horses. The Smiths are crossing their running-bred mares on top barrel sires, including Frenchmans Guy, Dash Ta Fame, A Streak Of Fling, Epic Leader and others. Dryce starts the colts; last year, he took the ranch’s first crop to the sales, where Jason says their prospects did “exceptionally well.” Dryce is also a top hand at training heading and heeling horses, so they might end up keep a homebred or two for the roping string.
Twin Lakes Arena sponsors APHA’s Paint Horse Barrel Racing Incentive Program, and holding added money races and Paint Horse shows is bringing new people to the ranch, in addition to those who come for the team ropings. Jason is always looking for ways to connect with others who share his interests, and he strives to represent Twin Lakes Ranch to the best of his ability. Recently, he hosted the $5,000 PBRIP Big Barrel Bash, which drew nearly 100 barrel racers to the Twin Lakes event.
At 28, the APHA member has taken on enormous responsibilities, but Jason’s a big man with broad shoulders and a good heart. And he’s always up for the next challenge.
Read the full story in the Spring 2015 Chrome, available online at apha.com/login or by calling (817) 222-6423.
[Reprinting this article is permitted, so long as credit is given to Flash/APHA and a link provided to myflashyride.com.]
Flash is an annual publication produced by the American Paint Horse Association that celebrates Paint Horses excelling in timed events—racing, barrel racing, roping, shooting and sorting/penning—along with the people who love them. Check out our free digital magazine at MyFlashyRide.com or pick up a printed copy of Flash at major events across the country. And check MyFlashyRide.com/news often for the latest news about fast, flashy Paints.