The right person at the right place at the right time. That might be a good way to
describe Randall “Randy” Cates‘s move from being a “rolling stone” to assistant trainer, one with a small barn on to a leadership role not only in the Southwest but in the Saddle Horse world.
Of course, anyone knowing Randy’s lineage wouldn’t be surprised. The son of the late, legendary Royce and Alice Cates was groomed to become what he is.
Royce and Alice Cates met at Chilhowie Park in Knoxville, Tenn., shortly after Royce lost 40 head in a barn fire. A journalist, Alice’s major horse interests focused on Thoroughbreds. After they married, she adopted Saddle
Horses as her breed of choice.
Randy Cates claims Tennessee as his home state, although he only lived there for days. “Dad worked for Happy Valley Farms in Rossville, Ga. I was saved from being a Georgian because the hospital was across the river in Chattanooga.”
The lure of California’s better schools convinced Alice Cates that was where she wanted to raise her two sons, Randy and his brother two years his senior, Alan. After training horses for Delta Tire Company, Royce set up a barn near Griffith Park. Soon thereafter, he moved to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, where he introduced hundreds of riders to the American Saddlebred. He also introduced his sons to the joys and travails of being in the horse business.
“I really was disinterested in horses until I was about 14 or so,” Randy said, acknowledging that, despite that “disinterest,” he spent a lot of time around them. “I did show lead line when I was two, about the time I was learning to talk. Alan led me and my pony Pal. Dad told the story about someone asking me over the rail, ‘How are you doing, man?” I probably was mimicking him when I answered, ‘$100 wouldn’t buy my trouble.’
“I grew up sleeping in stalls at horse shows;” Randy continued pointing out that he and Alan slept behind the tack room curtains: He worked for his father about promotion of the Saddlebred from one who had few
peers in that field.
“We did the Rose Parade, the Hollywood Lane Parade and movie shoots. When Dad got called for horses, he’d hand me a little piece of paper that said when and how
needed to be and expected me to handle it. Whenever Dad could get horses in front of a camera, he did. He told me, ‘The more show off these horses, the better off we’ll all be,”‘ Randy said.
And show them off the Cates did. In this film, Oh God, the scene with John Denver in the phone booth has a Saddlebred jogging back and forth in the background. The horse in a bitting rig in the background of a beach shot in The Black Stallion was a Saddlebred.
“Dad knew Slim Pickens and all the star from back then,” Randy said. “Years later, was sitting there, at this point I had met many movie stars from back then, I wasn’t impressed, and Dad said, ‘This is the man who owns the Los Angeles Angels.’ It was Gene Autry.”
Not only did Royce Cates know stars, he brought several into the Saddlebred world. Two of the most notable were Patrick Duffy and William Shatner. The Shatner introduction came during the filming of his television series, T.J. Hooker. A segment involved racing down barn aisles at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. According to an earlier Shatner interview, he saw “these amazing looking horses over in Barn A. I met Royce Cates there.”