Mel Shearin, of Saint Clair, Missouri, a horseman’s horseman and a giant among Midwestern cutters, has passed away at age 87. Shearin, who was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame in 2009, began working with horses when he was 13 and was an NCHA member from the 1950s.
Born in Farmington, Missouri on June 21, 1930, Shearin began working for local farmers as a 12-year-old, earning fifty cents a day, as well as setting pins at the local bowling alley for a nickel a game.
But by the time he was 13, he got a job driving a team of horses, and at 15, he spent summers working in Texas.
He served in the Korean War, receiving a Purple Heart and the United Nations Service Medal. After the war, he worked for Adams Milk, driving a six-pony hitch in local events. He married Irma Smith in 1956 and they had four children, Lisa, Louis, Larry and Linda.
In the early 1960s, Shearin went to work for August Busch at Grant’s Farm, caring for their world-famous Clydesdales. He also began making a name for himself in the cutting world with horses like Gold Tender, with whom he won the American Royal, one of the biggest cuttings in the country at the time. He also won championships at Congress, the Denver National Show, and the Kansas and Missouri Maturity.
A full page photo of Shearin on Gold Tender appeared in Sports Illustrated, along with a caption that described them as “apparently defying gravity.”
Shearin mentored many amateur and non-pro riders over the years, and had a special influence with youth cutters. His trainees included NCHA Youth World Champions Larry Shearin and Debbie Shaw, and future NCHA president Ernie Beutenmiller Jr.
Besides cutting, he trained halter and pleasure horses for many years. One of his stars, Van Decka, set an AQHA record for youth points.
When a reporter noted that Shearin had been called the ‘Stan Musial of the cutting horse industry,’ Shearin replied, “I’m a little uncomfortable with that comparison. I’ve met Stan Musial. He was quite a baseball player and is a great person.”
He preferred to say that he was a simple man who had been fortunate to live his dream of being a cowboy.
Services for Mel Shearin are pending.