about the author

Courtesy of Spirit & Nature Productions (https://youtu.be/wI7djEdLn1I

Kristin Dickerson, NBC Texas Today host, interviews longtime friend and mentor Dr. Joe Bates Armstrong about his first book, Horseman’s Handbook. 

Joe B. Armstrong:


I am an Octogenarian, Cattleman, Horseman, PhD and Educator.
Horseman‘s Handbook is the result of the synergy of these experiences.

The Horseman’s Handbook is the result of the synergy of my life experiences. My friend David Whitaker may have said it best: “Joe Armstrong didn’t write this book; he and his son Edward just recorded what happened.”

I was born on July 23, 1937, weighing 4.5 pounds, in Coffeeville, Mississippi. I had wonderful, strong, loving parents—one sister and two brothers. Today, I am the last of the tribe. My mother and father were adamant that we each get a good education and then let us choose our own vocations.


I attended Millsaps College for 2 years and, as planned, transferred to Mississippi State University to pursue my B.S. in Animal Husbandry. At Mississippi State, I likely achieved the distinction of being the youngest AQHA judge. AQHA held a judge’s school at Miss State in December 1958; I was 21 years old and earned my Judge’s Card. That spring, I turned down the opportunity to judge in Grapevine, Texas, and my judging team coach and mentor, Carl Williams, was really upset with me. I became active and judged my first shows in 1961. My second show at Sapulpa, Oklahoma, had Okie Leo, Poco Margaret, Leo Louise, and many other greats. A prominent horse breeder named Roland Stanfield came up to me after the halter classes and said, “Son, I didn’t have any horses in the halter classes, but you did a good job of placing those classes.” I was off and running!

I received my M.S. from Oklahoma State University and my Ph.D. from Colorado State University. Both degrees were in Animal Breeding. At Colorado State, I not only got my Ph.D. but also invited Jesus Christ into my life as my Savior and Lord and married Rusty Vieh, the love of my life. We were married on December 28th, 1963!

Vocationally, Rusty and I lived in Auburn, Alabama, where I was an Extension Beef Cattle Specialist. My horse knowledge afforded me almost immediate acceptance and credibility in my Beef Cattle Extension work.

While at Auburn University, I became good friends with the great cattleman and horseman, Pete Reynolds. Originally from West Texas, the Reynolds family owned the mother of Sugar Bars, who was the grandsire of Colonel Freckles and his full brother, Son O Sugar, and many other greats. There is some controversy regarding Sugar Bars dam, but that’s what Mr. Pete told me.

Desiring to be in production agriculture, we moved to Polk City, Florida, in 1967 to develop and manage Sunny Acres Ranch for James M. Wellman. Sunny Acres Ranch was a 500-cow Polled Hereford and 20-broodmare operation. The ranch owned two AQHA Champion stallions, Heza Rocket and Mr Steel Bars. Rusty and I had our own 10 broodmares on our adjacent property. I was honored to judge the National Polled Hereford Show in 1972 and, later, the National Red Angus Show. Mr. Wellman succumbed to cancer in 1971, or I might still be working with him, and none of what I am writing would ever have occurred.

I took on a ranch management position in Georgia that did not work out, i.e., I was fired. Rusty’s father, Edward Vieh, was born on a homestead in Montana, and he and we were all interested in buying a ranch in Montana. He came down with cancer and passed away. The little money that Rusty and I had saved, plus my degrees, was insufficient to purchase a working cattle ranch. That’s when my father’s requirements for me to get a fine education paid off!

We moved to Calhoun, Georgia, to work for the University of Georgia as Extension Livestock Specialist for Northwest Georgia. This was a great time of growth for our kids, and we made a fabulous set of friends. Much of my work was with Gordon County’s “Red Carpet Cattlemen’s Association“. We actually started the very first telephone auction for beef cattle!

My friend and mentor, Bobby J. Rankin, was at New Mexico State University, and he called to ask me to apply for a position at NMSU that would start their Equine Sciences program and be the Extension Horse Specialist. Horace Greeley said, “Go West, young man, go West”, so we moved to Las Cruces, NM.

University work thrust me into building Livestock and Horse Judging Teams. The NMSU Horse Program had superior practical, teaching, breeding, training, and sales divisions. We had the distinction of owning CJ Sugar, blood brother to Colonel Freckles. Our sire, King Correon, was a son of Continental King, who was one of the last sons of King P-234! Continental King and his offspring were major players in the establishment of the National Reining Horse Association.

My background offered me the opportunity to work with both youth and adults in many different countries. I initiated the New Mexico 4-H Horse Show, founded on the same principles that my deceased friend, Charlie Hutton, used at the University of Georgia. The NMSU School began in 1981 and is still active. The New Mexico school led to starting the German Quarter Horse Association‘s Horsemanship Camps in 1999 and was the precursor to the AQHA International Horse Camps.

Rusty’s cousin, Gene Vieh, purchased Willow Creek Ranch at the Hole-In-The-Wall in Kaycee, Wyoming, and we helped him get this nice cattle and horse ranch operating. The actual Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid Hole-In-The-Wall is on the BLM permit of this ranch!

When you travel to as many states and countries as I have been afforded the opportunity to do, you see and participate in all segments of animal agriculture and life. And you get to glean from many of the greatest minds.

The Horseman‘s Handbook covers the complete spectrum of the western horse world. It was originally aimed at the person deciding to get into western riding, but ended up as a book that everyone who owns a horse or is a non-horse owner but loves horses can learn from. It covers evaluating, purchasing, feeding, gentling, training, riding, showing, packing, and even breeding and raising your own foal. 


The photographs, pictures, and illustrations are a book unto themselves. Since having horses is a family affair, the demonstrative pictures are of my family, all of whom are horsemen.


I have attempted to show and tell how to do all things correctly and safely. My goal is to give the reader insights that will prevent them from making mistakes that will hurt themselves or their horses. I have made the technical practical! With all of my degrees, I was never considered a pure scientist but rather a man on the ground, a practical stockman and breeder.

My son, Josh, and I bought and stood Von Reminic at stud. He won the 2000 NRHA Open Futurity. Armstrong Equine Service has continued to successfully line breed this great family of horses. I still ride and compete in horse competitions. Last year I showed Rankins Reminic at the AQHA World Show and plan to do it this year.

New Mexico is home, and there’s truly no place like home. At Armstrong Equine Service, we essentially offer everything you can do with a good horse. The gate is always open!

It is my wish that this book will bring you wisdom, knowledge and enjoyment.

Rusty recently shared with me author John Maxwell‘s quote: “Books can expand your influence far beyond your expectations. Through writing books, you expand your influence beyond yourself and beyond who you will meet in person.” This is my hope and prayer.

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