2019 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Inductee
At age 14, Walter J. “Walt” Vermedahl learned how to train colts and to shoe his saddle horses from his neighbor. It wasn’t long after, he started his own horse training business. At high school rodeos, he entered bareback, saddle bronc, calf roping, cow cutting, and steer wrestling. In between events, he could be found helping his fellow competitors or learning from the rodeo clown how to do rope tricks.
Walt joined the National Guard in 1956 and served for seven years.
In 1959, Walt placed first in bareback at the state High School Rodeo Finals and went on to win third in saddle bronc riding at Nationals.
In the spring of 1964, Walt embarked on the famous Montana Centennial Train Ride. He drove a six-up in sixteen different cities across the United States while tending to the care of 75 horses and mules. Upon his return, he married Pat Bell and relocated to the Polson fairgrounds where he set up to train. He bought 30 head of cattle and became a partner in a horse named Destiny Printer with longtime friend Al Grandchamp. Printer won the Charlie Russell Futurity in 1966 at the Chouteau Fair and later won an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Performance Register of Merit—a 5-event competition of cow cutting, reining, heading, trail, and Western pleasure.
Walt was awarded Pick Up Man of the Year in 1989 and ‘90 by Northwest Rodeo Association.
Walt later competed successfully on a horse named Speck, instinctively recognizing Speck’s outstanding caliber of talent, speed, and cow sense due to his experience of riding thousands of horses. In 2000, Travis Tryan purchased Speck and nicknamed him “Walt.” The first year he owned him, Travis qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Travis and “Walt” qualified eight more times, and “Walt” claimed AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year four times.
In 2015, “Walt” became the first rope horse to be inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado.