Signed in as:
Signed in as:
Although William Dougan's father, Lord of Landkey, Wiliam John Dougan -Bill-, has been the man who gave his son the entrepreneurial encouragement and life lessons, William credits Charles Holbrook as the mentor who opened the door to the West—the gate to the rodeo arena. The man who gave William the opportunity to expose his talents at the right time and the right moment. A chance—a ride that would change the course of William's life.
That ride was the beginning of the still growing European western equine community it became today. William shared his authentic joy of the ride—the bond between the cowboy and his horse with everyone he met. He got young and old in the cowboy saddle. Relentlessly. Over the years thousands of people became his followers on the cowboy trail. The happiness and joy they found in this balance instilled by William made them share the feeling on their turn with others. Some became renowned western equine trainers and athletes, some became breeders and officials, and many just seeking their horseback contentment, and all—all enjoy the ride.
Here's the story about a cowboy giving another cowboy a chance—one single ride. The story of William's gratitude to Charles Holbrook and his world.
Young William Dougan—always wearing his cowboy hat. At the age of 17 he pointed his boots and guts towards Bobbejaanlaand—a Western-themed attraction park in Lichtaart, Belgium—to ask for a job opportunity as a cowboy. In the ticket booth at the entrance, he was told that there were no cowboy jobs available, but he could check with the vendors in the park to find out if they might have some job openings. Anyway, if they weren't hiring cowboys, William regarded the New York Pizza restaurant in the park as a possible in-between avenue on his pathway to his American Cowboy career. Upon applying for a job, he demonstrated his willingness to work at the most basic level - cleaning tables.
After two-and-a-half day of William's stint as a busser in the New York Pizza, a man with an American accent started talking to William who spoke English (William's father was English). The American was the right hand of the rodeo producer who planning a rodeo production in the park. The man told William that he was looking for a translator who could help him finding his way to local suppliers because they needed supplies for the rodeo. William couldn't believe his ears — it sounded like the dream opportunity way beyond his wildest fantasies. William told the restaurant manager that he didn't have to pay him for that two-and-a-half-day busser job and that he went to work for the American customer who just hired William as a translator. That man, the American, was Charles Holbrook, who worked for rodeo producer Bob Cook.
William, with his dad's horse operation at home, and his enthusiastic flair as a purebred cowboy salesman was the ideal asset. He connected Charles with suppliers for hay, feed, fences, and whatever was required... He coordinated, translated, and talked everyone into the make-it-happen-mood. — He turned out to be all you needed to help American rodeo producers set up a rodeo circus in Belgium. Indeed; after some weeks of preparations the rodeo production was all set and ready to open up. And William's job was nearing its end. "But I want to ride sir! — I want to be a rodeo cowboy." Charles looked at him and gave William the chance to prove himself.
The Chance of a Lifetime
They put him on a bronc in the chute and opened the gate. William felt that he was born to ride rodeos as he stayed on top of the horse for the required full eight seconds (which feel like an eternity when you're riding them). What they didn't tell him is that they 'forgot' to apply a flank strap to the bronc (the device that makes a rough stock horse buck and kick like crazy wild).
That same night the rodeo show featured William in the show. "And now a cowboy from Belgium — William Dougan". A split second after opening the gate -of course- young William landed in the sand of the arena — the bronc was wearing a flank strap and went through the roof. After the show, he felt the production people thought this was his last ride, and that he was gonna give up.
—No way! On the contrary — William promised himself to demonstrate his dedication and perseverance. For as long as the rodeo production was on; two shows per day, every day again William performed in every single show. Both as a bull rider and as a bronc rider. By the time the production was over he made it and he became a rodeo cowboy in his own right.
Bill, William's dad was afraid that his son would pursue a career in America and he asked young William not to break his heart — He promised William he'd build him a ranch in Westerlo where they live.
Charles Holbrook was highly instrumental. Not only to teach William the ins and outs of the ride, but also as a cowboy mentor, and a coach.
This remarkable piece of authentic history was not only the start of William Dougan, the European Cowboy-Entrepreneur he is today — ultimately it was the very take-off of the western horse & cowboy spectacular industry in Europe.
Gipsy Horses started to perform cowboy spectaculars and rodeo acts both at what is today Gipsy Horses Ranch in Westerlo, but also on location. The Gipsy horse legacy became a source of inspiration for many western riders, western sports athletes, trainers, performers, and western equestrian practicing enthusiasts.
What started as a rarity in the late seventies became a fully fledged equine community with about about 20,000 western horses in Belgium only. Gipsy Horses Ranch in Westerlo, Flanders, is considered the most important western experience center in Europe that yearly inspires thousands of enthusiasts with western equine, experience, practice, sports, and entertainment. It inspires and educates young people to actively connect with the western equine culture. Also young talents on their path to western equine careers in a European area that in the meanwhile produced world champions -both in open and in amateur classes. Gipsy Horses Ranch also demonstrated how beneficial the core western spirit can be. It's the art of man bonding with his equine partner on their life path and building confidence — whatever happens. We always stay in the saddle or even bareback and when we fall off, we get up again. Lessons in balance and unparalleled cowboy contentment. In what may look like a modest cowboy ride, a universe of inner peace and spiritual friendship with the horse is found. In GHR's program also activities for people with disabilities have been consistently present.
Today the European western industry is still growing with a wide range of classes and disciplines. Its versatility may illustrate the fact that it's all built on one basic idea the love for the horse, the freedom of mind and the Western traditions
—And this all started with a young man, a hat full of dreams, and another cowboy who gave him a chance, his friendship and a welcome to the world of the West.
Thanks, Charles (1951 - 2022)
You cowboyed your untamed herd of inspiration over mountains, oceans, and seas, it was a unique honor being in the saddle with you.
The Dougan Family and Gipsy Horses Ranch wish to express their gratefulness to all involved in making the immense ride possible — the impressive trail that stretches from the early days all the way up to the most promising tomorrows of Western Equine Culture beyond the constraints of borders ,languages and in eclectic harmony with local cultures. The good hearted cowboy opens every door.
Article by Rik Raats. Thanks to Lori Brown Andrews, Dwight Miller, and Clay Maier for their help, archives and photo collections
This January Sir Willam Dougan and his spouse Mrs. Caroline Dougan traveled to Seminole, Oklahoma to visit with Charles' beloved Lori. Demonstrating their respect and to bid him farewell.
Deze website gebruikt cookies voor anonieme analyse van websiteverkeer, zodat we de functionaliteit en effectiviteit van deze website kunnen verbeteren.