Zeph grew up riding horses in rural Western Montana. "I remember learning how to ride a bike but I don't remember learning how to ride a horse. It's just something I've always done," he said. Though he had an early start on horses, it would be years before Zeph realized the true principles of horsemanship.
"Being around horses a lot doesn't automatically make you a horseman. When I was a kid, my dad started raising foundation bred quarter horses and I tried my hand at breaking a few. At that point I really thought I had a horse broke if it was no longer trying to strike me, kick me, or buck me off," Zeph recalls.
As a young teenager, Zeph experienced a pivotal moment when he picked up a book by trainer, Al Dunning.
"My dad bought the book from a store that was going out of business. The book was discounted and part of the cover was torn off. I pored over it. It really got the wheels in my head turning. I would get on my dad's horses and try to implement some of the things I read about. I didn't have much success early on, but my eyes were opened to the whole concept of horsemanship," said Zeph.
It was a spark that lit a lifelong desire in Zeph to learn more.
During his high school years, Zeph spent summers working on nearby ranches changing irrigation pipes, bucking bales, etc. He also exercised race horses at the track in Missoula. Not afraid of "problem" horses, he earned a local reputation as a "good hand." A few of the horse owners liked how he handled their horses and hired him to saddle break colts at their farms. The experience heightened his interest in training horses as a profession.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Zeph and his new wife, Liz moved to the Ninemile in Western Montana, where he managed a small ranch. It was during this time that he attended a clinic hosted by Wil Howe.
"I was hungry for knowledge. Wil took me aside and told me that I had some ability. He built me up but he also gave me a dose of reality. It was clear at that point that I had a long way to go. Essentially, I didn't even know what I didn't know."
Not long after the clinic, Zeph went to Wil's School of Fine Horse Training in northeast Oregon. Wil's motto was "Where Cowboys become Horseman." From there the pieces started to come together. Wil's systematic approach to training and his knowledge of horse psychology clicked with Zeph. "When I think back on it, I realize that going to Wil's was the single most impactful step I took towards learning how to train a horse. I don't think I would have had the courage or the knowledge to train professionally if it hadn't been for Wil. He really encouraged me."
Since then, Zeph has devoted his professional life to mastering the art of horsemanship. He continues to learn and refine his skills by attending clinics and riding with other trainers whom he respects.
Today, Zeph and his family live on the Aspen Meadows Ranch in Coalville, UT where he trains horses to be versatile in both the show pen and on the range. Zeph competes in regional and national cow horse and cutting competitions in addition to serving as an NRCHA AA judge.
He is an experienced professional in all facets of horse training, sales and ranch management in addition to running his own small, family cattle operation. Zeph and his family are avid outdoor enthusiasts who can be found camping, fishing and big game hunting throughout the West. As time permits, Zeph enjoys guiding elk and deer hunts as well.