Chuck started riding when he was 10 years old and did not attempt to train a horse until he was 14. "Richard Saukko, my stepfather at the time, always encouraged me to work hard and never give up," he says. "My first horse that I was to train was a horse that Richard got for me from the pound. I think he paid $70 for him. I don't want to say it was a mistake, but it sure was a learning experience. I suppose through trial and error, blood sweat and tears, I began to figure it out . I never had any formal training in the beginning only Richard's few words of wisdom that kept me striving forward. Years later, Chuck was training show horses professionaly for clients in Arizonia, and California, winning many blue ribbons and championships.
The very first horse Chuck rode was Traveler II. He groomed and exercised Traveler II and Traveler III and prepared them for all football games and Rose Parades. "These two horses were already trained, in fact they taught me," Chuck says. His job of training Traveler didn't start until Traveler IV. "I broke him to ride as a young horse, but I, living elsewhere, was not able to keep a consistent watch on him, plus the fact of having different riders on him made it difficult." When the time came near to retire Traveler IV, the search was on for a new horse. Chuck had expressed to his mother, Patricia Saukko, the changes in the type of horse they should be looking for and she agreed: "I wanted a larger, more animated animal." That was when they went to visit an Andalusian breeder, known for their superior horses, and that was when they found Traverer V. "He was not trained, and was already six years old. We had a lot of work to do ...fast. There was also Travler VIwho is a five year old Andalusianthat we've had since he was a few months old." Although Chuck and his mother have retired from owning and training Traveler, he still rides the current Traveler VII. In total, Chuck has been riding and training Traveler on and off for 28 years.
In those 28 years and a multitude of memories working with Traveler, there are three experiences he appreciates most. "One was the first time on any horse. It was on Traveler II. He took off running with me at his home around his exercise track, while I grabbed the mane, and held on for life. He stopped where he always stopped in front of Richard. He was laughing, and I was terrified. I learned later that horse would always take care of any person on his back. He taught my mother and myself many things. The most important is trust.... He was a dear friend. Two was introducing Traveler V to the Coliseum with me in the saddle. I felt it was a great accomplishment, and also later that year coming home with Three National Championship Titles at the Andalusian Nationals in Texas. And final, the half-time memorial honoring my late stepfather Richard Saukko. I have so much to thank him for. I hope he is as proud of us as we were of him."
Hector began riding horses while attending grammar school. He would spend the weekends at his uncle's small ranch. He was expected to perform chores, which included jumping on a horse bareback to bring in the cattle at the crack of dawn for milking and other care. Of course there were a lot of falls off these horses because they were not exactly trained, and riding bareback more than half the time, well, you can imagine...
This experience gave him his initial interest in horses, which didn't come into play until he was in his 20's, as his primary interests then were sports, playing professional tennis and then teaching tennis for many years. It was only due to girlfriends riding horses that in between everything else he would again find the joy that comes with riding.
Hector moved into the Burbank equestrian area in 1983 and started to ride on a regular basis, while studying different methods of riding and training, and eventually teaching people how to ride. He attended many training seminars by famous trainers. He gears toward western riding and especially riding involving cattle, i.e. cutting, roping and team penning.
The art, and I do mean art, of riding a new horse on a loose rein is the optimum goal he looks forward to. One such horse is the new Traveler. "I have had the pleasure of riding him off and on over the last three years," Hector says, "and he is very responsive to light cues, which makes him a joy to ride." Hector states, "I look forward to riding Traveler at the home games any chance that he's allowed, and to continue the great USC tradition."
Hector has ridden in many movies, commercials and the current Traveler in live performances on stage during his riding career and loved every minute of it.