By Cynthia McFarland
There are as many different ways to make a career in the equine industry as there are colors of horses, and not all of them involve swinging a leg over a horse’s back. But for horse show announcer Darren Moore, his extensive personal experience as a rider is icing on the cake for a career he was born to do.
Darren Moore has been the official voice of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA) for over nine years, announcing at venues across the country, including the World Championships in Amarillo, Scottsdale and Las Vegas.
You’ll find him announcing at American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) shows, plus National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) and National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) events across the U.S. Horse shows are his bread and butter. He’s announced at the AQHA Quarter Horse Congress and he’s the voice of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
If you’ve attended any of these events, you’ve no doubt heard his voice, but you’ll be seeing more of his face now that he’s an ambassador for the Farnam® brand.
“Farnam has been a big fan and follower of Darren Moore for years. We are super excited about our partnership and working with him in and out of the arena. His positive attitude and enthusiasm for our industry is infectious; he builds momentum to get the crowd engaged and excited. Having him as part of our team at events brings a whole new dimension of fun and creativity to the Farnam consumer experience,” says Martha Lefebvre, senior marketing manager for Farnam.
At the 2020 Farnam AQHA World Championship Show last November, Darren spent time in the Farnam booth interacting with and interviewing exhibitors. He also put his energy and people skills to work making videos about the exciting giveaways of oversized chrome-plated show boxes stocked with $1000 worth of Farnam® products, a fun new Farnam promotion you’ll want to look for at future events.
No doubt about it, Darren is a “people person.” Whether he’s shopping at a grocery store or announcing a national show, he’s going to be talking to and focused on the people around him. That’s just who he is.
As the man behind the microphone, it’s Darren’s task to inform the audience of class results, but as he puts it, “There’s a difference between announcing and just name calling.”
When Darren takes his place in the announcer’s booth, it’s his goal to inform and entertain everyone on the listening end. He’s the first to admit he loves to make people laugh.
“The best part of what I do is being able to entertain not only the audience, but also the exhibitors,” says Darren. “I try to make it enjoyable for anybody listening. Getting to use my personality for entertainment is my thing.”
Growing up on a dairy farm in Adrian, Missouri, Darren was raised by the great aunt and uncle who adopted him at two weeks of age.
“They also had Belgian draft horses, so I was put on a horse before I could walk. I grew up riding and learned to drive 2-, 4- and 6-horse hitches,” says Darren, who started team roping as a teenager. He began with heading and then switched to heeling, and his competitive nature eventually led him to the rodeo arena.
He rodeoed from the ages of 19 to 30, competing in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) events and the Great Lakes Circuit, in which he was rookie of the year as a header.
After a decade of rodeo, it was his roping partner who pitched the idea that ultimately led to Darren’s current career.
“I was working in insurance sales and rodeoing on the weekends with Jimmy Allen (“The Big Iron”), who was my heeling partner at the time,” recalls Darren. “In 2002, we were driving back from a circuit rodeo in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when he suggested I announce a Cowboy Mounted Shooting event that was coming up that October in Nixa, Missouri.”
Darren took Jimmy up on the challenge, never dreaming it would open the door to a whole new career and lifestyle.
After that first event, Darren continued announcing at Cowboy Mounted Shooting events, and also competed in the sport himself for a time.
“When I started out, I tried to script myself, but Jimmy said, ‘Just do you and talk,’ so I did,” recalls Darren. “For the first year or so, he would help and correct me; I literally would not be where I am today if he hadn’t got me going.”
Darren took time out to attend the Missouri Auction School, and it was during their 10-day course that he learned how to talk from his diaphragm and breathe properly while speaking, a valuable lesson he uses every day as an announcer.
“Whether you’re a singer, an auctioneer or an announcer, if you’re talking or singing with your vocal chords, you’re likely to lose your voice. You have to learn to talk from your diaphragm,” he explains.
From his first gig in the announcer’s stand in the fall of 2002 until 2012, Darren continued his day job of insurance sales while announcing at Cowboy Mounting Shooting events.
“I’ll never forget taking my insurance test the day after 9/11. Then I worked as an agent for life, health, property and casualty insurance, but as I got busier with both announcing and the insurance business, it got to where I had to give up one or the other,” says Darren.
After a decade doing both, it was clear he had a choice to make. In 2012, he chose to leave insurance and follow his passion. Many announcers do have a second job, but Darren is pleased that his passion is his full-time career.
A day in the life
Since those early days, Darren figured out that he didn’t need to plan ahead of time exactly what to say in the announcer’s booth. Obviously, he does any necessary research and has all his paperwork in hand, but that’s the extent of his preparation.
“Until I flip the switch, I don’t know what I’m going to say, it just flows,” says Darren. “It’s just a natural thing God gave me, and I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I love what I do and I’m very passionate about it.”
There are plenty of announcers who aren’t riders, but that’s not Darren. His years of experience in the saddle definitely give him an edge when it comes to his job.
“I know what it’s like to be on a 2- or 3-year-old and I get what’s going through the exhibitors’ brains,” he says. It’s the horses themselves that add interest to his work.
“People ask me, ‘Don’t you get bored sitting there watching the same thing over and over?’ I don’t. I am a fan of a good horse, regardless of the discipline or breeding,” says Darren, who enjoys watching good stock no matter what event they’re in.
At premier events, such as the World’s Greatest Horseman or the Snaffle Bit Futurity finals, someone else is hired to do the music, but for most other shows Darren does the music himself.
“Being versatile with your music is important. When you’re at a show for 10 to 12 hours a day people get tired of just country; you’ve got to mix it up. I try to play today’s hits,” he notes.
Is there a music genre he would never play at a horse show? It doesn’t take him long to answer that one.
“I’d never play rap,” he says with a smile.
That said, he’s an announcer, not a DJ. He may be responsible for the music playing in the background, but that’s hardly his sole focus.
“Sometimes people ask me to play specific songs and I try to accommodate, but my focus is on announcing,” says Darren, who’s happy to be known as “Moore Than Just an Announcer.”
In mentioning sponsors and calling out exhibitors and horses, he’s tasked with an enormous amount of names at each show. “I truly do want to know the correct way to pronounce your name and your horse’s name, so if it’s an unusual name, please tell me how to say it,” he adds.
“The horse show world is pretty loyal so once you get in with them and do your job, they’re going to hire you back,” he says. “Most all of the places I go now, I’ve been there before,” says Darren.
Whether he’s driving or flying, Darren brings the tools of his trade along, including his own mixer board, cables and microphones.
He prefers to drive to a show rather than fly–especially if it’s some place he’s never been before–and easily puts 40,000 to 60,000 miles on his vehicle each year. He’s also happy to leave the interstate in his rear view for at least part of the journey.
“I like two-lane roads when possible because I get to see the America that we don’t always see from the interstate,” he says, “and I like using an atlas, not GPS.”
Driving also allows him to bring his golf clubs along as he likes to get in a few games between shows when he’s on the road. But he’s quick to confess that although he plays golf, he’s not a “golfer.”
Typically, Darren arrives at least one day or so before the event. “I just did a show in Venice, Florida, and I went a few days early so I could do some tourist stuff and go to the beach,” he says.
The life of an announcer can be solitary, even lonely, when you’re not working, notes Darren who is single.
Darren is only home at his place in Texas about 150 days out of the year. The rest of the time he is working at horse shows and events across the country. He may wear a cowboy hat and boots, but Darren is well-versed on all the distinctions in English and Western terminology. His job keeps him on the road, from Massachusetts to California–and even beyond the States. He’s announced in Sweden and this year he’s bound for Austria to announce for the European Reined Cow Horse Association.
Making it happen
Darren realizes his line of work is hard for people to understand if they are accustomed to 9-to-5 weekday jobs.
Many shows involve 15-hour days, which is a long time to maintain a high level of enthusiasm, but that’s what Darren is known for. He makes it a point to give the same level of energy to those exhibitors competing at midnight as he does to those riding in the early afternoon.
“Until someone comes up and sits with me a couple hours, they don’t understand what goes into announcing,” he notes.
Since he doesn’t have a secretary or anyone to help in the announcer’s booth, he enters the judges’ scores in a software program as the judges’ results come to him via a tablet or software system. If there’s no internet at the show facility, the scribes from each judge communicate on walkie talkies to tell him the results to be announced.
Because he can’t leave the microphone for long when the show is on, Darren typically eats in the booth and only takes breaks when the judges do, which is totally dependent on class changes. For example, judges may have a 20-minute break when the arena is changed from Western pleasure to showmanship. He keeps plenty of bottled water on hand–room temp, not cold–to drink throughout the day and stay hydrated, which helps his voice.
“Most of the shows I’m announcing are six to eight days long at the very minimum and others are 12 to 24 days,” says Darren. “When you’re an announcer at a show, you are working every day the show runs; there are no days off. When I work a big show, it can take two days to recover afterwards because I’m just mentally drained. I give it everything I’ve got when I’m there.”
Although he misses having a horse of his own, that’s impossible with a career that keeps him on the road. On occasion, Darren will connect with someone in the area where he’s working a show and get the opportunity to rope with them.
At some point he’d like to rope regularly again, and he has a dream of learning to show cow horses. Those goals will probably have to wait a while, but that’s okay with him.
“I don’t know anything else that I would enjoy as much or be as passionate about as announcing. I love meeting new people and I have a passion for horses and entertainment,” says Darren. “What I cherish the most are the people that I have met traveling around the world.”
If you haven’t met Darren in person yet, make that happen in 2021.
“We’ve got some fun new things planned as we celebrate 75 years of Farnam together,” says Martha Lefebvre.” Look for Farnam and the man behind the microphone at national events, on our social spaces and in our free ‘Life with Horses’ eNewsletter.”
Expect Darren Moore to bring the fun at upcoming events and through Farnam videos on social media. Meanwhile, you can see what he’s up to at www.darrenwmoore.com and on his social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram.
Farnam is a registered trademark of Farnam Companies, Inc.
All images courtesy of Farnam.
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.