Born on a ranch in Texas, Randy Steffen grew up around horses, which set the stage for his becoming a western artist, writer and researcher.He graduated high school in 1935, receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. While attending Stanton Preparatory Academy, a prerequisite for West Point, he waited tables and gave riding lessons. Soon after starting at West Point he traded places with another cadet and transferred to the Naval Academy, graduating as an ensign in 1940. He was then deployed to Europe during WWII.
After the war, Steffen worked in civil engineering for a short period of time, and soon leased a ranch in Nevada, where he got involved in the training of horses. During this time he began creating and selling art works, marking the beginning of his artistic career.
He was a man of many talents, and in 1948, he moved to Colorado Springs to design a new office building for the Western Horseman magazine. He trained polo ponies in California; worked as managing editor of a horse magazine in Cisco, Texas; and worked as a stuntman and stand-in for western movie stars in Hollywood. Here he began writing articles on a variety of topics, establishing a reputation as a solid writer and researcher. Among his articles are: United States Military Saddles; The Civil War Soldier; The American Sidesaddle; Indian-Fighting Cavalryman; Stagecoach! The Abbot-Downing Story; Saddles Through History; Bits Through History; Horse Equipment of the Plains Indians; and The American Stock Saddle.
On the basis of his extensive research about the personal gear and horse gear of the United States Cavalry, Steffen wrote a series of four books about the uniforms, arms, accouterments, and equipment of the cavalryman, entitled: The Horse Soldier 1776-1943, published in 1977, 1978, and 1979 by the University of Oklahoma Press.
In the late 1960s, Steffen concentrated on creating bronze sculptures and paintings, continuing through the mid 70s, though his health was failing him.
In 1974, he received one of two Americana Awards from American Airlines for his work in preserving American history. Then the Dallas area Bicentennial Commission selected him to receive its Bicentennial Award for promotion of American history through art and writing. They also nominated him for the Freedom Foundation George Washington Award, and on February 2, 1976, he was honored with the American Exemplar Award at Valley Forge.
Randy Steffen died January 17, 1977, at the age of 59. His ashes were scattered at the wildlife refuge near Cache, Oklahoma.