I don’t usually write toward trainers; I write about them a lot, them being easy targets and all. Plus, I use way too many big words. But, after watching a lot of the Amateur and Non-Pro during the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity, I saw a need. There seems to be a big gap between what a trainer thinks we know and what we really know. Some are actually surprised at how dumb we can be. Even though they never taught us that “thing,” since they have known that “thing” since they were 3, they just assumed we had downloaded that “thing” when we shook hands the first time.
Major things, too, like how to cut a cow in the middle of the pen. Will Rogers Coliseum is the best place in the world to show a cutting horse. It is not a difficult pen. There are lots worse. It has some quirks (no relation to Elizabeth.) Both of the big ones are just basic: get away from the herd; and work perpendicular to the sides. Just try and put your cow in the photographer’s lap and you will be OK. Working to the walls keeps you out of that corner with the exit ramp.
Little things were evident, too, like being responsible yourself for as much of your stuff as possible: chaps, hooks, your draw, where to be when, what color is gray and which is smoke, hiring your help, checking your own cinch, screwing a hat on for the whole run…just stuff. Basic etiquette. Like keeping quiet about your cows, not because it is a secret, but because you don’t want to put that responsibility on someone else. There is no time to spend filtering someone else’s pick out.
Trainers, a word here, owners are a lot like horses and dogs, they need a job. Y’all are wasting a resource. Don’t let us think too much. Put us to work. There is nothing to cutting, as long as you know everything. It is very much a mental thing. A seemingly unrelated “thing” can cause enough embarrassment to make our train of thought jump the tracks. The more a beginner knows about everything, the quicker and greater the comfort level rises.
We need to be comfortable everywhere – in the barns, the loping pen, practice pen, the flag – everywhere. If you aren’t comfortable in the barn, you sure won’t be comfortable on your horse. Recently, I was shocked to learn of a $200,000-plus Non-Pro who did not know how to tie a horse up, or down or any other way. Not a clue. “Park him over there,” “just wrap him,” “tie him anywhere, he’ll stand,” all went completely over the non-pro’s head. This lack of knowledge is a potential disaster that is eventually going to be a wreck. Trainers, teach us please. Do not let us, or in some cases, make us, climb off a horse and hand him off to a loper. You may think you are delivering first-class service, but this can be a disservice.
Owners, this ain’t Neiman Marcus; Don’t be that person. It will not kill you to get dirty, clean a stall, bridle up your horse, put your own wraps and boots on, sweat or get cold. Helping your loper helps your horse. In this world, like in the real world, respect is earned. There are no free passes because you did something spectacular in the real world. Like in the real world, asking or expecting people to do what you haven’t, won’t or can’t do yourself earns no points.
Trainers and lopers are always walking a tightrope strung between an owner’s whims, emotions and thinking. They need you as a customer. They want and need you to succeed. They do what, in their mind, is best. You need to do what is best for you. If you don’t have a comfortable relationship, those thoughts may be on different trails. Make sure your trainer feels free to tell you what you don’t want to hear. I can promise you the emotional beating of a trainer frustrated with you or your horse is nothing next to hearing Tom Holt say “Leaving the working area before time expired.”
A team sends you and your horse to the herd. Be part of that team.
Cornbread thinks: Be a sponge, you will never learn more than you need.