Cornbread Thinks: Whose Trophy is it Anyway…

This column comes out deep into the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. Even though I am writing before it even starts, I know we have seen some great runs. I am clairvoyant like that. Everybody has seen old friends, made some new ones, told each other Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukah or such. It’s all good. We are going to get down to the end and start passing out trophies, buckles, swag and most importantly, checks – big ones in some cases.

Buttermilk and I were at dinner last night with a very successful breeder and all-around cutter, one who goes to lots of pre-works and is in contact with numbers of people. A story was relayed about a trainer/owner wreck. Between us, we had several similar stories. That is what cutters do, isn’t it? Tell stories. Some are even true. True or not, most have lessons in them.

An owner’s horse had won a big show, which included a saddle to be custom made. When the owner contacted the saddlemaker shortly after the show to give some specs, it seems the trainer had already placed the order. Uh oh… manure in the air circulator.

It is way too easy to not view this sport as a business, but it absolutely is a business. The dollars are too big for it not to be. Nowhere is it carved in stone that business cannot be fun, too. Matter of fact, “fun” is a key component in the business of cutting. If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t going to win.

Some people get that backward. It would be nice if we had an “Official Horse Training Contract” like realtors use, covering all areas with little boxes to check for every detail. Preferably it would be written in “Cowperson.”

We have our own quirky rules of etiquette, treated like state secrets only to be revealed when you break one – like letting the next bunch of horses come in the Coliseum before you go out. Everyone is equally guilty in all of this. You are just as guilty for not asking as for not telling. Trainers are wrong for not telling customers anything they need or should have known. Customers are wrong to have not asked anything they need or should have known.

Buttermilk and I agree we won’t wear buckles we did not win. Kinda think it is false advertising. I do occasionally wear a buckle John Carter won and wore for years that he sent me back near the end of his life here on Earth. An award from John, not the show. It is OK to give your kids one of your buckles to wear. That is part of the “village” raising the children. Kids like to be proud of their parents’ accomplishments.

Trophies pretty much go to the owners. Not always, but pretty much. The swag is a free for all. Halters and coolers stay with the horse. If the horse has accumulated more than can be used, you get creative. Buttermilk has turned a couple into throws for chilly days on the couch watching her stories.

Since we keep score with U.S. dollars and this is a business, the money won is a very important “thing.” It can be a big number, too. If, read that again, if you do not discuss and have a clear understanding ahead of time, you are wrong and your claim is weak. Very weak. Be you owner or be you trainer, never, ever assume anything. Never, ever think there is an industry standard adhered to by all. Never, ever assume the etiquette of the division.

As we know all too well, this sport takes much more than finances. It demands your heart, soul and ego. It is a very emotionally brutal partaking. Our trainer/owner relationships are a bond miles beyond what we have with any other business/customer relationship. The break-up of these bonds are painful for all. To have it happen over who should get a gift certificate for a mani-pedi is a shame. That is how break-ups start, though.

This is more serious than I like to be, but this is the Futurity – the end of the year and start of another. There will be new deals starting. The Hag did sing, “If We Make It Through December.” It’s a good time to have this discussion and start the year right.

Cornbread Thinks: Preventing is better than changing.