Squiggles is 6. We have won close to $20,000. It is mostly my fault it isn’t more. Buttermilk and I show aged events, so I need a 3-year-old. We raised him and his half-sister Piper, who aged out last year and is now bred. We are raising yearling and weanling relatives. There is a gap in our “raise them yourself” pipeline. I hate shopping for anything, but especially horses, and in particular unproven ones. It’s a gamble. Buttermilk’s poker-playing friends have asked me why I don’t play poker, too. “Don’t I like gambling?” I do like gambling, but I saddle my bets.
Successful cutting programs build around quality. Initially, it’s more money, but it’s cheaper in the long run. The cheapest thing you buy is the horse. I’m still trying to figure out how somebody can’t afford a quality horse, but can afford to pay entry fees with little winning and little prospect of an increase in value. In the world of gambling, those are poor odds.
It is rare the human being who rides to profitability in cutting, even Hall of Fame trainers. How well you get your horse shown will go a long way toward the money in cutting. Most of us are not going to be Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) profitable. You can generate some reasonable offsets and enter into other profitable adventures, not unlike joining a country club to play that golf stuff. They aren’t going to win to profitability either. Way too much discourse goes into purse money in the Amateur and not enough into getting a horse shown.
The single most important piece is having a horse you can get shown. It is a bonus if your trainer can win on the horse, too. Your needs must come first. Everybody wants to mark a 225 when they go to the herd. That is rare for everyone. A 213 is more realistic. A 216 nearly always gets you a check or into the finals. A horse that can consistently mark a 72 is way better than one who occasionally marks a 75. The difference? Usually you. More horse is rarely the solution to most people’s show problems.
Horse trainers are elite athletes. Their eye-to-saddle coordination is superior. When a horse reacts like lightning, greatness happens. They are a quick and precise unit. A horse at the peak of physical conditioning is the equivalent of a Sprint Cup racecar. Suppose a body who is an excellent driver in the driveway buys Kevin Harvick’s car. They won’t even get it up on the bank, much less make it through four left turns. How would Jerry Jones do as the quarterback? It is his team isn’t it?
Goldilocks is another good word. Not too much. Not too little. Just right. The only thing worse than a trainer with not enough horse is a non-pro with too much horse. All this makes shopping for a 3-year-old frustrating. You must try them. Trainers, rightfully so, don’t want anybody but them on a young one. You better have earned some respect and the ability to pay a fair price if you want to see the best in the barn. It is not about you, it is about a valuable piece of merchandise. Kevin Harvick is not going to let a stranger test drive his car either.
Horses want to please you. They need your signals to be reassuring and calming. You need to feel their signals. It isn’t just speaking the same language; you must speak the same dialect. If you and your horse don’t mesh, you’re never in the saddle “right.” You send wrong and mixed signals. A horse whose quickness and power exceeds yours is a hopeless situation. It’s frustrating for you and ruins the horse. Forever.
Unless you have been going to pre-works, visiting barns, asking who has seen a good one and generally staying in the community, you just won’t know what is out there. Seek professional help. Your trainer is a good place to start. By the way, a 10 percent commission is standard. Discuss this thoroughly before you ever throw your leg over one.
I badly want a 3-year-old, but if we don’t find a fit, I will wait. Allowing the pressure of wanting a horse to force you into a bad decision is ignorant.
Cornbread thinks: The slower you go, the faster you get there.