Cornbread Thinks: Starting

Your 2-year-old should already be under a saddle. Buttermilk’s is with Dan Edwards. He worked for Sean Flynn last before opening his own barn. He started Piper and Squiggles, who’ve earned $185,000 between them. So why not use him to start Fort Worth Skeet Club, aka Q-Tip? I called him in August and he was booked! I felt like the parent who got two pink bars and failed to call schools for a Pre-K slot. Emergency! I appealed to a higher power, R.L. Chartier, to save my marriage. Got ’er done.

The first six months of training is crucial. Very few people give much attention to this. Like children, it is hard learning their sums if they don’t know their 123s. They must

be taught how to learn. Teaching is a God-given gift. Not all have it. Not everybody gets this. There is an intuitiveness that can’t be defined. You can ask why someone did a certain thing, and they can say words. In truth, they did it because it seemed like the right thing with that horse at that moment.

I’m sidetracking here – I strongly believe this about picking cows, too. If there was truly a science to it, then some people would never pick a bad cow. There’s just an indefinable something about a cow that a cow picker likes. You ask why, and they go to putting out words. If one of them wrote a book and you made it your bible, you would still cut bad cows. Back to where I was…

Horses need a patient approach. There’s no room for a bad temper, which I consider the worst of all character traits. With people, horses and dogs, it isn’t a matter of controlling your temper, it is not having one. It takes a serious inward look about why you use anger instead of skill to solve things. After you got mad, have you ever sat yourself down and asked why? Why did you let your temper loose on the undeserving? Why did something really make you mad? Why did you use molten lava instead of cool, soft water? How did your action affect the process of getting where you wanted to go? Did you want to teach them how to think for themselves or only do what you would do? Did you want progress or just the same? One thing for sure, horses are snitches; they will tell on you. Anticipating a jerk by throwing their heads up is a tell of a heavy hand used late, and often for the wrong reason.

Unfortunately, not all horses are going to live up to our expectations. Not all will fulfill our dreams. Not all will justify the money spent. That’s life. Getting mad about this

is poison. Blaming your 2-year-old guy for life’s vagaries only means that when you do have a good horse, there will be no room at that inn. How do you know if the trainer is

at fault or your horse is lacking? How do you show a customer it’s the horse and not you? Get together. Go watch your horse. Early. Trainers? Send a video if they can’t come to you. Communicate. Be honest with yourself. Dan has been sending me progress report texts. Nice.

There is no one-and-only way to do any of this. One thing we do not do is handle our babies too much. We halter break them ourselves, just enough to lead them around and even then, sometimes with a butt rope. We give very few treats. We have safe pens and fences. We know how to restrain a horse in an emergency. We do not spoil them. We do not make them pets. Horses are not pets. We do not let them not respect us. We want them to pay attention to us, and eventually, the trainers. The best word I know to describe what excessive handling will accomplish is “numb.” Trainers hate having to untrain one.

The pressure to have one ready for the first go at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in 22 months is immense. If every available day can be used, it generally works. Wasting days for avoidable reasons must be avoided. Feed them to fit, not fat. These aren’t halter horses and do not need even an ounce that isn’t muscle. Get them to the program of choice as soon as appropriate. Don’t install accessories the trainer has to take off.

Cornbread Thinks: Bring them a clean canvas.