In this modern day and age of advanced technology, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and email, most of us have become so connected that our lives start to appear like an open book. I’m on the side of those who say, “It’s a good thing.” But I know many of you share a different feeling about “baring one’s soul” in such a public forum.
The world is turning green again, in this hemisphere, anyway. Mares are foaling, cows springing. Tender grass is showing. The Super Stakes is right now in a minute. Our clock for the year has started, just as it has done since the mid-1800s, at least in the world of horses, cows and our sport – cutting.
The threads in this make the cloth of the sack that holds the why of the way we do things like we do. Timing is based on God and Mother Nature’s schedules, not ours. We use theirs because it is so much easier. Stuff just meshes up, like a six-speed transmission. Low gears lug us slowly, but steadily, out of the inactive winter into the higher gears of spring as we break loose the grip, shifting up as we gain traction and momentum.
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.
Buttermilk and I have been going to some “weekend” shows. It has been like high school homecoming – a comfortable thing, seeing old friends and making new ones. There are two and one-half minutes in the herd, but 24 hours in a day. It is all about the two and a half, but it would be not near as much fun without all the rest – loading before daylight, watching the sun come up, Allsup’s coffee, saddling, hanging chaps, bridles and war bag on your horse. Once your feet are on show dirt, all is right with the world.
Last month I addressed the sales model of the show/performance industry and how lowering the standard commission would help producers and encourage growth. That’s one step. But there are many more steps we need to take along the way, as we continue along a road where we are constantly sideswiped by the marketplace’s shrinking base.
Economically and demographically, we’re not where we were 10 years ago. And yet our business model is still chugging ahead as though it’s a decade back.
We are approaching the halfway mark on this year’s National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity. If you have been here, you have seen a lot of horses work – outstanding ones, good ones and some embarrassingly bad. What everyone is looking for is the future, which is kind of why we call it the “Futurity.” Last month, I mentioned the 600 or so days a trainer has to get a horse ready for the Futurity. Not a minute is wasted or rushed. Everything is done just right, in order and in time.
This month, the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity starts in Fort Worth, Texas. It is one more very big deal, the pivot point of our world. It is the first time these 3-, coming 4-year-old horses have a hand dropped in real competition, in front of real judges.
There is a manure load of money to be realized in the Bigs, events with $100,000 minimum. Prize money is actually the little money in cutting. Big money is a mare having 20 babies selling for $50,000 apiece. Or a stallion breeding a full book of mares for a couple of decades at $10,000. Each.
Somebody has to decide which pony got the job done best. All cutters are experts. We should be able to decide who was best amongst ourselves. Right? Honey Baked Hams will be franchising in the Middle East before that works.
Until then, we will stick with the five judge/monitor/video review system. The one we have been using for 25 years. It is complicated. It is expensive. It has more moving pieces than a Swiss watch. It is as fair as humans can make it, eliminating anything that could even possibly have the appearance of unfairness.
Over the past couple of years, you’ve heard me speak about the urgent issues of building and encouraging youth horsemen, along with the problems the horse industry faces because of ever-decreasing numbers in membership. Even though these are two separate issues, they really go together as one impacts the other. I have asked you to become aware of this dual-edged dilemma because it really could be the most important factor in determining how the equine landscape looks in the future.