Embarrassed here. I am used to it though. Been doing it to myself for a while. I talk about cutting being all about quality. Buttermilk brought it to my attention (of course she did) that I have never really defined “quality.” So, I am going to have a crack at it.
Semifinals at the National Cutting Horse Association’s 2014 Summer Spectacular, sitting in my and Buttermilk’s box. Tom Holt just said the prayer and played the anthem – a grounding moment. There are five sets of Derby semifinalists; it’s do or die. The big money and fame are for the taking. It’s about getting one shown. Putting a run together.
I would like to visit with you about a hot topic in the reining industry – the National Reining Horse Association’s proposed drug rule. Whether you agree or not, I ask that you please consider what I share with you, based on my more than 40 years of experience in the horse business. This is my opinion and only mine. I have thought long and hard about sharing it, because there are people who feel very strongly about drug rules, and I know I am exposing myself and my family to criticism. I ask that you read with an open mind, and not resort to personal attacks on Facebook or other social media sites.
Let me start by saying I do not agree with any horse trainer, owner or vet who drugs an unsound horse and blocks them to the point that they cannot feel their limbs, feet or otherwise. I am first a horseman and firmly disagree with this type of doping. You can ask any client of mine in the past 25 years of my professional career; I will not do this. I believe my horse is my teammate and I do not want to cripple or damage one for life. I know there are owners and trainers in this industry who want to win at all costs. I am not one.
However, what I can tell you is no drug rule will stop that type of individual from doing what it takes to win.
June-teenth, the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) held its convention in Salt Lake City, not an easy destination for many. A very wealthy family from India managed to have a million-dollar wedding there at the same time. So, it was Cowboys and Indians all weekend – a very cultural experience.
Several years ago, the powers that be decided to have the Convention in different parts of the country every other year. There is a fair amount of discussion about this. Any way you look at it, most people will have to travel. Even if it is in your backyard, your time will be spoken for. The important thing to know is this: No matter where it is, not near enough Directors or Members attend.
Look at a horse’s eye first, then his feet. Never look a horse in the eye when loading him. Danny Motes was a trick rider. The meanest horse in a bunch is the fat one. Matt Budge loves to fish. Tie a horse higher than its nose. Mary Bradford is from Montana. Dusty Adams and Casey Green are good welders. When in doubt, stop and back ’em up. Mary Ann Rapp was driving cow trucks by 15. Horses are not pets.
Since earlier this spring, I have followed the exploits of one “California Chrome” and his march toward the Triple Crown title of Thoroughbred racing: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and, finally, the Belmont Stakes. By the time you read this, “Chrome” will have either won or lost his battle to reach equine greatness – one that has only been achieved by 11 other horses. My hope, of course, is that he has won the Belmont and become the worldwide, polarizing individual that “Secretariat” once was (and still is, to a lesser extent, today).
We had a brutal winter that has carried over into a chill spring. It won’t last. As much as we all said we would never complain about it being hot again, I bet we do. Because in Texas, it will be bake-oven hot by July, if not before. Trainers start getting up at 3 a.m. to get horses worked. That 15 or 20-degree difference means maybe five more quality minutes in a work. Which, by the way, is how the great trainers beat you – quality, not quantity.
Jumping off topic, here are a few summer customer and trainer tips. Customers, ask your trainer when they are stepping on the first horse of a day and adjust your timing to them. Be reasonable, do it their way. Quit bringing the dang donuts, start bringing cold fruit. There is no need to mention the heat. Everyone is aware, I promise you.
Elwood P. Suggins, a character played by the late comedian Jonathan Winters, claimed to be a “Detroit Dynamo.” He knew what it meant to “crash, burn, roll over, have a flat tire and things of that nature.” I guess I’m a little like Elwood P. Suggins, at least with my experience in the horse business. Anyone who’s spent much time in this industry knows exactly what I mean. We’ve all been down that road, and right now it’s about time to wake Leroy up from the back seat so he can witness the crash that’s fixin’ to happen!
Many equine-based organizations (like most not-for-profit institutions nowadays) are experiencing revenue shortfalls. There is less breeding and registering, slower buying and selling (transfer fees), lower entry counts and new memberships. Less, slower and lower add up to fewer dollars, all the way around. Why has this happened? Most recently we point to the “Great Recession of 2008.” But even before that, numbers were trending down because of factors that are still gnawing at our industry today: aging membership demographics, decline of youth members who evolve into adult members, decrease in youth participation numbers, and lessening of the average family’s discretionary income. All these elements, coupled with a dwindling middle-aged membership base, can be a recipe for disaster.
Cutting is 90 percent mental, the rest is in your head. Even if someone could program what needs remembering into a ’puter, it wouldn’t be fast enough. Besides, cows are always thinking up new stuff. Someday I want to meet one of the cow trainers, just to ask why they are so hateful.
There’s no doubt, I love spending time with my two granddaughters. Emery is 3 and Harper is almost 2, and watching them play or listening to what might come out of their mouths next is entertainment at its finest. When Emery has an announcement to make or wants to get your attention she cries out, “Hey anybodys!” (And believe me, she can always get her Pop’s attention!) One of my favorite things is watching how Emery and Harper love their horses. I see them and I wonder: Is a child’s attention and focus on horses caused by environment or parental direction? Is this “horse bug” actually inherited by a recessive gene no one has identified as yet? You might laugh at such a notion, but sometimes a child’s love for horses seems to pop up out of nowhere.