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Transition From Cowboy to Trainer

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2012 AQHA World Show

When I made the decision to start showing horses, I had been thinking about it for quite a while. I thought I knew about everything I needed to know, I just needed a little refinement.I didn’t realize how much I would still have to learn, after all I had been riding horses all my life. I had been training horses for quite a few years, but mostly colt starting. I had been studying natural horsemanship, and learning about getting my horses soft. I had been handling cattle horseback for several years. My horses seemed to be handier than most of the cowboy’s I’d been around, because that was my focus. I was always trying to get my horses better.

I was real fortunate at the time to have a client who believed in me and my abilities enough to let me train her horse and get it ready to show. The horse was a pretty Hollywood Dunnit mare, three years old, and not started yet. I spent a little over a year getting her ready to show. Finally, we took her to an AQHA show, and entered the reining class. It was a run in pattern that called for me to run down the arena, stop, then roll back to the left. I ran down the arena, stopped, and the my mind went blank. I knew i had better do something, so I rolled back to the right. As soon as I did I regained consciousness, and realized I had broke pattern. My first show. My first zero.

Later that season, we went to my first reined cow horse show. I entered the rookie class in a small club in northern Utah. This was a real good club for people to school their horses, or learn about the event. As soon as you finished showing you could ride over to the judge, and he would give you your score, and tell you why he scored you like he did. My score was not very good at that first show. That’s when I started to learn about showing.

The judge told me that my circles didn’t meet in the center, that my turn arounds were too slow, and I needed to be more precise. On my cow I thought I had done real well, after all the cow didn’t get away. When I got my score I couldn’t believe it. The judge said I had three misses and a back fence penalty.

That’s when I started asking a lot of questions. Most trainers are real willing to help. They would answer my questions, and give me a lot of pointers. Soon I started going to some of their facilities and riding with them. One who has been the most helpful to me is my friend Brady Weaver. He has always been there to help me. I can even call him on the phone with questions.

Another great opportunity I had was when i was able to ride in Al Dunnings masters clinic. Two of my clients offered to help me with the cost if I would take their horses, so I loaded up and headed for Scottsdale.

Al Dunning is a great guy, and a master horseman. I showed up at his ranch the night before the clinic. I was planning on sleeping in my horse trailer. Al asked me if I had an air conditioner, I said no, I just have a tack room. He invited me to stay with him. I stayed there for the whole five day clinic.

I learned a lot a that clinic. We worked on reining, cutting, and cow work. I’ve been down there several times since to ride with Al. It’s always been a great learning experience. I owe Al Dunning many thanks.

There have been many more teachers since, an I’m grateful to all of them. In my next posts I’ll start telling about some of the specific things I’ve learned along the way.