I have been to two clinics in the last two weeks. One I participated in and one I observed. They were the kind of clinics I prefer, both with locals in a specific discipline I'm interested in. I ignored an invitation to a problem solving clinic done by a young man who used to be a steady supplier to my training business.
I used to get in at least two horses a year who were out of control bone-heads after a few months of his "round pen religion", or whatever he calls it. One year I got six, count 'em six horses in who had 60 days of quality time with him. I guess I should send him a Thank-you card. I've made a lot of dough undoing his training philosophies.
Anyway, the clinics I did feel were worth going to were a cutting clinic and a Ranch Versatility Clinic. Jack McComber, a man who I admire greatly, for his knowledge and his hotness (ahem) gave the cutting clinic.
He started out making it clear he hasn't earned any NCHA (national cutting horse) money for ten years.
"I know the old time basics of cutting," he said.
"Those of you who are actively competing on the NCHA circuit might want to put something together with somebody more current. I'm just a stop, rock, turn and go kind of guy."
Jack shared some of his "old time basics" with me when I was first trying to fathom the intricacies of cutting. I would sneak off when the Big K was out of town and grab a lesson or three. The Big K wasn't one to share those who rode with him. Jack was an absolute rock star and never told a soul I was showing up at his place to ride every time the Big K was on a road trip that didn't include me.
He did stand behind the cattle pens and grin pretty big when I finally started to not only get a score, but beat the Big K once in a while in the herd work.
His clinic was pretty much a warm-up for the cutting club who put it on. He was great help to those of us who needed him and gave great commentary on the riders who really had it going on.
There was one stand out, a gentleman named James Autry and his good gelding, Buddha's Mike.
Turns out the duo recently were reserve champions in the Beef Empire Days Century Cutting Competition in Kansas.
The requirements for this competition are pretty simple. The ages of the horse and rider have to add up to more than 100 years.
I'm don't know exactly how old Mr. Autry and Mike are, but considering the sunken hollows over Mike's eyes, the oxygen tank Mr. Autry keeps tied to the back of his saddle and both of their many arthritic twists and turns, I'm sure they qualify.
None of it mattered once they began to cut. They were magic.
I put some good cow time on Pete and was gently chastised by Jack to ride my young ones down a bit more before we went into the herd. The kidlet heard the same advice.
I always try to leave a clinic with some new information to chew on. I got some good stuff too.
Both the kidlet and my friend Kathy were advised to ride without spurs.
The kidlet, because her horse is so tuned and sensitive, and Kathy, because her Rosie is so intent on picking a fight with her she forgets to hold her cow.
Jack noticed that Kathy anticipates Rosie's snotty attitude before she actually gets one. So Rosie is justifiably pissed, she sets up in her own anticipation of Kathy. It's a case of them knowing each other too well.
Jack's simple solution is to take away the spurring.
We talked about this on the way home and I realized this wouldn't work if Rosie was just lazy. But she's not. And she wants to cow. So we're betting that her desire to turn with the cow will outweigh her desire to fight with Kathy as long as there is nothing to fight about. This will be interesting.
Don't think this guy was anti-spur. My slightly lazy boy Pete would prefer to make friends with the cow, hang out a while, maybe swap a little cud.
I was told more than once to, "Git up there! Wake him up!"
The second clinic was a Ranch Versatility clinic given by a very nice couple, Jeff and Gerrie Barnes. I've been sending some of my old clients to them, simply because I liked what I heard about them. Now I finally got to meet them.
I'll tell you what. These folks have built a business doing exactly what I should have been doing myself. They are riding good quality horses. They are competitive in a sport they enjoy. They help people ride the horse they have and offer assistance from very rudimentary newbie horse keeping skills to advanced riders on their VRH team.
They are not wheeling and dealing their own brand of horsemanship, or a line of horses they are trying to fit clients to. They will help people find a horse, sell a horse or learn to ride their own.
They are also friendly, warm and welcoming, they seem to actually be making a living too. I have to admit I was impressed.
Check out their website at http://www.barnesranch.com/.
So I've got a lot of thinking to do.
I've been piecing together a new training program for my colt. He is coming two. At this point he leads around some, will let me touch him all over, likes a good scratch on the withers and will tolerate being trimmed and vetted.
This fall I'll be starting him. My goal is to make each step be the base for the next. Sounds simple doesn't it? So far I'm combining what I know as a cowhorse trainer, some basic thoughts from dressage, ropers and kids, and a bunch I've learned on this blog.
Both of these clinics fell under my thoughts on this. I'll be going deeper, believe me.