Saturday, December 28, 2013

Texas; A Life in Review

So, I've kind of been hiding from this blog... for various reasons, one of them being the post i'm about to publish... but, fear not loyal followers because i'm really going to attempt to be back in a big way this year. We have lots to cover!

So here goes...
Early mornings in TX

71 days. That’s how long I was in Texas.

Sitting on my airplane, flying above Wyoming, it’s hard to believe that I even “lived” in Texas. When I look back on my time there, sometimes it feels like I was there for  a year, other times, it feels like I was there a week.

Texas was an experience, filled with ups and downs. Somehow, having never loped at a show before, I found myself working for a trainer that has won over $2 million dollars. He’s one of, what I like to call, “the Weatherford Crew”. This is an important thing to note, because, in the cutting world, the Weatherford Crew are the kings. The Weatherford Crew is who wins the Triple Crown Events (The Futurity, The Superstakes and The Derby). Basically, they are the big time and somehow this teeny tiny little Canadian found herself loping horses for one of those men.

More horses than hours in the day

 The particular man I was working for had a full barn, this meant 70+ horses… he ran, what I like to think as, a production line cutting operation. Each horse there was worth upwards of $50,000. In this game, in this world, that’s a cheap horse by the way. “An amateur level horse”.  In the mornings, we would get up and be at the barn for 4 am (sometimes 5 am… a relative sleep-in). We would saddle as many three year olds as we could. When I first arrived there were three of us lopers, a 2 year old trainer who helped us get through the 3 year olds in the morning, and then Boss-man and his assistant who would ride up in the top pen. Boss-man working horses, and the Assistant turning back for him. You would warm-up a horse, and once the Assistant whistled, you would walk the horse up to the top, hand it off to Boss-man, take one from him, and bathe it while he worked the horse you had handed off either on a flag, or on cows. This would go on all morning long, once Boss-man got tired, he would leave. If there were any three year olds left, the assistant would work the rest of them. There’s your first hint at what I mean by production-line cutting horses. Rack em through, and let the lesser ones fall through the cracks.

We would get lunch, which, apparently, was rare. In the summertime, they wake up at 3 am, and work straight through until 3 pm to try to beat the 100+ F degree summer heat. After lunch, the lopers would tackle “show horses”, anything 4 years older and up. If any of those horses were for sale, or if their owners were coming to ride them, we would hand them off to the assistant to work. But, if not, we would make sure every single one got out of their stall that day, whether that be riding them in the arena, or putting them on the walker. While we were doing that the assistant, and the 2 year old trainer would tackle the many two year old horses we had. Usually we got done around 4-5 pm.

Horse trainers, and their staff, are comparable to gypsies, always moving.

 From there, my mind and body were so tired that I would often get into bed, talk to my mom, check my facebook and then fall asleep. At 7:55 pm my alarm would go off, and I would get up, we would all meet back up at the barn. We would then have to put on the horses slinkies, sheets, and heavy blankets. Cold days were blessed days, because it meant that blankets would have to stay on all day. Blankets… were the absolute worst. On days were the temperature fluctuated, as it does in Texas, we would often find ourselves spending hours just putting blankets on and off. Sometimes, the three year olds would have all three blankets put back on once they were dry, then, it would warm up and heavies would hurriedly have to be ripped off, then maybe after lunch, the sheets, then around 2 the Assistant would check the temperature and say “slinkies should come off”, well around and around and around we’d go. At night, if we had to put on all three, even with up to 5 of us being there, it would take almost an hour.

So, around 9 pm, I would crash back into my bed, and sleep. Our only days off were Sundays, sometimes (not during shows), and those days were strictly meant for sleeping for me

Tired, covered in poultice & whining, as per usual

 Now, I don’t want to make it seem like a big whine-fest, because it’s not, that’s the reality of the big cutting horse operations in Texas. I don’t think that’s what ALL of them are like, but I know a lot of them are. A lot of the trainers keep their age-groups smaller and manageable, so instead of the 20 three year olds we had, they might have 10. This means those trainers have time to really focus on their three year olds coming up to the futurity, but also ride the show horses and keep them tuned up aswell. That was not the case where I was, it was three year olds all the time for Boss-Man. Unless a show was coming up, like the Southern, this meant that Boss-Man would ride those show horses first, and then get through some three year olds. This also generally meant earlier mornings to accommodate for that.


 Two weeks after I arrived in Texas we headed to “The Southern”. I am at my best when busy, I am not an idle person, I quickly found that I really liked shows. Myself, and my roommate, “K” and another boy who started the same time as me, “L”, headed to the show. “L” quickly became frustrated with what he called “lack of organization”. I wouldn’t call it that, but just needing to be on his toes. But, by the end of the show, “L” had packed his bags and left. K and I, worked well together at the show, and figured out how to really work with, and for eachother. It was good. At the place I was working, the 2 year old trainer and Assistant trainer warned me that someone leaving after a show was commonplace and that there was a “2 show curse”. After 2 shows, most people pack up and leave. This is due to Boss-man not being the best communicator in the world, it can be frustrating, annoying and also really tough, because it means you really have to be even more on top of it.

Home for Three Months

 When we were home, the monotony of the days really got to me. I found myself getting really lazy with my riding, because after riding 20+ horses a day personally, my body just didn’t seem to want to care anymore. If you ever watch lopers in the warm-up pen at a show, you will see some qualities of their riding that comes from how many horses they have to ride a day. I never felt comfortable slouching around at the trot… I sure do now. I can also long trot in a sitting trot like no other. Holding the horn while you post? Lopers do that. Holding the cantle while sitting the trot? Lopers do that. No shame. No shame if it keeps your body from screaming in agony.

Dawn in TX

 I also found myself really missing home. Seriously, desperately missing home. When I was busy, home was the farthest thing in my mind, when I was bored, as I would be trotting endless circles waiting for a whistle to call me in, home encompassed my entire mind. Finally, the monotony brought forth some serious insecurities, I wasn’t getting any one on one time with Boss-man, and I wasn’t “learning” anything about actually cutting. My dreams of showing felt like they were slipping farther and farther away. It was a true battle in my mind that I would have every day – I was at one of the biggest trainers in the world, I was working in the epicenter of it all… was I being a spoiled little brat? Should I just keep duking it out in the trenches? I didn’t know what to do.

Taking a break in the centre of the warm-up pen to say hello

 Then, the pre-works started and we were thrown back into “busy”. It was mostly just “K” and I, and we were really figuring eachother out. We were a well-oiled machine, and by the end of San Angelo we felt like we had really figured out our three year olds and our sights were set straight to stun and we were ready for the Futurity. We were so confident, we felt like our 20+ three year olds were just going to storm into Will Rogers and sweep the whole thing.

Well… Boss-man didn’t have as much faith in us as we had in ourselves. He hired a show-help girl that had helped him at many other shows. He didn’t tell us he was going to do it, and it meant that the most inexperienced loper was likely to stay home. Well, that was me. It really deflated “K”’s sails, and although I rationalized it… she was much more experienced than I and this was a serious, serious show for him… she had loped for him at multiple shows… he knew her really well… my sails lost some of their puff too.

Sleepy Three-Year Olds

 The futurity is 3 weeks long… the futurity is never ending.. K and the show-help girl went down to Fort Worth most days, and I stayed home with the boys to keep the show-horses exercised. One big plus of getting to stay home was that the boys let me turn-back for them. This, honestly, saved me. Mentally I was in anguish and just so badly wanted to be at home. I counted down every single day, every single hour. It was a terrible thing to do to myself, I felt like I’d never get home. But turning back really helped me since I was finally doing something that felt a little more like I was… ya know… learning about cutting. I could watch them work their horses and ask them questions after, and it was really good for me. They were both great, especially the two year old trainer, about breaking things down for me and letting me ask my numerous “question of the day”. I felt like I was soaking up some of their wisdom, and picking up on subtleties that I would have missed before. So, in the end, leaving me behind was actually a good thing for me. 


 It was around this time that I knew that I wouldn’t be returning to Texas. (spoiler alert – haha). K and the show-help began to fight, and bicker, and it brought big old storm clouds over the mornings… which by the way were 3 am mornings. So for 3 weeks, we were up at 3 am, and often done around 5 pm. For the girls down at the show, some days they weren’t home until 9 pm. The Futurity, is not for the weak of heart. The futurity went sideways really quickly… Boss-Man didn’t make it past the first round on a horse that everyone expected him to go out and possibly win it on. His second horse made it to the semis. Not the best show for him. Each person is only allowed to show two horses at The Futurity, so that meant he was done. Two of our horses were handed off to other trainers in what is called a “Catch Ride”, both of those guys didn’t make it past the first round. Our Non-Pros and Amateurs? Just as bad, I think maybe 2 people made it into the second round, and then quickly got bounced right out.

Kickin' up their little two-year old heels after being worked

So, all of a sudden, what I thought was a seriously “winning team”, wasn’t so winning anymore. Furthermore, Boss-Man seemed to have figured out what was on my mind, and without ever speaking to me, made up his mind that I wasn’t coming back. This meant that for three weeks, he maybe spoke to me… three times. Those three times were generally a “good morning” or a gruff “thanks” for handing a horse off to him. The atmosphere just kept spiraling downwards, and I just kept counting down when I could come home.

The futurity ended on Saturday the 15, I flew home on Tuesday the 17.

I need to learn how to cut. That’s it. That’s all. No excuses. I’m going to be showing by next year, and to do that, I need someone to mentor me. It wasn’t going to happen for me where I was. This was due to multiple things… the size of the place meant that boss-man was always busy. The truth of it is that even if he desperately wanted to teach me every single thing he knew, he didn’t have any time to let me work a horse, or show me how to work a horse, or anything along those lines. Boss-Man, and the lopers (so, us), are for the most part, gone half of every single month of the year hauling to shows. Some of them are “home shows”, like The Futurity, this means waking up at 3 am (sometimes 2 am) to get horses worked before we head down to the show. Away, well… you’re away… where in that schedule does one find the time to teach someone how to cut? Plus, Boss-man was a terrible communicator, and could be a very negative and passive-aggressive person. This was rarely directed at me personally, but just being around someone like that can be toxic, and it affected my mood greatly. I was spiraling into a really dark place, and I knew that no matter how good, or glamorous, being and working in Texas seemed, it wasn’t for me, and so I made up my mind to leave.

Last Light

 It was a very hard decision. I felt like I was walking away from the big-time. It felt like someone handed me the golden key but then hid the door and wouldn’t let me find it... but what’s the big-time when your just another underappreciated minion… honestly? Not much. So, It really was for the best, and who knows… Texas may be in my future… but not right now.

Actually. I know Texas is in my future. Because one day? I will show at Will Rogers at The Futurity. No Excuses. Stay Hungry. Be Relentless.

So what does the Future hold you ask? Well, things are never dull around here, so after I take a much needed break at home for the Holidays, I’ve booked a one-way ticket tooo….

dun dun dun

you’ll just have to wait for the next post, this one was insanely long as is ;)


  1. Go with your gut!! It's good that you still have the overall goal-as long as that stays in place and you are still excited and determined to do that, you'll get there!

  2. You did what your thought was best, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! I can empathize with working hard ad being under appreciated, though maybe not on such a large scale lol can't wait to here what the next chapter holds!

  3. It sounds like it was a learning experience for sure. Just the fact that you were able to ride such expensive horses is something some of us will never get a chance to do. You can take the good experiences with you and leave the negative ones behind. I'm excited to find out where you're heading next!

  4. I know EXACTLY how you feel. For realz. A lot of the things you covered were the reasons I left the racing industry for good. It made me feel like I gave up a golden opportunity, one that was sure to get me to the top--and there were plenty of people to tell me that's just what I was doing--but holy shit, I just couldn't work in the situation I was in.

    If you're miserable or unhappy then that's reason enough to move on. Hopefully the next journey is better, and I'm sure Jingle was happy to see you!

    1. Right there with ya, in the end I had to balance the reason I love horses with where I was, and i couldn't balance those two. It's just not worth it, golden opportunity or not. Someone once told me that cutting and racing can be synonymous... it's a sad thing when we both know what that means at top levels. It sucks that the good top level people are so hard to find.

  5. Sounds like you made the right decision for you

  6. Your determination and dedication is incredible <3

  7. You should come out here and take a couple lessons with Russ Mckenzie on Jingle, you will learn more in one lesson with him than you ever thought possible :) promise :P He loves to give lessons, especially if you have your own horse and are truly investing in wanting to be better for your horse. We have a flag and cows too! :P Just a thought. I've learned an unbelievable amount about horsemanship since I started working here :)

    1. haha, thanks Chris! I'm actually heading back down to the states, just for another job, so jingle is still very much in semi-retirement for the year. I'm glad your taking so much out of his tutelage!

  8. Good job recognizing you were not getting what you needed and taking steps to change your life.

    I am super curious to hear about where you go next. Thanks for taking us along for the ride. :)

  9. I have heard it is just a loper job and rarely does the loper ever do anything but lope. I can see how that would be at such a big place like that, just too many horses and not enough time. Hope you find something better suited and I wanna be out there competing against you :)