A Weekend with Leon Harrel

Taking notes from legend Leon Harrel at Thorlakson’s Bullpen Arena.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take part in a cutting clinic designed for amateur cutters such as myself, and hosted by K&K Livestock, located near Strathmore, Alberta. The clinician was National Cutting Horse Association Futurity, World and Open champion and NCHA Hall of Famer, Leon Harrel. Though I was only able to partake in Day One of the three day clinic I kept in touch with the clinic progression and have to report, thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And, in a nutshell, the weekend was about just that, enjoying one’s self, as well as a fantastic dose of cutting and horsemanship education thrown in, with unlimited fresh cows, and topped off by fabulous hospitality and food. What more could a cutter desire, I ask?

Cutters came from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan to take part in the clinic.

Sherman travelled from Valleyview, Alberta and even before his first go, was given the dubious nickname of “Shermanator.” Of course, he was a good sport and took it all in stride.

Ingrid Eggertson came out to enjoy the barbecue with Christopher, who with that winning smile, appears to be vying for spot in our 2011 fashion shoot.

I know you’re going to see these two at the next cutting, and let’s hope they’ve learned to share cigars by then.

After two days of cutting instruction from Leon at Thorlakson’s Feedlot near Airdrie, Alberta, we all convened Saturday evening at K&K for a barbecue dinner, a bit of socializing, and most importantly, to draw up two teams of six for the following day’s event, which would include a morning of practice, followed by an afternoon “show,” complete with judge Marilyn Anderson.

Dinner absolutely hit the spot and was barbecued and served up by this colorful character.

Not only was he fashionably color co-ordinated, he grilled my steak a perfect medium-rare.

I can’t mention food for the weekend, without paying homage to these two.

These two ladies cooked throughout the weekend, primarily at Thorlakson’s arena. What a wonderful touch to the clinic – absolutely delicious home-cooked meals for breakfast and lunch and after-the-clinic appetizers. Ladies, those date squares. . . those date squares!

During the barbecue, the teams were drawn and congregated to opposite ends of the arena.

In this corner we have the Untouchables.

From left, Dean Ness, Esther Vanhoughton, Bev Martin, Becky Taylor, Christopher Eggertson and Sue Wemp.

And in this corner, the Bloody Spurs.

From left, Jack Taylor, Jardi Clarke, Sherman Minni, Barb Veldhuis, Don Smith and Wes Dehm.

As you can imagine, with this crowd, strategy ran amuck from detailed plays to “whatever it takes,” as one contestant revealed to me.

I won’t divulge which team claimed the championship title the following day, nor what sneakiness might have been employed to achieve the result, but I’m sure sooner or later, one of the above characters will surface and spill.

All in all, the weekend was a great time. Ken and Karen Mix showed absolute hospitality and made everyone feel so welcome, both at their home and at the clinic. A big thanks to them.

Leon is not only a wealth of information and a world champion, but an honest and humble mentor with a true love of the horse and cutting, a gentleman, and best of all, the kind of person who really wants to impart his lifetime knowledge unto anyone with desire to become not a good rider, but a great rider.

Leon will tell you he doesn’t teach theory. Alternatively, he will impart gems of knowledge throughout a lesson, and I took note of a few of them to share with you.

“You concentrate on horsemanship 80% of the time and cutting 20% of the time, and you are going to do well.”

“You want to be so clean and so smooth with this horse, that it will become an extension of you.”

“You can get so much more done with feel and compassion.”

“Warming up your horse at the show: don’t ride him for six hours at the show and expect him to perform, just have him relaxed and ready.”

“When somebody comes up to you at show with nine miles of bad road behind him, you give him an upbeat response, and he’ll either not approach you again, or come back with a better attitude himself.”

“Right to the face, cut right to the face of that calf.”

“If you focus on that cow, then you’re in the action, you’re in the energy.”

“If you’re out there having fun, pretty soon you’ll have people around you having fun too. And, that makes the whole experience great.”

Well said! Take some time and visit Leon at his website, where there is a good amount of information as well as videos and teaching tools to peruse.

Comments

  1. Oh the butter tarts, they were so good… Thanks to Ken & Karen for a wonderful weekend. Amazing experience

  2. Karen just sent me the article you wrote about Leon’s clinic last week, and I want to thank you for doing such a lovely job for us all. Leon, Ken and Karen always put everything they’ve got into it and manage to knock a home run every time they put these clinics on. It really means a lot to all of us to be recognized and appreciated by a prestigious publication such as yours – Western Horse Review. Thank you again, and I hope one day you’ll venture to Texas and I’ll get to meet you, we’d love to have you come down and be our guests to experience Leon in a more personalized setting down here at the ranch. If you thought he accomplished a lot up there, you would really enjoy seeing the miracles he performs with more intimate and individualized training sessions here at home!

    Thank you again and have a great weekend ~

    Alex Harrel

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