BY DEANNA KRISTENSEN
2013 was a whirlwind of a season for this year’s Futurity Road trainer Dale Clearwater and the team at Justaboutaranch, based out of Hanley, Saskatchewan. In the beginning of the WHR series, Clearwater aimed to have three promising 3-year-old prospects ready for the snaffle bit competitions in the fall. But in mid season the Clearwater team faced a frightening EHV-1 scare at their ranch, which unfortunately sidelined one of his team members from competing. However despite adversity, two of Clearwater’s horses came out on top of the futurity world this season, ultimately making it for one heck of a year for this cow horse outfit.
“Because of circumstances out of our control we were not able to haul our horses and expose them to different surroundings this summer. This was challenging, as I felt the horses were trained, but had to spend a lot more time at the shows just riding them around, letting them settle and get used to their surroundings. They never did totally settle at the shows and I realized that this is an important step to preparing a show horse. I always knew that it was beneficial, but never realized just how important those early outings are for these young horses.”
For next season, this horseman already sees reasons to adapt new techniques into his training program. After all, the best teachers never stop learning.
“As I have said before, I am a firm believer that you never stop learning and have to be willing to try different things. By doing so, I think we better ourselves and in turn can better train these horses. For my 2-year-olds, I feel like I need to brush up on my reined work more for next year. I want them to be a bit more solid. Faster circles, cleaner turn arounds and harder, more freed up stops. I think I can achieve this by getting them out into bigger pens and letting them learn that they can run somewhere and not be afraid after a certain point.”
From their first showing at the Alberta Snaffle Bit Futurity in July, to the Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association (IRCHA) Futurity in October, these horses progressed immensely. In the end it is evident from the scoreboard results, that Clearwater’s futurity duo truly have the capabilities to dominate the show ring competition.
Ranaldo Pablo, “Rene:
At the Alberta Snaffle Bit Futurity, in Claresholm, August 30th to September 1st, Clearwater’s futurity horse Rene, made some unfortunate moves and didn’t finish close to winning any money. However, in September the little powerhouse made a giant steps forward in training. At the Saskatchewan Reined Cow Horse (SRCHA) Futurity, he came in reserve place (under Lydia). But the big score was at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer, where the bay colt rocked the competition and placed first in the aggregate.
What made the difference for this horse? After Claresholm, Clearwater said he came home and really worked hard on his reined work, practicing lead changes and increasing speed in his circles.
“In the herd work, I tried to liven him up and be more alert on a cow as he can tend to be a bit lazy. After Claresholm, I showed him in the SRCHA Futurity in Saskatoon. He was much better, and continued to mature as a show horse and by Red Deer he was dialed in. I think that extra show under his belt really helped him, just figuring out the game and what I was asking of him.”
Sometimes it isn’t always the horses’ fault. For Rene, Clearwater said he has some plain old bad luck at his first show.
“He lost a cow in the herd work, but I don\’t totally blame him. He was trying and the cow just pushed over him. So that alone set us behind. In the reined work, he just felt like he was really unsure about everything, like he was thinking more about being in the pen by himself that he was doing the pattern. For the fence work, he went by a little bit and didn\’t feel like he was totally in tune with his cow. He felt a little lost all around.
“By Saskatoon I was able to get him into the pen before the show and I think that really helped as he was much more in tune with what was going on and paid more attention to me. He ended up reserve behind Lydia there. Once Red Deer came along, he was very alert and read his cow so much better for both the herd work and fence work. In the rein work, I had time to school him in the reining pen a couple times and he felt like he was totally with me and trying to please me.”
Looking back, hindsight is always 20/20. In a perfect world, Clearwater said he would have liked to have been able to start Rene a bit earlier.
“I firmly believe that shorter consistent works make these young horses more solid in the long run. Ultimately, you deal with what you are given and after a not so successful show, you can’t dwell on in. You have to regroup and come back that much stronger the next time.”
Clearwater sums it up. “He does not shine in one area where he is going to ring the bell on the score board, but staying consistent in all three areas paid off for him in Red Deer.”
Chics Money Talks, “Lydia”:
Lydia has proven herself this season, as a little horse that could! By the end of October, this filly had claimed a win in Saskatchewan and two substantial reserve titles; in Claresholm and in Idaho. With a little more experience under her wings, Lydia has gone from being a promising filly, to becoming a fierce contender in the cow horse arena.
“As with Rene, the Saskatoon show and hauling a few times between Claresholm and Red Deer really helped Lydia. She is the one that needed the miles more than any of the other horses this year and she notices everything around her. In Saskatoon, she spent some more time in the arena and I think this helped her big time for Red Deer. She was still very \”looky\” in Red Deer but not as scared.”
What made it all come together? Clearwater explains that in Claresholm, the young mare was really good in the herd work but very ‘looky’ in the rein work.
“Despite that, we managed to hold a run together, and down the fence she just ran like the wind. In Saskatoon, I just worked at getting her shown and relaxed about being in the show pen. She had a good show, winning the futurity class. Then in Red Deer, she started strong, winning the herd work. She had a few little bobbles in the rein work, as can happen with young horses. This cost me when the scores were handed out. Then in the fence work she tripped going into her second turn because of ground conditions and fell right down in her third turn. There is nothing I hold against her for that. She was trying her guts out. Even after tripping, she still nailed her second turn and was in position for the third turn, there was just nothing there to hold her. We watched the video and you can see her scrambling but there was nothing there to give her footing. We were quite disappointed as I think she would have made money had she not fallen down.”
Looking back, Clearwater said Lydia has really good qualities in her reined work, but he would have liked to have seen more consistency in the whole package.
“Because she is such a looky horse, I felt that she was working each of the elements really good but I couldn\’t get the whole run put together. More exposure beforehand would have given her more confidence in her surroundings, allowing her to think more about her job and less about what was happening around her.”
Clearwater felt that her herd work always seemed to shine, as she is so quick footed and alert on a cow.
“I think given time she is going to also be really solid all around. If I can get her reined work tweaked up, she is going to be a tough competitor.”
Northern Kit Kat, “Felix”:
It was a bad run this season for this futurity competitor. He contracted the EHV-1 virus during the summer and was unable to compete during his futurity year.
Prior to being infected, Clearwater said Felix was right on track to show this fall as a top futurity horse. However, there is always next season.
“He was started early and was on our consistency program and I think that he will pick up where we left off quite easily as long as his body will allow him to do so. I am hopeful that he will be out next year. He is continuing to get stronger. You can still see a bit of weakness when he is running around the field, but he is much better than where we were sitting July 1st. So as long as he continues to make progress we will begin to prepare him.”
At this point, Clearwater said Felix\’s health is good and that the young horse is getting stronger.
“He has put weight back on and his coat is shining like a healthy horse should. I plan to begin to start riding him lightly after returning home from Idaho (Idaho Reined Cow Horse Futurity). This will be more rehabilitative than training though. I feel he will benefit from being asked to place his feet and use his body. We will begin with short rides and hopefully help his muscles strengthen and help his overall coronation. This will give us an even better idea when and if we can start training. I don\’t want to ask too much too soon though, as we don\’t want him to injure himself. So slow and steady will be his program for a while.”