Total Earnings: $3,005,912
Two-time NCHA Futurity Champion, Craig Thompson, grew up showing cutting horses in the youth. His grandfather, Thomas Nichols, who was a huge inspiration to him, got him started in cutting.
In 1996, Thompson went to work for Kenny Pew Jr. in Brenham, TX. He then worked for Matt Gaines and with his assistant at the time, Clint Allen. Winston and Paul Hansma were living across the road at Bar H, so Thompson also spent time learning from them. He said the brothers were instrumental in helping his career.
After spending two years with Gaines, Thompson went to work for Shannon Hall. Thompson said Hall was a great role model and great spiritual leader. Working for Hall really helped Thompson tie some things together and gain a different perspective.
Thompson quit horses for a while and got a degree in Business Administration from Mississippi State University. He also worked in a poultry farm and then decided horses were the better option.
Thompson won the NCHA Open Futurity Championship in 2006 on Oh Cay Felix and in 2011 on Oh Miss Caroline, who are actually full siblings.
What is your training philosophy?
“I try to do everything I can to get every horse that comes through my barn, trained, to a level that anybody can get on and go show and ride. Obviously you have horses at different levels and riders at different levels. Or if I sell one to another trainer, I want them to be able to go on and that horse has a certain foundation that pretty much anybody can get on and go follow.
“That’s always been one of my goals. One of my strengths, looking back over the years, we have a couple people that have won the amateur futurity, I’ve got a non-pro reserve champion… It’s not [about] training a horse to suit me or my customers, I just try to get it trained the best I can and build confidence in that horse…”
What are your preferences when picking cows?
“The cattle industry has changed so much. When you go to these shows, you have to be really locked in and focused. I just try to pick the best cow that I can. It’s a picking contest right now. You go to these shows and there are so many talented horses, so many talented trainers and everybody has their horse trained… What it comes down to is who is going to pick those best two to three cows and manage those two and a half minutes. I just try to focus and watch those cattle, how they react to horses on a cut and how they go back to the herd after a cut. Will that cow re-run?…”
What’s the most important quality you must have in a horse?
“Those [horses] that are difference makers that will continuously be competitive and be consistent. You may have some that aren’t as talented or some that have more ability, if they don’t have heart and they don’t have the desire to work a cow…The ones that rise to the occasion, [the horse] may be limited, but he’s 90% heart and 110% desire to work a cow. Those are the ones that make the best horses in my opinion.”
What have you learned or adjusted in your program in the last year?
“This profession requires continuous improvement daily. Even though we do the same things each day, there’s no one horse that is the same, no one cow that’s the same, no one work that is the same. My focus in the last one to two years has been to improve and perfect my form to function. And really tie those horse’s feet to the cow’s feet or flag. If I’m working the flag and it shuts down, I want my horses to completely shut down. If I’m working that cow and the cow is moving its feet, I want my horse to be moving its feet.
“I’m trying to perfect that, and keep it simple and be as efficient as I can be. Help those horses become efficient athletes and yet be as smart about a cow as possible without worrying about me. I just try to polish that and perfect that as much as I can.”
What inspires you to work so hard everyday?
“…[When] It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m working three-year olds on fresh cows, it just doesn’t get any better than [that]…Even if I didn’t do this for a living, I would still have so much desire to get up and work a three year old on fresh cows.”
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