After just four years of competing in the Snaffle Bit Futurity, Clay Volmer sent the crowd wild with his scorching fence run that saw him take out the 2018 Intermediate Championship at the Will Rogers, Fort Worth on SDP HY Rey Bound.
“I had told people for months, if I get into the finals, it’s going to look like my hair is going to be on fire because we are going to go fast,” he said.
“I knew it was good when I got done. It was one of those deals when you’re in the moment and you’re going as fast as you can possibly go and be as accurate as you can possibly be. It was fun and being in the Will Rogers where everybody was just screaming. After the first turn I couldn’t hear anything, it was so loud,” he said reliving the moment.
Clay, who has spent most of his career training cutters, made the transition to working cow horses after a family member asked him to train a horse for that event in 2015.
“It was a big learning curve for me coming straight from cutting. It was real hard but she was a nice horse,” said Clay. With help from cow horse trainers Chris Dawson and Boyd Rice, Clay made the Limited Finals in his first year at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno. Then in 2016, he won the Limited Snaffle Bit title on Hesa Royalena.
“That was completely mind-blowing you know. I didn’t have any idea that was a possibility even,” he said of his win. He then won all three levels (open, int and limited) at the Pre Futurity in 2017.
Originally from South Dakota, Clay started out rodeoing as a bareback rider. He then moved into starting colts for Larry Gonzalez in Texas which were cutting horses. Clay said he didn’t know anything about cutting but soon got a quick introduction. “It was the only place in the world that I felt like I can get paid to ride super nice horses. I feel like it was a plan you know.”
He went on to work for Greg Wright, Tom Lyons, Brody Whitman and Chad Bushaw before spending five years working at Rick Smith’s in Paradise Tx and training outside horses. “Getting to see horses broke to a whole new level than what I’d ever seen, that was real fun for me,” he said of the trainers he spent time with.
Clay agreed that his relatively fast success in the cow horse industry was mainly due to his foundation in cutting. He said he was glad his journey led him to cutting first. “I feel like if I hadn’t been through the cutting deal first, I would have been extremely lost in that [working cow horse industry] so I feel like going through the cutting horse world was a brilliant beginning,” Clay said.
Working cow horses must compete in three events, reining, snaffle bit cutting and fence work.
Clay rides about 25-30 horses a day. He still has some cutting horses, but said he has to limit the number of horses in his barn to ensure he gets enough time to ride them. “I created a business model where a certain number of horses is where I feel I can do the best job possible for the client and the horse.” “It’s a very long day and very demanding,” he added.
Besides the obvious differences in the events, Clay said the biggest change he needed to make from cutting was the way he approached competition.
“In the cow horse deal, the first thing those guys taught me is to never give up. In the cutting, if your horse misses a cut in the aged events you’re probably out, it’s time to go home you know…in the cow horse, you have maybe a little hiccup in one event and still be extremely successful in another and can still make the finals, then it’s a clean slate,” said Clay. When it comes to horses, Clay said cow horses have got to be allrounders, they’ve got to have all the attributes of cutters and be able to run. It’s a combination Hy Rey Bound has he said. Owned by Buffalo Ranch, the horse was in Paul Hansma’s barn, who called Clay and said he needed to look at Hy Rey Bound for the snaffle bit.
“He’s an athlete, I mean he’s an extreme athlete. He doesn’t care. The horse loves it. You can run that horse as fast as he can possibly go and he will stop so hard, like he tries to fling you over his head. There’s nothing not to like,” Clay said glowingly. Clay said he had a good feeling going into the final.
“I kind of called on him and I knew that he would be there for me and I just really wanted to show everybody what kind of cool horse he is.”
Clay said he now has his sights set on winning the Open Snaffle Bit Futurity.