With all the recent turmoil in cutting with declining membership, staff turn-over and controversies over how to make the sport fairer and more accessible, it can be hard to stay positive. But two cutters who have optimism to share are Star Roberts and Amy Jones.
When they started out in cutting, both knew that they weren’t going to go buy a six-figure cutting horse, if ever. They each began with a horse that was at their level and gradually moved up in horse power as they developed. Their trainers helped them learn and improve, knowing full well that they were not going to spend a lot of money on a horse. As a result, both riders have thoroughly enjoyed their time in the sport, making great friends.
Star got her start with cows and horses when she lived with her grandpa on a ranch in California. Later in life, Roberts watched Non-Pro Bobby Kennedy ride his cutting horse and she was hooked. She met trainer Ed Vanoni’s and was so keen to learn, she offered to pay him to answer her questions. Ed said that wasn’t necessary and happily gave her all the information she needed.
Roberts was advised to not make the common mistake of buying a young horse, but to go buy an old seasoned horse. She did just that and she said the horse was her best teacher.
“He just packed me!” said Roberts, referring to being able to point him at the cow and he would hold it and they would go cut!
Amy Jones, who is based in Weatherford, TX, went to watch Jay and Shelly Hall’s daughter show a cutting horse.
Inspired, Jones’s son decided he wanted to cut. So she and her husband bought him a horse, and he cut for a while. Then it came time to sell the horse. Michael Cooper helped them but he kept asking her if she was sure she wanted to sell the horse?
Jones eventually decided that she might as well try cutting herself since she already had the horse and Michael was close to home. She fell in love with cutting, and 5 years later said, “There is nothing like it.”
Both ladies know how important it is to have a great coach and trainer in their corner.
Roberts took voice lessons for years with the same coach so she learned how important that relationship with your trainer is and how much they help you achieve your goals.
“You may wear that buckle but people helped you get there,” she said.
Jones said her trainer, Michael Cooper, has been the one with the plan and vision, taking her from a total beginner to an experienced Amateur rider. She said Cooper has known every step of the way what type of horse she needed and what shows to compete in.
There have been a few times where Jones said she wanted to do something different and Cooper would sit down with her and explain why they had to do things a certain way. Jones’s friend Shelly Hall said, “You need to listen to your trainer, they are the ones that know.” Jones said her friend was right, Michael has never steered her wrong.
“I think Michael has a ton of integrity, I think he always tries to do the best with everyone he works with. He is just always looking out for me. I think that is a big part of why it has gone so well. Even things as basic as picking horses, it has to be just right before he says,’yup, this is the one’. He seems to put a lot of thought and care into everything,” Jones said.
Jones said she has had an overwhelmingly positive experience in the cutting horse industry. When her son started cutting at 12, she said all the kids were so welcoming to him and helped him feel like he was part of the cutting horse family.
Jones has had the same experience as an Amateur. She said everyone has been kind and willing to help whether they are a rider or a trainer. Jones is hauling in the 50 AM this year, but Cooper doesn’t go to a lot of the shows that Amy wants to go to. He still has a plan however, as he will send her with another trainer and even have her take a lesson with the other trainer to get that perspective.
“Everybody seems to be really willing to work with and around each other” she added.
This willingness to help in the cutting community is also what has enriched Robert’s time in cutting. She said people have offered her advice, words of encouragement and even a truck when she needed it most. Roberts said people know how much she loves the sport and her desire to get better so they do all they can to help her. She has been helped by a number of trainers, and refers to this group as her ‘basket of heros’.
Cassie Comella, a friend of Ed Vanoni’s grand daughter, helped Roberts purchase her current horse. She also helped Roberts learn to ride a more modern cutting horse that was trained by Adan Banuelos. Cassie introduced Roberts to trainer Brandon Dobson. He helped Roberts at a few shows and advised her on developing her facility and arena right with the appropriate drag etc. But Brandon was a 4 hour drive away, so Roberts looked for a trainer closer to home.
She heard about an Andrew Coates clinic and decided to attend. At the clinic, Roberts cut some tough cows and Andrew helped her step up to the plate and hold them, giving her a great confidence boost. “He was so nice” she said.
Star then learned of trainer Shad Platt and called him up. He told her to come over anytime. At Shad’s, so many things the other trainers had been telling her started to come together and make sense.
At the recent El Rancho Futurity, Roberts was thrilled to meet trainer Adan Banuelos. She said it meant a lot to her that he took the time to talk to her since he trained her current horse. She said he was so polite and kind, telling her all about her horse, how much he liked the horse and gave her a few tips for riding her.
Roberts’s and Jones’s experience of the warmth and support of people in the sport is what they say makes it worthwhile, even when you don’t win (which let’s face it, can be more often than not). That is the true heart of cutting. Everyone has their ups and downs in this challenging sport, but as Roberts and Jones see it, it’s hard to be negative when you feel like you’re all in it together!
By: Sophia Skeith
Brought to you by: NRS