Hall Of Fame trainer, Andrew Coates, started his first horse at 13 years old in Australia and now he and his wife Nicole own and operate Southern Cross Ranch in Esparto, California. A few years ago they chose to change their business model to keep their family together. Coates now trains 2 year olds and shows a few 3 year olds. Coates said they are very blessed to have incredible clients that have stuck with them through the transition as well as great friends like Morgan Cromer and Eric Wisehart. Coates also raises and sells Wagyu Cattle, and runs a feedlot.
How did you get into cutting?
“I grew up on a big ranch in Australia. I grew up riding horses before I could walk. Competitively I showed camp draft horses. My dad was good friends with a guy named Bob Wing, he was involved with cutting horses and he was good friends with and had horses with Graham Amos. He got me a job with Graham when I was 15 and after that I worked for a guy named Donald Gunn…And then from there I came to the US.”
Coates worked for Luke Bakey who taught him about training horses, running a business and how to treat customers. Coates also spent 3 years with Gary Gonsalves, before becoming legendary footballer Joe Montana’s trainer.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a trainer?
“Training a horse from the ground up. It’s taking a horse I started and it having a long successful career. I love getting on a good horse and showing it, but having the kind of relationship with a horse that you can say I saddled it the first time, I rode it the first time… And I was the only one to show it and it went on to win a lot of money, that’s rewarding”
What is the most important quality you must have in a horse?
“Integrity and work ethic. Realistically all the physical talent in the world doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t into their job. You need the cow, strength and athleticism and all the rest. We are training cutting horses, we aren’t training horses that you can hold onto and control all the time so they have to have a really good work ethic. I think at the end of the day that means they have to have a big heart.”
What is your training philosophy?
“That they have a good understanding of what I want them to do. And get them to where they like their job and they want to try super hard to do it. At the end of the day, the horse that wants to do their job will do it better than the horse that doesn’t want to do their job.”
Do you have any superstitions when it comes to picking cattle?
“No. But I have a favorite type of cow to cut. I would rather cut a cross bred heifer then an English steer.”
What is the best piece of advice you could give someone just getting involved in the sport?
“Before you jump in, go to the cuttings, watch, observe. And watch people and try to figure out the ones you like and go talk to them and see if you can hang out with them. Follow their program, see if their program excites you…Everyone has a different program so you have to find a trainer or program that has the same philosophy or same thought process as you.”
What is your most memorable moment in the sport?
“Making the NCHA Futurity Finals on Sues Barn Cat in 2004. The year before, I won the 5/6 year old at the Breeder’s Invitational when it was still in Reno on a mare of Sandy Bonnelli’s, her name was Lizzys Got Style. I marked a 229, and there was an incredible line up of horses. It was a one round and then a finals so you had to have a big score…The two moments were defining points for me. It happened early in my career and I was really lucky they let me show those horses.”