Total Earnings: $2,344,831
Ascencion Banuelos grew up with horses since his family didn’t have trucks or cars in Mexico. At 13 years of age, he came to California and started working on a dairy farm milking 400 cows twice a day. After five years at the dairy, he kept hoping he would run into horses.
He would get a few days off every six months and he found a horse barn and applied for a job on those days off. He got the job riding pleasure horses and then later the boss’s kids wanted to get into cutting so they bought some trained horses. He was able to hop on some of the cutters and get a feel for it. He even started training some of the pleasure horses to cut.
Banuelos never worked for a trainer; he just watched and learned. Bobby Ingersoll ended up getting to ride one of the colts Banuelos started and Ingersoll made the Snaffle Bit Futurity finals on it. He then got a job working for cutter, Lonnie Alsup, in New Mexico in his early 30s and that job ended up taking him to Texas.
In 1986 he attended his first Futurity. He sold Buster Welch a horse named CD Chica San Badger, the mother of CD Olena.
“[Welch] promised me if I sold him that mare that he would teach me how to prepare a horse for Will Rogers, [at the] Futurity.”
And then he spent three to four weeks with Welch in 1986 and made the futurity finals for the first time that year. Welch also made the finals on the mare Banuelos sold him.
When Banuelos is not teaching horses about the cow, he enjoys spending time with his family. He likes driving his bulldozer, and is involved in rodeos and real estate investment. He also competed at this year’s NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman with his son Adan and son-in-law Jesse Lennox. He plans to compete again and hopes to make the Snaffle Bit Futurity this year. It will be his first time back since 2002 when he made the Snaffle Bit Futurity finals in Reno.
Banuelos is very thankful to those who have helped him along the way, most recently reiner Casey Deary, and roper Clay Logan, for helping him get ready for World’s Greatest Horseman. Justin Wright and Kelby Philips also advised him and Paul Hansma helped him in the herd work at World’s Greatest Horseman.
What is your training philosophy?
“Any horse that you’re training, the first thing to do is make friends with it. A lot of people just throw a saddle on and let them buck. The horse is telling them something, obviously he’s not comfortable. I try to become friends with the horse and get in the horse’s mind. After that you can train them to do whatever you want them to do. I always tell people I don’t train [the cutting horses] the cow trains the horse and I’m just the coach. That’s our program. We stick with Buster Welch and Pat Patterson, they are my heroes, that’s who I learned from and I will never change. I’m passing that onto Adan.”
“If they are comfortable they will give you anything… If you say I’m a trainer I’m going to make you do this and do that, they’ll listen but they won’t be comfortable. If we say ‘I’ll train you’ that is the wrong thing to say. That is why I can’t operate very well with a flag, a flag doesn’t mean anything to a horse but a cow does. A cow has his mind and a horse has a mind and they want to play with a cow. It’s a game. You allow the play and in the meantime you teach them the discipline that goes with it and the balance and position. If you ask me if I know how to train one, I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Do you have any preferences when it comes to working cows?
“Nowadays everybody sits up there watching cows. I have never figured out how to pick a cow. All you can remember is this one is [not fresh] and this one’s fresh…Feel for the cattle is all you can go by. I’ve been to the futurity finals 14 times and it’s not because [I’m] so smart. You train a cow horse and they know how to play offense and defense and that’s about all we can do. We can feel the herd and that’s about all we can do…”
What have you learned or changed in your program over the past year?
“I learned that you have to change with the times and make that horse prettier and prettier but I never let go of training a cow horse first and then you can change stuff around. But the cow is the number one priority. You have to find the balance, position and train the brain to take the pressure and be careful not to put too much on him. We love animals and it’s not all about winning. It’s about taking care of people’s investment and the animals to be comfortable.”
“…Having a son [like Adan] that’s been blessed, I don’t know where he’s come from, I thought I’d teach him a little but he’s been blessed and he’s a pretty awesome coach now. I learned a lot from him also.”
What inspires you?
“Watching my family do what we love… [I love] teaching kids and just teaching people that are hungry to learn. At the end of the day, I love the horses and I love teaching people and horses. That keeps me from being too hard of a daddy. I don’t call it work. I feel like I have fun the whole day.”