How did you get started in cutting?
“Been involved in cutting since ‘79 or ‘80. My dad [got me involved]. My dad was Olan Hightower. He trained Colonel Freckles. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher that knew more about the cow and horse than anyone I ever encountered…the good Lord blessed me with some ability and feel for a horse. Dad’s way of teaching was about the horse and the cow and not you.”
How have you seen the sport change?
“…It went through a phase where things were too mechanical for my taste. The cattle are always the equalizer. That usually separates the one that was patterned and the one that has more cow. We all have to have a certain amount of pattern. The cow tells you where to go and where to stop.”
How have you changed as the sport changed?
“In the last 5-6 years, I’ve gotten to help some guys in the reined cow horse business, I helped Todd Crawford for 4-5 years and riding with him reinforced my concept… Before I would just keep working the horse until I got what I wanted, riding with them enabled me to understand what I was trying to get and that I was able to go about it different ways and use a little bit more finesse. Whereas before it took me 30 days to get what I’m looking for, by riding with Todd and those guys, it helped me understand a little more about different concepts and how they train a horse for three events. I was able to soften things up before I asked them to just jump and get it.”
How have the cows changed?
“In the old days, the cattle we cut came off of ranches that were kept for replacement cows. In turn, they are going to have a little bit better brain, and be a little bit better quality cow and be a little easier to deal with. The cattle business has evolved, it’s more about genetics and getting that leaner meat to produce on the rack, instead of breeding cattle that are easy to handle, and have a good disposition…”
Is it all about how you handle them?
“One time in Abilene, the cows were handled as properly as you could handle them and we brought them in to work they were just as bad as any other. It’s not always about the handle. It’s a necessity [to handle them right], but it’s not the only thing that makes a cow good or bad. It’s a breeding thing, [today] it’s more about producing meat rather than producing a good brain.”
You’ve had a lot of success with Non-Pros and kids, what do you think has helped you with that?
“I always wanted to be a coach. I just thought it was going to be in sports… I read a book by Gary Leffew about the power of positive thinking [and another book “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey]. I was around some different athletes in different sports that were at the pinnacle of their sport. I was fortunate to be around them and they liked me…” “A reined cow horse gal I was helping said, ‘You’re genuine when you try to help someone. People can tell that you want to help someone get better.’” “I went to help some people in California and I told them to get that horse across [that pen] and they said they couldn’t and I said hold up, there are 2 words that can’t be in your vocabulary. Can’t and quit. Can’t never could do nothing and quit is not an option. You might not be capable of marking 74s and 75s. That horse might not be a 74-75 horse, but if your ability is a 69 and that horse’s ability is a 68-70… When they call your name and that whistle goes off and they say 69 or 70 you have done your job. And those ladies looked at me and said, ‘Well, Faron, we never had it told to us like that.’” “Not everyone can win, our business would be over run with people. At the end of those 3 days, those ladies were kickin’ their horses when they should and pullin’ to a stop when they should and they said they had never had so much fun, that to me is what it’s all about.”
What do you find yourself saying a lot when you are teaching?
“Keep it all simple…I don’t start off concerned with them cutting a cow, a particular cow. I want them to get a cow cut clean. It doesn’t do them any good to cut a particular cow when they don’t know what to do with it.” “Until you can get to the outside of the cow, I don’t want you to think about anything other than getting where you need to be. When you get there, look and see where that cow is going to go and you get there again. It’s about getting that cow stopping. As they get more comfortable with that, I might give them a particular cow to cut.” “Most people are concerned with the turn, it’s not the turn, it’s always the stop because if you can’t stop, you can’t turn. The biggest thing is to go slow. I’m always about the moment, if that [horse] is running off, I fix him when he’s running off. Most people are concerned with getting him stopped.”
What would you say to someone that is nervous in the show pen?
“Slow the game down. Learn to control your emotions and maintain your composure. To me, too many people worry about what can go wrong. That never concerns me… To this day, when they call my name, I always have little butterflies, but I think if you don’t, you don’t love the game. The biggest thing about nerves, they’ve got to realize everyone they are looking around at is probably feeling the same thing. What I concern myself with is cutting that cow, walking it to the middle of the pen, when the cow quits giving you all he’s got, quit it and get another one. And mistakes are part of it. They happen to the best of us.”