Hugh Miles is one of Australia’s hottest young trainers in two disciples, Cutting and Campdrafting, having won titles and made open finals in both sports. He also runs a thriving breeding business and always has his fingers on the pulse of the next big thing in popular blood lines. Hugh was recently in the States competing in the NCHA Futurity as a catch rider and looking for sale horses.
Simone: You really established your business pretty much straight out of school. What was it that really helped you to start making a name for yourself?
Hugh: I realized you got to have really good quality horses. You’ve got to be a step above everybody. To have the advantage, you’ve got to have the good horses, and you’ve got to go that extra mile to find them and you got to do the extra homework. And to sell those horses, you know, before you do any work on them as yearlings and foals, they’ve got to be bred differently. They got to have something different that stands you apart from everybody else.
Simone: So you’ve got to have two minds right? You’ve got to have the breeding side of things and be very kind of analytical and be across the whole industry and then you’ve got your whole training thing. You’ve got to go compete. It’s a lot to juggle.
Hugh: Yeah, probably, a lot of people call me mad because we do a lot. We do all the breeding like we stand three or four stallions at home. So we do all the collections and the shippings at home. We also have mare’s come to home. We do all the embryos. I got a vet comes every second day sometimes every day and I own about 40-50 recip mares, so we do that as well as we could have 40 horses in training. So I mean doing the two disciplines I’ve always got plenty of staff. It’s a lot to juggle.
Simone: You really started out strong as a competitor in campdrafting then what made you take a look at cutting?
Hugh: It was really to get ahead and be better at campdrafting. I thought I’ve got to have my horses obviously better and I wanted them better trained and I also wanted them to have another market and it’s definitely helped, you know doing both sports and I’ve got some really good clients out of it and my horses sell a lot easier and it’s been really good challenge for me. As everyone knows, cutting is a big challenge. Just diversify and try to be better.
Simone: How common is that to have somebody like yourself being successful in both in Australia?
Hugh: There’s only a couple of guys that do it because it’s a lot of work and it’s hard and it’s getting to the stage where you got to be a real specialist in what you do.
Simone: What it is about you that has enabled you to be successful in both? What do you think are the unique set of characteristics you have?
Hugh: I’m probably very adaptable. As much as they (the two sports) go hand in hand. They are a lot different. What makes a really good cutting horse sometimes doesn’t make a very good campdrafter, and what makes a good camp draft horse doesn’t make a good cutting horse, you know, so you’ve got to be very adaptable and you’ve got to be very open-minded all the time about your horses and treat every horse like they are different.
Simone: It’s all about the stop in cutting and in campdrafting it’s all about speed and going forward. With your own muscle memory etc, how do make sure you don’t give your horse mixed signals?
Hugh: In training a campdraft horse I train them a lot like a cutting horse. So even though that horse might not suit cutting, the cutting training will help for campdrafting. So I don’t really change too much about the training, it’s more adapting to the horse and with where it’s going. You just have to adapt to the horse.
Simone: What do you look for in terms of your cutting horses? And then what do you look for in your campdrafters?
Hugh: Because the campdrafting is obviously the bigger market in Australia, even for a cutting horse, I want a really well-built horse that’s got a good wither and got a good rein and structurally very well put together because if they don’t make a good cutting horse, they’ve got to be able to go campdrafting because that’s where the bigger market is, where the sales with the bigger money.
Simone: Now you’ve been you’ve been coming over to States to the Futurity for a lot of years and really studying the horses here. What’s your goal in exporting horses to Australia?
Hugh: We can pretty much get all the really good genetics there now. There’s only a handful that we can’t get so they’ve got to be something that we definitely know we can’t get. So yeah, I study it all the time and have studied it for a long time and again it’s got to be something different not what everybody else has got and if it is the same, it’s got to be exceptional.
Simone: And I know you like the Woodys (Woody Be Tuff). What is it about the Woodys that stand out to you?
Hugh: Well we can’t get them at home and they’re really good. They’re an out cross for us. They’re really well-built, especially the mares, they’re beautiful you know. I found the studs harder to pick, like it’s taken a few years of looking and studying and they’re really, really hard to find. It’s clear that we will never be able to breed to him, so the only way to get as close to him as possible is to find a good son.
In a campdrafting competition, a rider on horseback must “cut out” one beast from the mob of cattle in the yard or the “camp” and block and turn the beast at least two or three times to prove to the judge that they have the beast under control; then take it out of the yard and through a course around pegs involving right and left hand turns in a figure eight, before guiding it through two pegs known as “the gate”. The outside course must be completed in less than 40 seconds.