Trainer’s Corner: Rob Hodgman

April 6th, 2021 by Sophia Skeith

Total Earnings: $892,000 Aus

At 18 years old Rob Hodgman left home in Australia and traveled to California to ride reined cow horses. He returned home where he said the sport was more popular then and bought a cow horse. That horse did not like reining so a friend suggested he take it to the cutting futurity. He ended up winning the 1983 Australian NCHA Open Futurity on the horse.

Hodgman has trained horses professionally for over 40 years but he has recently stepped back and he now trains a limited number of horses. His son now runs the training business at Pinkett in New South Wales and Hodgman now trains working dogs on the side.

What quality do you have to have in a horse?

“The desire to please you. It’s the most important thing…The more natural a horse is, the easier he finds his job…Horses that are willing to put out and do their job no matter what’s in front of them, it’s one of those things you can’t see when you look at a young horse. You can’t test it until you get going down the road and showing the horse. A lot of people have said to me,’what’s your best futurity horse?’ and I say ‘I’ll tell you when I’m done showing them.’ It’s the horse that steps up when it’s needed. It’s what I call a show horse.”

What’s one of the biggest adjustments you’ve made in your program?

“…I’ve had to work at [showing a horse] better…The cattle picking now compared to when I started, we used to go cut what was in front of us. Sometimes that’s still a good idea…but the homework that goes into presenting that horse is something I’ve struggled with.”

What motivates you?

“It’s been the horses, to be honest. And trying to find that next star…. Winning, to me, is about the horses… To me it’s always been about the great horses I’ve [ridden]… When I know a horse, I’ve kind of lost interest, I’m ready to pass it onto someone else. I haven’t done a lot of showing open horses and campaigning them. It’s never interested me. The futurities and seeing what those young horses have to offer has always been something that’s excited me. Not just my own horses, [but] to go to the futurities and see what’s out there for that next year…Once I’ve seen the horse go a bit, I know the runs change depending on the cattle, but I know how that horse goes, it’s boring. But to see the new young set of horses, [I watch the futurity] rounds, not just the finals, just to see what the new bloodlines are like, that’s really kept me going. And I’ve just seen so much improvement about the way people go about breeding horses. There’s so much access to good horses now, compared to when I started…”

How do you describe feel? On a horse and on a cow?

“I think you get better the more you do it. I’ve always said timing and feel are the hardest things to teach at any clinics, when I was doing clinics. You can teach technique but when to use it, when not to use it, to me, is hard. I think a lot of times today trainers are in too much of a hurry. They don’t spend enough time trying to get a feel for that horse…

“I’ve always said, it’s easier to teach young people that understand cattle than a young rider that doesn’t have any livestock sense… Position on a cow depends on the stock, depends on where they’re pulling… The cattle pull one way and that changes the way you should go about [working] that cow. The cattle you work [in the United States] are a little different. Our cattle [in Australia] are a lot closer to the horse.”

What’s your advice to an up and coming trainer?

“My father used to believe, in those days, that kids should learn to box. He said boxing is not about how hard you can hit because no matter how hard you can hit, someone’s going to hit you. You’ve got to learn how to take the hit and not show any emotion and move on…

“If you’re going to enter into a sport, look at all the good things, but it’s never going to be easy. You’ve got to accept that… Don’t [complain] about it when things go against you. It’s part of the game. Don’t enter the game if you’re not willing to take those knocks…Mental toughness, to me, is about [realizing] it’s not a trick if you cut a bad cow, it’s part of the deal. Be a realist. Don’t get angry, deal with it and move on.”

“Don’t be old before your time. It comes quick enough.”

“A lot of time you think ‘if you’d listen to me you wouldn’t make that mistake’ but then they wouldn’t have experienced that. To me, you can only offer up advice…”

What is your best memory in the sport?

“Seeing horses I’ve trained go on with other trainers brings me a lot of pleasure. I like to see horses go on because I’m into futurity horses, a lot of times those horses move onto other trainers…A lot of my family [members] have won things in the industry on a horse I’ve trained.”

Rob’s reflections on his time in the sport:

“What shapes the industry is the judges and the cattle you’re working because cattle breeders don’t breed cattle for us to show our horses on. They breed whatever’s marketable and our horses are just a tool to control those cattle.”

“In the early days, we had a lot of broodmares. The most successful line I’ve had all go back to one mare. There was a bit of heartache with her in the early days. Just goes to show you how things can turn around. [Touch of Class] had tendon issues and wouldn’t mother her first foal…It was just one drama after another and now everything goes back to her…If I would have had my way I would have sold her. But how do you sell a crippled horse? I got stuck with her and it was the luckiest [moment]. That’s not me being smart, that’s called fate.”

“Everything is a moment in time and it passes the good and the bad. You win the futurity and you’re on a high and two years later you’re trying to win it again. It’s just moments like with that mare…”

Watch Rob’s videos on CHTO

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