Trainer’s Corner: Tim Smith – Payson, AZ

October 7th, 2021 by Sophia Skeith

Total Earnings: $6,000,000

Tim Smith has amassed over six million dollars in lifetime earnings. Smith attended college for a year on a basketball scholarship in Minnesota. After getting injured, he joined his brother Mike, who was a cutting horse trainer in California. Smith quickly developed a passion for cutting.

Other than his brother, the only other person Smith worked for was Bill Martin, a cutting horse trainer in Southern California.

He went on to train part time for about six years and to date, Smith has 45+ years of experience riding cutting horses. Smith’s claim to fame is his showing prowess, with a reputation as the sport’s most successful catch rider. He focuses on the weekend horses more now and is currently third in the Open and first in the 25k Novice in the 2021 World Finals standings.

His most memorable moment has been winning the Open World Finals in 2005 on WR This Cats Smart.

“I’ve been really fortunate to catch-ride a lot of really great horses over my career…I made my first Futurity finals on a catch ride for Phil Rapp… All of the great catch-rides I’ve had over the years for friends are probably as important to me as anything.”

What is your training philosophy?

“To let each horse be its own individual. I’ve rode some really great horses, super athletes and then I’ve rode some that aren’t as good but try really hard. I’ve always been able to let them be what they want to be or what they can be. And not push the ones that aren’t as athletic…”

What advice would you offer to up and coming trainers?

“Don’t skip any of the steps on the way. By that I mean, you need to take care of all aspects of the business. We all want to win and the wins will come with time but you need to be a horseman and take care of your horses and be a businessman. It’s pretty easy to have one great horse and hang your hat on it but when you’ve got a lot of them, you have to treat them each individually and take care of them all…”

What are your preferences when it comes to picking cattle?

“When you’re doing the weekend thing, each day is basically the finals and you’re trying to get the biggest check you can. I want something that’s going to move, I don’t like to stand around, something that’s going to challenge us and has some zip to it, not crazy over the top but I like to think I’ve got a good enough horse that can hold just about anything. I want to cut something that has some feel and wants to move that will allow me to mark the biggest score I can. Very rarely will I cut too soft a cow…”

What inspires you?

“The competition more than anything. I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of success and I’ve enjoyed horses, the competition and camaraderie. We are coming up to the end of the [2021] point year and all of the World Finals [Titles] are up for grabs. We are all going to the same cuttings and we’re all helping each other. I want my buddies to do well but I want to beat them. I think they think the same thing.”

Smith said sometimes the horses that make really good weekend horses weren’t the best aged event horses. But it’s fun to see the horses get to the top of their game in the weekend classes. He said he still enjoys showing three year olds and he will catch ride two at the Futurity.

How do you define feel? And can you teach someone feel?

“The hardest thing in the world is to teach someone feel. How do you teach someone to ride a bicycle? They have to get on and figure out how to balance it. There’s really no way to teach them that, you can give them pointers and they can either balance it or they can’t.”

“Feel is that innate ability to understand what that horse, the cow and you are thinking in that exact instant. That’s feel. That’s something you have inside you…”

Click Here To Watch Tim’s Videos on CHTO.


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