Is it a generational thing, lack of a work ethic or too little pay and no appreciation?
Nearly every day on face book you see a posting: “ Looking for a Loper” from many cutting horse operations around the world! I’m not sure if it’s similar in other equine disciplines but it’s certainly a concern in the cutting horse industry.
Lopers are the first to the barn and the last to leave. There’s a lot of pressure, and the hours are long. Their job description varies but ultimately they are responsible for the health and wellness of the barn (blanketing, icing legs, sweating, turning out etc) not to mention warming the horses up for showing, a process that can take an hour at a time.
The preparation of a finally tuned cutting horse for competition is as important as selecting what cows to cut. A horse that’s too fresh will most likely over react to the cow, miss his stop and zig when he should have zagged! This of course can mean the difference between winning a check or losing one!
As most of us know, both trainers and owners find it in-excusable if a horse is too fresh for competition. It’s one of the only few controllable variables we have in this sport. I think the heart-rate of a loper usually triples as he or she hands the horse to the trainer and watches them cross the time line, wondering if they will still have a job in two and half minutes time.
The long hours and dedication required is not new to our industry. But has it always been this difficult to find and keep good lopers? Are they under paid? Has the younger generation become less willing to do the hard yards or are there simply too many better opportunities elsewhere?
The hours may be long, but there are rewards. The sport of cutting is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. Picturesque sunrises, big trucks, beautiful horses, team work and the thrill of a winning ride! It’s why so many people are drawn to working horses and the ranching life in the first place. But has the financial burden of cutting stopped us smelling the roses so to speak?
If our pool of lopers continue to diminish, where will our next generation of trainers come from? And who are trainers going to live vicariously through, with no loper antics after hours!!
Should we introduce National Service for lopers, give them more money or love on them more? We’d like to hear your thoughts!