Neu Perspectives

Cow Horse Recalibration


A major setback with my futurity prospect has me adjusting goals for my horse, and searching for silver linings.

0695After taking a long break, my 3-year-old came back stronger and didn’t seem to miss a beat.

Well, fall is officially upon us. The lightning bugs are starting to fade, dark clouds are threatening storms in the late afternoons, and another futurity season is upon us here in Texas. (For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, futurities are limited-age shows. In cutting and cow horse events, those horses must be 3 years old.)

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, this year was particularly exciting because I threw my hat in the ring with a gelding I raised and entered in the National Reined Cow Horse Association non-pro futurity. Sadly, I had to fish my hat back out and scratch this year. See, my horse contracted the neurological disease equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), and although he has now fully recovered, it set him too far behind in his training to be a show-ready 3-year-old.

I’ll admit, I had a big lump in my throat when I called NRCHA to cancel my entry. I had clung to the idea that maybe we could catch up, that maybe we could still be competitive at the lower levels. But, alas, my horse’s physical and mental limitations due to EPM told me that he just wasn’t going to be ready.

So, I led him to one of our pastures, untied my rope halter and turned him out.

And looking back now, I realize that sometimes, beyond the disappointment that comes with giving up on my goal, there are some really cool lessons that I’ve learned.

There is life after “The Futurity.” Sure, I would have loved to show my 3-year-old in the Fort Worth, Texas, event, but there’s something to rejoice in once the pressures of having such a rigid timeline have been relieved. Now I’ve got time. There’s no reason I can’t prepare this same horse for prestigious derbies for 4-year-old horses, or aim to show him as a bridle horse in his older years, if he’s ready.

And if he’s not? I still have a horse that I can learn on and have fun with, both in and out of the arena.

Just because we had to hit the pause button doesn’t mean that the previous training has been deleted. And I have learned a ton myself while working with my husband to get this horse ready.

I gave my gelding a solid three months off to rest, recover and revive. When I brought him back in from the pasture two weeks ago and stepped on, he felt just as good as I remember—maybe better! Not only did he retain his cow horse training and reining fundamentals, but he was a stronger, brighter and more mentally settled version of his old self.

Although we promote it in our own program, sometimes I need to be reminded of the beauty in turning a horse out and letting him grow up a bit. The break has been good for him. Although I feel that my horse possessed many talents, contracting EPM slowed his reactions and delayed his movements. He needed time, peace and medicine to heal his body and mature.

Sure, it would be great to still have my hat in the ring at the 2017 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, vying to show in the finals. But of all the important lessons I’ve learned from raising, training and enjoying my gelding, I’m the most thankful that my horse has proved to me that silver linings are found in places other than in a championship buckle.

Leave a Comment