He was not yet, however, an experienced cowboy of the caliber employed by the Proctors. So to make himself useful, he also did such things as cutting wood for the cook, moving the bosses’ horses to wherever they were fixin’ to work cattle and holding the “cuts” while cattle were sorted on the range. This was fortunate, as he could watch Leonard and Foy and other top men cutting cattle day in and day out. This gave him the chance to note their different methods of obtaining the best from a horse, and to learn the science of cattle work through observation as well as participation.
At 16, Buster thought it time to change pastures again, and. this time he headed for the rodeo circuit. He stayed at it … “until it was apparent this was not the type of life I wanted.” He then spent several years working for some of the outstanding cowmen and horsemen of the Midland and west Texas area.
Later, his headquarters switched to Las Vegas, N.M., and the ranch of Homer Ingham who, Buster says, “gave me my first real opportunity in training horses.” He broke and trained horses for Ingham as well as for Warren Shoemaker who lived nearby.
Along about this time Buster bought a six-year-old stallion from Ingham, called Chickasha Mike, for $125. Mike had never been broke; in fact he had never seen the inside of a corral. He was of Billy Clegg breeding, and it was Shoemaker who urged Buster to buy him. He says, ‘This horse, plus the help and advice I received from Warren and Billie Shoemaker, is what eventually stopped me from punching cows.”
Buster broke Mike and started using him in his regular ranch work, including cutting. It soon became apparent that Mike had a special aptitude for this, and Buster eventually took him to some regional cutting horse contests. Chickasha Mike won the first five contests he went to! This was in 1952. Buster later sold Mike to Bill Hale of Odessa for $8,500, and Hale, in turn, sold him to Leonard Proctor who owned the horse when he won the 1956 NCHA Reserve World Championship.
Ever since then cutting horses have been Buster’s way of life. He began training and showing his own, and also took in several horses for training. One of the first was Marion’s Girl- named for her owner, Marion Flynt. Foaled in ’48, she was by Silver Wimpy and out of a Scharbauer mare. Flynt purchased her from her breeder, Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., as a two-year old for $2,000. In one of her first contests, she won back $1,677 of her purchase price!
Buster says, “Marion’s Girl was by far the most intelligent and ‘cowy’ mare and the greatest cutting horse I’ve ever ridden. She could figure a cow after two jumps, then would explode into action and take every advantage of the cow. And once she got a cow figured, she’d also ‘turn on’ in proportion to what she could do with it. She had the coordination, nimbleness, and power to break, run, and stop faster than any horse I’ve sat on. She also had the determination and desire to win.”
He campaigned Marion’s Girl at six and eight, and took her practically from coast to coast, but let her have a vacation as a seven-year-old. Marion’s Girl never raised any foals as she died when nine years old.
Buster started the training of Marion’s Girl just as he starts all of his horses. After breaking them and giving them their first few initial rides in a corral, he starts using them in everyday ranch work since his first goal is to let them develop into natural cow horses. Their first cutting experience comes while quietly following cows in the open. Then they advance to slow, easy cutting – still while doing practical ranch work on the range. Buster says, “I like a horse to learn how to work with cattle in the open so that he gets a good, working knowledge of cattle, learns how to handle himself under all kinds of conditions, and learns to do his own thinking. As a result, each horse develops his own style of cutting that is best suited to his ability.”
A horse must be a good, ranch cutting horse before Buster starts working him in an arena. Then he devotes the arena work primarily to adding snap and polish to the horse’s performance.
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