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Cali Brandt

I've shared so many of my ups and downs with ya'll, I thought maybe it was time to start exposing you to other "beginners" in the show pen. So keep an eye on the blog for interviews with riders that battled their way through the 2,000 LR, and beyond, in their first couple years of showing. Beginner's deserve interviews too guys! First up is Cali Brandt, Vanderhoof BC. Cali and I go way back... on social media. When she purchased her first show horse, Star, a mare that I knew from Alberta, a mutual friend messaged me and said she'd seen the mare with a new rider at an event in their very small hometown. She asked me if I knew who she was, I didn't. Creeping ensued, obviously. Then, she started commenting on my Beginner's Guide posts, but I was already like... hey I know you. From a friendship founded on sometimes hating our unicorns, and social media, we finally met at shows, and recently bonded over lipstick and shots of Burt Reynolds. (As you do) She's really cool, and she's also really real about her experiencing showing, and she's had a pretty incredible year. You guys know that's what i'm into over here! So, I thought she'd be a good fit for the first ever interview for A Beginner's Guide To Cutting.

Photo Credit: Janice Reiter Photography

What is your horses registered name? Playing Dually (Playin Stylish x Dual or Die) What is their barn name? Star. She carries the Suan Juan Ranch brand (a star), so we just happen to call her Star. But, funny enough, the very first horse I ever showed when I was about 6 or 7, was also called Star. It was kind of meant to be! Tell me a litte bit about their personality? Star is very unique, and I've been told by a lot of people that the way she acts with me was not how she was in her prior years. Shortly after I brought her home she was sleeping in the pasture and I walked out and sat beside her and she put her head in my lap and went back to sleep - talk about a melt your heart moment! It was pretty easy to fall in love with her, but don't let that kind eye fool you, there is a whole lot of quirky in her. For being a 10-year-old, I've had to lunge her before getting on and any chance she gets she will try and catch you off guard. She humps up on me in the warm up pen at almost every show, but rarely ever at home. What is your favourite thing about your pony? Where do I begin! She has the biggest doe eyes that just scream "love me!" I think we also have a very special bond, my mom can try and go find her in the back of the pasture and has to tromp through the creek to find her. Me, on the other hand, I can yell her name and it doesn't matter where she is, she will rip up from the gully a million miles an hour. Maybe because I always have treats... but hey, gotta win them over somehow! ;) Most importantly, I love what she has taught me about cutting. When I bought her, I had never ridden with a trainer, never rode a horse you could drop your hand on a cow with, and had never even seen a cutting show. I just had this bright idea one day that I was going to go cutting. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I found her all on my own and just dove in head first. Describe their style in the show pen? She is super cowy, has a really big stop and has great ears! It's one thing I love most about her in the show pen. She can be super gritty but every once and a while she can get a bit lazy and it's been quite a learning curve learning to get her to stay honest and free up on her ends and for me to not quit riding. What classes do you show in? Well, it was my first year ever in the cutting pen, and it's kind of funny how it happened this year. I took a Travis Rempel clinic early in the spring, and when nobody was around to hear I asked him, "do you think I'm good enough to show NCHA?" He laughed at me! He didn't know me from a hole in the wall and he laughed at me! I was a bit taken aback but stood around to hear what he was going to lecture me about. He said I would be silly to show in ranch classes and I was way too good of a horse/rider combo and needed to step it up. I hummed and hawed and he got mad at me, "NO! You're not showing in ranch classes, I'll see you in April at the NCHA show in Kamloops." Well shit... fast forward and I put my big girl panties on and showed in the 2,000 LR and the 15,000 AM. I continued to show in both classes most of the year, but didn't always enter the 2,000 LR and stuck true to the 15,000 AM. I had a bit of an incident in the 2,000 LR earlier in the year and ever since then I couldn't get it out of my head mentally and wasn't ever able to pull a run together in that class. It was almost like the 2,000 LR turned into a warm up for me to get ready for my next class. Talk about donating my money to my new pal Kate Rusnack. ;) [2017 2,000 LR Canadian Champion] If it wasn't for Travis Rempel pressuring me to show NCHA, I would have just got my toes wet in small ranch clubs and I often get reminded about that day that some timid girl asked him, "am I good enough to show NCHA?"

Cali, and Star, after winning the 15,000 AM aggregate at the Okotoks Classic

When you started out the year, what were your goals? Well... when I went to that first show in Kamloops my dad asked me that exact question. I gave him a very sarcastic answer and said, "don't fall off." Well, first day of the show went great, I won my first class I ever entered and was feeling pretty proud of myself. That feeling was short lived, to say the least. My sweet Star piled my ass in the show pen. And it wasn't just a little unexpected jump, she straight up bronc'd on me! Talk about finding out the hard way, as in the ground, that a good majority of cutting horses really need to be loped down before putting them in front of a cow. I got up and walked out like a champ, seriously it didn't hurt, what got me was my mom came running out behind me to make sure I was okay. Well as soon as I saw mommy it was game over, and the waterfall started. Needless to say I didn't accomplish that goal of staying on at my first show, but I was able to get back on and come back the next herd and mark a solid 72 and pick up a cheque. I was so proud of myself and in my first show I was well over half way to my $1000 achievement buckle and that became my goal. I just wanted that damn buckle! Did you achieve them? Did they change as you went along? I achieved my goal and got my buckle at my third show and it was super special. It was the exact day that I brought Star home exactly 1 year prior. It also happened to be the first time I brought Star back to Alberta to show. At that show, we also won the aggregate for the 15,000 AM. I smiled the whole 12 hour drive back home! After that it was kind of like, well shit, I'm only 3 shows in, now what do I shoot for. I decided after doing so well at very few shows I wanted to finish top 5 in CCHA and believe it or not, in our very first year, Star and I were able to finish 3rd with pretty limited hauling. We also finished 1st in BC and 3rd in Alberta in the 15,000AM. Do you ride with a trainer? I ride with Travis Rempel. He really took me under his wing starting in March at that clinic, and kept encouraging me to keep showing through the good and bad. After I got bucked off in the show pen, Travis, Glen Beveridge, Cayley Wilson and Bob Zernhelt really took care of me through that next go to get my confidence up. I remember leaving the arena and Travis yelling from a distance, "You better be at the next show!" He helped me a ton this year, and even though I still live about 9 hours away, he always made sure to check in and see how I was doing. When we would meet up at shows he always jumped on Star to give her a quick tune up for me. When I travelled to Alberta alone he told me who to ask for help. I even stayed in Alberta a couple times between the shows that were close together and had help from Cody Smith during my stay. What was the highlight of your show career this year specifically? Everything! Like I said, last summer when I did this crazy thing and bought a cutting horse, I hadn't even seen a cutting before. I met a lot of amazing people who made me feel welcome and it was amazing to see the support in the show pen. It was never like that in the Halter world. "Oh god, don't make eye contact, walk the other way." I knew nobody at the beginning of the show season and by the end of the year I was socializing and going for drinks with such amazing people! What was the low point? At the Pre-Stampede show at Silver Slate, my parents and my husband all made the long trip to come watch me since I was doing so well. I entered 4 classes, and flopped in every single one! It wasn't my horses fault, but most definitely rookie errors that resulted in some not so great situations. It was the first show I had never pulled a cheque and the first show I couldn't go in and fix my own mistakes. I was so disappointed in myself, I left the show pen in tears. It ruined my whole week at the Stampede, and I was so bitchy the whole time. My poor husband! How did you get through it? That trusty trainer, Mr.Rempel, gave me quite the talk about how those shows happen to everybody in the industry and that I couldn't let it bother me. His words of encouragement really kept me going and striving to be better every time I put my foot in the stirrup.

Do you get nerves/anxiety in the show pen? Oh for sure! I get so rattled before going in the show pen, but somebody once told me that you know you're still living when you get nervous and excited about things. My legs shake so hard sometimes that when I walk into the herd I can hear my spurs jingling! I had to take a swig of fireball to calm my nerves before I went to get on. It also warmed me up in those cold spring months in BC where they don't host shows in indoor arenas! I was able to grow out of that and move on to essential oils - much healthier option if you ask me. What was the best advice you received this year? Travis was so good and kept telling me to keep going. Don't let the bad go's define you and rise to the next occasion to show your horse. He had me read books about the power of affirmations. He also told me after that tough show at Silver Slate, "winners are not people who never fail, they are people who never quit." What was your best moment in the show pen? It was really hard to pull myself together after being bucked off in front of a ton of people. My dad even asked me if I was going to scratch my next class. It felt pretty amazing to go in and lay down a pretty solid 72 and pull a cheque in the next herd. It's kind of the moment I made a name for myself. Not sure if it was in a good way, but whatever. I got quite a few little one liners throughout the show season from trainers like Les Timmons, "Hey, great job, and you didn't get bucked off!" - he just so happened to be the judge at that show. Cody Smith always has a great sense of humour that made me laugh, especially when he said, "Why do you have to lope her down so much now, I missed the rodeo in Kamloops!" It was a really shitty situation that I overcame and proved I wasn't a quitter. What was your funniest moment showing this year? I laughed every time I pulled up to a show in my itty bitty half ton with a 2 horse bumper pull and was surrounded by these massive rigs. I convinced my husband to buy me a new truck so I could pull a bigger trailer down the road half way through the summer. What do you plan to show in next? I've been asked this question a lot lately, I'm really unsure. I live in an area of BC where there is no help and no shows. I either have to travel to Alberta, or make the decision to haul to Washington with the rest of the TR barn. Either way I look at it, I'm 12+ hours away from the shows. Good thing I have all winter to ponder on it. No matter what, I will continue to enter in the 15,000AM and if I feel brave maybe I'll enter something else from time to time. What are your goals for next year? I always want to push myself to be better. If I can't find a way to be a better version of myself than I was last year then I think that is the greatest goal one can accomplish. You can't control how anybody else shows, so if you are doing the best you can, how can you be disappointed with yourself.

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