A couple of firsts today! Raelene Paradis contacted me with a piece she had written about a topic pretty near and dear to my own heart, being a loper. I recently told someone that if I could lope, but ya know still pay my bills and buy my own property, I probably would for the rest of my life. I've never had a true guest post before, but I thought, heck - what's a better topic to have as a guest post than the ins and outs of being a loper in the cutting horse industry! Then I got to thinking, a lot of people really love my blog because I talk about and interview novice competitors - up and comers, and those of us just trying to get through runs in the 2,000, but I should be sharing the stories of lopers too. Lopers are really the backbone of this industry, and I find they have such a fascinating perspective on horses and the industry as a whole. There are many amazing lopers out there, much more experienced than I ever was, that are part time veterinarians, horse trainers, sports psychologists and life coaches, as well as horse preparation experts. Gaaaaaawd knows they have stories ya'll, and stories that should be shared. So, for the first time ever, welcome to a NEW series to With A Western Twist, Loper Life!
Raelene Paradis shows Just Call Me Turner at the Bill Collin's Youth Showcase at the Calgary Stampede
Raelene Paradis, Strathmore Alberta, has been loping for about two years, and has worked for four different trainers. Although she loves the loper life, she is currently out of the game and is planning to further her education with the hopes of working on horses therapeutically and continuing her own pursuits in the show pen. Paradis shows herself, and her biggest accomplishments to date are actually high school rodeo based, rather than NCHA. She was the 2015 Canadian High School Rodeo Association Champion in cutting, and was 10th out of 180 girls at the National Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming that same year. Paradis showed two horses during her high school career, starting the year on Lookin at Lena or "Kaching" as he is known around the barn, who is by Caught Me Lookin and was originally trained by Gerry Hansma. However, most of her successes throughout the year were on Just Call Me Turner, who, one could guess, is named Turner and is by Docs Stylish Oak. Paradis says, "I have the most amazing bond with Turner, and he really took care of me in the show pen."
Paradis' view every evening while blanketing horses
As a loper, Paradis headed stateside and loped at show of the major NCHA events in California, Texas and beyond. Last year she was working for Grant Setnicka, of GS Cutting Horses, and says that the best advice she has ever received by a trainer that was also her boss came from him. "Grant said something to me last year that really stuck with me. He told me that during that two minutes and thirty seconds you're in the show pen - it's yours. Whether you do good or not, it's just you in there, so do what you can. That really stuck with me because I can get very nervous showing, but thinking about it being just me really helped me slow my brain down."
A barn favourite of Paradis - Athena's Picasso
Lopers are notorious for picking barn favourites... just don't tell the clients that! Paradis says that one of her favourites to get ready in the loping pen was Athena's Picasso, or Pablo, who was in Grant Setnicka's program and was owned by Cody Irwin. "Pablo was awesome because he was goofy but in a very laid back way. He was one of those horses that really didn't move very fast in the lope pen unless you made him, which quite often you had too. He was also the master at chewing his lead shank the minute after you weren't looking, and then when caught would look so innocent. He was pretty consistent in the show pen, but usually not too flashy - just did his job and then want back into slow motion." One of her proudest moments as a loper also came with another barn favourite, Peppermints Patty, or Patty, another horse in the Setnicka roster who is owned by Hannah Gamble. "My proudest moment was definitely at the Breeder's Invitational this past year. One of our amazing clients [Hannah Gamble] had just purchased Patty and was about to show her for the first time and I got the honour of loping her. I don't remember exactly what the pair scored but they made it to the finals and seeing how excited and happy she was to have made the finals made me so happy and proud that I got to help be a part of that."
Paradis riding Saguaro Ichi on the J5 Horse Ranch
I affectionally refer to whoopsie moments in the world of loping as "loper fails" - we all have them, especially when you've been working 18 hour show days. Paradis says that her biggest loper fail was in 2015 when she was loping for the J5 Horse Ranch. "I had been getting this horse named Ink (One Tattoo) ready and I just could not get him to switch onto the correct lead, so I gave up and was like, whatever lope on the wrong lead for all I care, as long as you're ready to show i'm happy. He marked a 75 that go, the first show on the fall run that he had put up a good score. Chub [NCHA Trainer Chubby Turner] came out and said 'I was kinda worried when I saw you loping around on the wrong lead, but I guess it worked!' I'm pretty sure I turned beet red when he said that!" & now, in her own words, what being a loper means to Paradis and some advice for those thinking of becoming one..
We have all seen how glamorous the cutting horse industry is, most of us have experienced it. We have also experienced the hardships of it all. The long hours, not having time to eat or sleep and having little to no social life outside of a show. While it is stressful and makes us all think, "is this really what I want to be doing with my life?!" we all stay anyway. If we do leave its not long before we make our way back. It’s the love of the animals and the people we meet that draws us back in.
To work in the cutting horse industry it takes a special person. One who is willing to work a 24 hour day with no complaint simply for the love of the horses. One who has self motivation and a strong work ethic. Someone who will not break. This industry will challenge a person and test every limit possible, one day you may find yourself thinking I never want to see another horse again and the next you'll remember how much you love your job and why you do it.
If you are considering a job in the cutting horse world I can tell you it will be one of the best things you will ever do but it will also be one of the most trying. Riding cutting horses is not just all loping circles, it's washing boots, feeding, cleaning stalls, loading and unloading the trailers, countless hours on the road and putting the care and health of the horses before your own. When first entering the cutting industry it can be quite a shock how hard the work is and there are many people who do not stay very long for this reason. The ones who do make it through the initial shock and adjust to the crazy hours and physical work learn very quickly how wonderful this world is, how amazing the athletic ability of the horses is and how the trainers work with them.
While those of us in the industry know that this world is a special one, we must remind ourselves everyday how much we love it because if we don’t there is nothing to keep us motivated. Having motivation is key because while you have friends and sometimes even family alongside you, you are responsible for keeping up with the your own workload. Joining this world is by far one of the best things I have ever done, you will make great memories, life long friends and learn more then could have ever been imagined.
In the end we all have our own reasons for being here, for some of us its because we aspire to train for others its simply because we love the animals and their athletic ability. Seeing these animals perform and getting to know their personalities makes all the 2 am mornings and 20 hour drives worth every minute.
Another barn favourite - Peppermints Patty