If you've ever been to a cutting horse event you'll notice two distinct areas that make up a show. There's the show pen, with a rider showing, two herd holders, two turn back riders, and most likely a large group of riders near the entrance gates watching cattle for when it's their turn to hopefully successfully cut three good cows in two minutes and thirty seconds. In the other area you'll see a warm up pen. Here you'll find riders warming horses up in a large circle. You'll witness people putting boots on, brushing horse's tails, changing bits, rushing back and forth from the practice pen and the stall area and so on, and so forth.These riders are called "lopers", they are what grooms are to the English world. The thing with lopers is no two are the same. Some have been doing it forever, some were born into it, some married into it. Some are brand new, transplants, maybe from Australia, maybe from the English world. Some are part time - freelancers - some are full time. Some show, some have shown a lot. You'd be surprised how much you can learn about the show pen from watching the warm up pen. Some want to be trainers, some even are trainers. You'll notice each barn has a different way of doing things - some of that is coming from the higher ups - but you'd be surprised how much of a barn's identity comes from the ground floor. Some barns have wildly printed coolers, some use specific types of tape on their polo wraps, some swear by Iconoclast Equine Support Boots, others will only use Classic Equine. Some drink water, but most can be seen drinking varieties of coffee and Red Bull. Some are intensely serious, others like to joke around. Some barns have full teams of lopers, keep an eye out for the head loper, try not to cut them off. Some have just one, some just have one when they should have five, those ones are tired, help them if you can. No two are the same, but all of them have a deep love for the sport, and even deeper than that, for the horse. Lopers pick favourites, and will unabashedly let you know who those horses are. They have the hot ones that take awhile. They have ones they only trot. The term loper is a misnomer, by the way, many lopers rarely lope. They have the lazy ones they drag into the show pen. They have the horses they always try to get ready. They have the quirky ones that like to stir up trouble. These are the ones you never tie close to another barn's things. They will likely refer to your horse as their own from time-to-time, let them, it's a special privilege to care for these great horses, but an even deeper honour to be allowed to love them like your own. The good lopers will ALWAYS tell you that your horse feels ready to be shown, even if the horse is being a dink and they really aren't sure if it's going to go well or not. Good lopers want you to do well, but they care deeply about your horse doing well. They will hold their breath when you show, only breathing to cheer for you, and they will likely take it a little bit personally if you don't do well. People say horse trainers have feel, lopers most certainly do too.
--- Pictured is loper for Reinhardt Cutting Horses, Brielle Croake, with one of her personal favourite horse's, Glass Cactus, owned by Pauli Smith.
Brielle is wearing the brand new "Cut Cattle, Not Cinches" tank in Mauve Pink, available in at www.westerntwistmedia.com/shop 🦄💕