Thursday, June 4, 2009

Barefoot Cutting Horses! An Interview with Wylie Gustafson

I just had to share the article with you all! This was sent to me by my friend Carolyn Kiesz. She and her husband, Rick, interviewed Wylie Gustafson for the publication, "2 1/2 Minutes - Celebrating the Cutting Horse in the Northwest"

This is an interview with Wylie and Carolyn tells me that at that time (July 2008) Wylie and his horse Irish Whiskey Sugar had won $80,000 and by now he's won much more. Enjoy!

Wylie Gustafson on Irish Whiskey Sugar

A Non-Pro’s Opinion
~ Wylie’s World ~

2-1/2 MINUTES caught up with this month’s featured Non-Pro, Wylie Gustafson, and sat
down for a spell between herds at a Cascade Cow Cutters show in Ellensburg,
Washington. We peppered him with questions and below are his responses, which he
fired back, straight from the hip, without hesitation. Wylie’s achievements in music
and in the cutting pen are well known. In this interview we took a different approach.

Can you give us a little background on Irish Whiskey Sugar (Whiskey)?
In 1999, I went to the John Scott sale in Billings, Montana, just hangin’ out with some friends. They were all going to buy some John Scott-bred horses and I didn’t go to buy a horse, and I was the only one who ended up buying this horse.

I had some friends, Dale and Karla Camp, who were the ranch managers and they were helping with the sale and ridin’ the horses; so I went up to Dale and asked him, “What’s the best horse, 4-year-old, you’re ridin’ right now?” He said “The horse I’m on!” I asked, “Who’s the dam?” He said, “number so-and-so.” I went and
looked at the dam and looked at all her colts and I saw that they had a yearling, so I bought Whiskey as a yearling. Then I got him going as a long yearling and two-year-old.

In the spring or summer of his two-year-old year, we sent him up to Billy Speight in Canada. Bill had him for about a year, or maybe a little more. Then he came home and John Paul had him for six months.

So you’ve kept him going since then? From what you’ve told us, he’s not that hard to get show-ready. Anything in particular that you do before a show?
Yeah. I try to give him different things to do. We do big outdoor rides and climb hills ~ just odds and ends types of jobs and I try to mix it up all the time. I have a regimen where I measure his heart rate and make sure he’s in shape and his wind is good. We do a little program where he doesn’t have to look at cattle, doesn’t have to look at a string, doesn’t have to look at a buffalo. We do sprints and climb hills and things like that; and then every once in awhile I work him on the
string and work him on buffalo and very rarely on cattle.

So when you’re at a show, you don’t necessarily take him in the practice pen?
No. He’s the type of horse where I find that he just doesn’t need to see a lot of cattle. He’s such a great horse that way. Such a great-minded horse and I can almost tune him during a “go.”

If I feel like he's not getting through that cow enough, I can kick him hard and he just buckles down instead of losin’ his air . . . he just starts to really buckle down. So, I can tune him a little bit during a run.

Would he be like what you’d call a “once in a lifetime” kind of horse?
Absolutely! You know, I used to think that maybe it was me being a good rider, but then I started riding young horses and found out that I was a crappy rider and that it was purely a good horse that was taking care of me. It didn’t take me to ride too many other horses to figure out that “no, I’m really not that good”!

Is Whiskey still barefoot?
Yes,Whiskey has won close to $80,000 barefoot. You know, I don’t think that every horse should be barefoot, but in some situations, and especially cutting, it can be done and I think my horse has an advantage being barefoot in a lot of pens. He’s learned how to deal with it and I think that in the next ten years we will see more
disciplines, not only cutting, going barefoot; with the exception of reining
because they need the plates. (Pat: Boots with plates are in the developmental stages.)

Are most of your horses barefoot?
Yes, I’d say 90% of our horses are barefoot. Every once in awhile we’re doing some correctional shoeing or we get a horse that’s had shoes all his life and it takes us about two years to get him going barefoot.

In cutting, what do you think is the advantage of being barefoot?
I think he feels the ground better and handles the ground better. If it’s too hard or slick, he can do it better barefoot. That’s my theory. You know, you have to question everything ~ and that’s why we went barefoot. We asked ourselves, “Do they have to have iron on their feet all the time?” We’ve seen a hoof grow one size by taking them out of shoes. Their hooves can actually grow one size! I have seen with
my own eyes how much healthier and more sound they can be. The soundness of our horses is so much better since we’ve gone barefoot.

When did you start cutting?
In 2002. I was a team roper for several years, then I drove my wife Kimberley around to her cutting clinics and I’d turn back. So, I saw a lot of cutting starting in 1998 when I was Kim’s chauffeur, and that helped me.

How long did it take you to get out of the Amateur into the Non-Pro . . . to get your first $50,000?
Actually, they kicked me out of the Amateur in 2006, but let me back in in 2007 because they changed the rules. It had to be cumulative; so they let me back in that year and now I am out of the 50 Am weekend show, but still think I can show Amateur in the aged event because I haven’t won $100,000 total . . . and that’s all due
to Whiskey. I don’t credit anything other than having a horse that takes care of me, time and time again, on a consistent basis.

For the beginner, what do you think are the most important things? Buying the right horse?
Practice time?
Getting the right help?
Learning how to read cattle?
It’s a combination. I think it’s finding the right trainer, team members and environment where you can enjoy it; where you can work at it and build confidence. It’s just like building confidence in colts. I think young or new riders have to have that same confidence built into them. It’s really finding the right trainer who they can communicate with, so they can get the idea of cutting. Then going to as many
clinics, watching as much cutting and videos as they can. We do everything.
We work really hard at it. Cutting is the type of thing where you get out of
it as much as you put into it. If you put lots of time into it, chances are
your success rate will be a little better.
Finding a good horse; if you don’t have a lot of time for the practice pen, then find a horse that will take care of you. There are all these things and there’s no “one magic formula.” You know, I bought a four-year-old horse my first year cutting ~ that doesn’t usually work out, but I worked really hard at it and had good trainers. John Paul was a real blessing to be with for the four-year-old year. Different things work for different people.

By Rick & Carolyn Kiesz - written for their publication "2-1/2 Minutes". There is more to this article regarding cutting...


Reddunappy said...

Great post Pat!
I am proud that my daughter competed on our old mare (24) two years in WAHSET barefoot!, I think she has done better without shoes!
She did Gaming, cows, and Drill, all barefoot.

Reddunappy said...

Hey Pat check this out, I really dont know what to think about it...

Pat said...

Thank you!

That's awesome about your daughter and her mare! Wonderful!

When horses can feel their feet, they're bound to perform better.

I love articles like this one because it reminds me of a handful of people who like to send me comments like "You're so full of shit it's coming out your ears" and other flattering commentary like that.

I know I'm not the one who is full of it and if those "folks" really want to know who is, they need to look no farther than their bathroom mirror!

Thanks again!

Pat said...

Yes, the riders rasp. I've been asked about it many times. My opinion bottom line is you can do as much harm as good with any raspo.

If you plan on rasping your own horses hooves, which I think is great, buy a real rasp and handle and learn to do it correctly from a professional.

Thanks for asking though. I love questeions!

NapéWastéWiñ said...

Absolutely wonderful interview. I just heard Wylie on an older broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion and just had to do a search for him on Google. I am a devote Barefoot Trimmer living on the Mississippi River just south from Baton Rouge. I came down here from my home in the Bitterroot Valley, southwest Montana, to help rescue horses out of the flood waters in New Orleans and I am still here. I am trying to change people’s minds, one hoof at a time - your words and music will be a delightful help! Thanks!! I will be more than happy to offer help to any horse in my area!