Before Ray Ainsworth came into our lives, my barrel horse, Cutter and I had a love/hate relationship ruled by anxiety, anger, and fear. Any time I rode him, it was like a fight to the death. On the ground, he would not listen. He would run over me. He would step on my feet. When saddling time came, he wouldn’t stand still. All the while, my frustration would build. Once I finally placed the bridle on him, my next challenge would arise. I would have to basically take a running start to get on Cutter because he was NOT going to stand still. Once in the saddle, I had almost no control and that made me angrier. Cutter would have his head up so high that I could touch his ears. Walking was not a gait in Cutter’s book. We were half trotting-half running everywhere we went. No amount of bit or hackamore could keep him from doing what he wanted to do.
Melanie and Cutter
When we warmed up for an event, I had to make sure there was no one in the way. We would run around until he would finally want to slow down. His anxiety was through the roof. So even after all the running, he still was hyped up. Getting down the alley way was the worst thing of all. He would do EVERYTHING he could think of to not go into that arena. He backed up. He spun around. Sometimes, he would simply not move. I once had one person pushing each of his legs, someone pulling him, someone whipping him from behind, and then me kicking him with spurs and that horse wouldn’t move an inch (we ended up not running that day)!
Trying to run the barrel or pole pattern was near to impossible unless Cutter and I were having a good day (which was rare). He would run wide, as in all the way to the wall, on the first barrel and sometimes he would turn the first pole and just leave the rest behind. He almost always ran away with me in the arena.
Meanwhile, I was kicking him and jerking at his mouth and whipping him like there’s no tomorrow. As I was doing this, Ray Ainsworth walked up to my grandmother and handed her his business card.
Ray came by our stall the next day at the Kirk Fordice Equine Center. I watched him disgruntled. I did not want anyone touching my horse. He worked with him in the stall; he did these strange exercises with him. He never hit him or was ugly to Cutter. As I watched, I noticed Cutter relaxing. And then, this crazy man walked out of the stall with my horse; he had no halter or rope of any kind on him! I just knew Cutter was about to high tail it! To my amazement, Cutter just walked all through that big barn with his head down and never left Ray’s side.
Even though I was amazed, the stubbornness in me wanted that man to leave my horse alone. That night, I rode Cutter in a bareback equitation class (just for kicks and giggles) and did fantastic! This came as a big surprise to me! Then I competed in barrels the same night and got fourth place! He barely fought me coming into the arena and then ran beautifully. I couldn’t believe it. Ray only spent about 20 minutes with Cutter that day and I could already see improvement.
When I arrived at his barn, I was in a really bad mood. Ray saw that and decided I would be the one he picked on for the day. So we started the clinic. Some of the exercises were pretty simple. And then he asked me to lunge my horse on a lead rope. In a huge arena. Well, I tried doing what he said, however, Cutter had other plans. I basically chased him all around that arena. Finally, Ray took him. And for the first time, I watched Cutter lunge on a lead rope. And the best part, when Ray gave him back to me, I lunged him too!
I was hooked. Later that day, after a series of many different exercises and techniques, we saddled our horses. Keep in mind that we all still had halters on. Ray then said, “Okay, everyone get on your horses.” I looked at him like he had lost his mind. He commenced to laughing at the look on my face and told me to just try it. Using one of the methods he showed me earlier in the day, I got on Cutter and he stood still. Then, I was completely baffled that Cutter did not move. And Ray had the biggest smile on his face because apparently I had one on too. Cutter never offered to run off. He never picked up his head high. And I finally relaxed.
After the clinic, Ray talked with my Nana and they decided that Cutter would stay for two weeks. And that turned into four months. Throughout that time, I came over and learned what Ray was teaching Cutter. At the end of four months, I was running Cutter in a halter. We could run in an open area, where as a before we could not do that, and we would run the barrel pattern and run it very well. It was like we were both two totally different horse and rider. That June, we competed at the Appaloosa Youth World Show and had a successful run.
It has been five years since I met Ray. Through those years I have kept with the program Ray taught me. And to this day, I can ride Cutter with a halter and no worries. I can take him anywhere. I even use these same techniques with my other horses (who were not near as bad off as Cutter) with success. I ride one of my horses on the Dixie National Wagon Train with only a halter. The looks and questions I get would amaze anyone.
Meeting Ray Ainsworth was the best thing that could have ever happen to my horse and me. Cutter and I have a relationship now that is ruled by patience, trust and happiness. And what is great about this is that anyone can learn to do it. I just make sure that I am always, as Ray says, firm, fair, consistent and concise. As long as I continue on with what I have learned, I know that I will always have a great, trusting relationship with my horse. That is one of the greatest feelings a horseman/horsewoman could ever have.