Horse Showing

Beyond Road to the Horse

May 16, 2012

The winners of the 2011 colt-starting challenge are still riding together.

Chris Cox

Assistant trainer Clayton Anderson on Perfect Performance. Courtesy of Aaron Griffin/Chris Cox Horsemanship.

From America’s Horse

What happens when you take a kid off his remote ranch home, send him to school for a few days – taught in front of a packed crowd – then send him on out of the limelight? Does he retain that education? Is he helped or hindered by the “speed learning”?

The kid we’re talking about is the now-4-year-old colt, Perfect Performance, who was started under saddle during the 2011 Road to the Horse colt-starting competition in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Renowned clinician Chris Cox, who competed against Pat Parelli and Clinton Anderson, came out on top with the gray colt he later nicknamed “Tres” in honor of his three Road to the Horse wins. In early 2012, America’s Horse revisited Chris and Tres.

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Bred by the Four Sixes Ranch, Tres is getting the chance to do some ranch work at Chris’ place in Mineral Wells, Texas.

“We’re using him around the ranch, working him on cattle and just letting him be a horse,” Chris says. “He’s doing good.”

In the time since the 2011 colt-starting event, Tres – sired by Sixes Pick and out of a Special Effort mare – has filled out and turned into a beautiful dapple gray. But his basic nature hasn’t changed.

“He’s a horse that’s real sensitive,” Chris says. Horses like that tend to not be very forgiving of rider errors, but Chris says he likes that instant feedback. “He tells you right away if you’re doing right or doing wrong.”

And to answer the question posed at the beginning of this story, Chris says that Tres’ experience at Road to the Horse was a positive one.

“Everything we taught him at the competition, it stuck with him. He has a good, sound mind. … I didn’t allow the competition to blow his mind.”

Although Chris is frequently on the road doing horsemanship clinics, one of his assistant trainers, Clayton Anderson, has been working with Tres and preparing him for versatility ranch horse competition.

One of the secrets to training Tres has been to keep that good, sound mind engaged.

“One thing about these horses, you want to make sure you stick to the basics,” Chris says, “but you also have to make sure you advance them just a little bit every day. That helps the horse’s learning curve, so he doesn’t stay in his comfort zone all the time. You don’t have to overextend him mentally or physically, but keep his interest and keep him from getting complacent.”

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Chris likes to ride his horses outside, not in the same pen all the time, so that their ears are forward and both horse and rider are feeling productive.

Learn more about the 2012 Road to the Horse, held March 9-12. AQHA was proud to sponsor the remuda at Road to the Horse, another way the Association promotes ranch-raised American Quarter Horses.