Low Expectations

My horseshoer, who is a dear friend, also starts colts and trains barrel horses. He’s as cowboy as it gets in these parts and is one of the most unassuming men you’ll ever meet even though he’s trained some of the best barrel horses in the country.

He has a roster of colorful true stories and out of those many near death, or at least serious injury, experiences comes a wealth of wisdom of what not to do. He also has a lot of sayings that his closest friends like to call “Joelisms”. One of my favorite “Joelisms” is “Low expectations”.

The saying came from one of the many reasons I admire my friend so much. One of the reasons that he’s so well-known is that he’s made his mark in the world by training horses that no one else could. When everyone is riding the top bred easy to train horses, he’s riding cheap culls and making them look good.

Riding tough horses comes with a price, however. One price is humility, especially in the beginning. Although he and his family have had a lot of success in the barrel pen, there have been times that his horses have not worked well and been downright cantankerous. Usually when that has happened, it’s been at the bigger shows where the competition is tough and the pressure to do well is extremely high. That’s the price of training difficult horses which is where his saying of “Low expectations” comes from.

This past weekend I hauled to another horse show. I was determined the gelding that bruised my leg with his rodeo antics needed to redeem himself so I entered him in three trail classes. Keep in mind we obliterated the trail class at the last show so my expectations were already pretty low.

When we pulled out of the driveway that morning temperature was 27 degrees. Needless to say the horses felt pretty frisky and I wasn’t sure if my gelding was going to be full of his usual antics or not under saddle. I was expecting the worst out of him, especially when he gave a loud snort upon entering the indoor arena.

The course was beautiful. There were ferns, colored mums, and colored poles everywhere. They even had a formal liverpool for the water obstacle, minus actual water, thank goodness!

I was running a little later than I would have liked and my main goal was to expose my gelding to the pen and obstacles so I hand walked him in the arena. After accepting the abrupt blue color of the fence, we visited the imposing water obstacle. More snorts ensued but fortunately he was manageable.

Once we got some arena time, it was time to actually saddle up and warm up. As the round pen was near by, I took advantage of it. After all, I didn’t think anyone in a crowded warm up pen would appreciate his usual bucking that would score a high 80’s at the local rodeo. To my surprise, he didn’t buck one time. Again, “Low expectations”.

While standing in the alley way waiting on our go, a young girl asked me, “Miss Frances, is that a barrel horse?” She asked because my gelding was full of energy and wouldn’t stand still for anything. I had to tell her that sadly, no he wasn’t a barrel horse.

Although we didn’t do well on the first obstacle, we did well on the rest of them in the first class. We even managed to go over the water obstacle without any problems. Although we didn’t place, I was pleased as there was much improvement over the last show and we hadn’t knocked anything over.

Then it came time for our second and third class. As our first class had gone so well, I figured that the second and third class would be similar and maybe we’d even improve. I was wrong!

In the second class the very first obstacle was a back through and we knocked the poles into shapes that didn’t even remotely resemble what they originally were. When it came time to approach the water obstacle from the opposite direction it suddenly became a horse eating monster that we couldn’t even approach, let alone go over! The last class went pretty much the same, although that go we did manage to get over water obstacle.

In honor of the “Low expectations” saying, I had jokingly said earlier in the day that if my gelding didn’t buck, run off, or knock anything over I would be happy. Fortunately, my expectations weren’t much higher than that so I ended the day happy.