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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

All Hat and No Cattle


"All hat and no cattle" is an expression that my childhood best friend's dad used to describe someone who was all talk and no action. I think about it every time I'm in the presence of a certain type of horseperson. You know the type. Within the first five minutes of meeting them, you've heard what their show accomplishments are, what big-name trainers they've worked with, and what well-known horses they've owned.

Last week, I was in the local feed store, in line behind a heavy-set gal in breeches. She was haughtily explaining to the clerk-in-training (who was unlucky enough to be manning the cash register when she swooped in) that she'd just spoken to the guys in the warehouse and they had X number of damaged bags of feed and that she WOULD TAKE THEM. When the poor clerk was wondering aloud what to charge her, she rather unkindly explained that she "always gets a 50% discount."

While the clerk wisely went to seek counsel from the manager, I decided to satisfy my curiosity about who this arrogant, obnoxious gal was. (I have to admit feeling a little protective toward the employees of my favorite feed store...) So, I casually asked her what kind of horses she had. She announced that was a "warmblood breeder," taking in my grubby jeans and cowboy boots with an expression of distaste. She added that she had just sold a yearling for $20,000 (or some other astronomical figure - I can't recall the exact number). Catching her a bit off guard, I asked what kind of warmbloods. The explanation was lengthy, and full of stallion names, but ultimately unclear as to the exact registration of the foal crop. (Read: not registered.)

Conversationally, I asked how many mares she had. Answer: one (!!). She quickly followed up with a lengthy monologue that included the fact she'd hauled her "show jumpers" down to Pebble Beach for a show. The monologue curiously omitted any discussion of whether she'd won anything (surely, the omission was not due to modesty). At no time during any of the conversation (if you can call it that) did she (a) introduce herself, or (b) ask me anything at all. Bemused, I paid for my feed, and headed out to the truck, thinking, "All hat and no cattle."

It's been my experience that whenever a horseperson is quick to tell you about their accomplishments, they're not very accomplished. If you ask the right questions, their story usually unravels a bit. Witness the gals at last year's world show who were lording it over my friend on her first trip down there, making her feel like a 4-Her at her first county fair. When my friend said she'd be ecstatic if she came home with a top ten placing, one of these gals bitchily replied that she'd "be lucky to make the finals." Fortunately, I didn't personally overhear that exchange, because I might have let that gal have a piece of my mind right then and there!

After several days of hearing these gals discuss their previous world show achievements (loudly and often), I decided to get on the computer and see what they really accomplished. Guess what?! Their last trip to the world show was ten years ago (when the breed wasn't as nearly as competitive as it is today). One of them didn't even compete in two of the classes she continually bragged about winning. Another one achieved one or two top ten placings, but in the walk/trot division. The third one achieved a few top ten placings, but they were all at or near the bottom of classes with less than ten entries!! Did they not know all this info was available online? Guess not! Boy, was I excited when my friend racked up a reserve world championship AND another top ten placing. And yes, the classes had FAR more than ten entries! (And the braggarts? Did not do so well. Pity.)

The guy you should keep your eye on at a show is not the fellow who pulls up today in the brand-spanking-new trailer plastered all over with his name, hops out in a crisply ironed shirt and barks at his lackeys unloading a bunch of brand-spanking-new expensive show gear. Instead, watch out for the guy who arrived quietly yesterday wearing a t-shirt and dusty boots who's been riding a series of horses in well-worn workmanlike tack. He's the guy who came to get a job done, and chances are, he's going to come home with the prizes.

2 comments:

Lori said...

Thank you Rachel for telling the real truth and all the truth...

I was and still am a working Rider/Instructor/Coach and dirty jeans plus long hours, but my students shine and WIN because they are the dirty jeans, none bragging type, that spend the time and "getter done" to quote, Larry the Cable Guy. We may not compete in the same type of shows, but I believe our message is the same :-) Work hard, keep learning & others will do the bragging for you! Thnaks for the blog-- Lori www.RockinLDRanch.com

justicedee21 said...

Hi Rachel,

Well-said on the t-shirt, dusty boots, and well-worn tack.... Although I have not competed in horse shows, I have grown up running barrel horses. It seems equine events attract the truly talented, as well as the truly wealthy and snobby. I own several horses now, train some, and ride out of the arena often. (I have two paint horses out of Easy Jet , and I'm glad to see you have APHA affiliations, they are such a wonderful breed!)

My favorite story was pulling up to an NBHA event in Nebraska with my sister's short mare and my now-retired pro mare. Both grade mares who'd been hauled throughout Colorado but not much in Nebraska. Two women who only rode in Nebraska and didn't know me, were sitting on their horses by the fence. They actually commented to my dad (not knowing he was my dad, obviuosly) something along the lines of "what does she think she's going to win with that fat horse?" My mare is very stout, not fat, and built like a guilding. Well, after a few other snide comments from another group of women, I laughed quietly to myself and thought we'd just show them what we could do. I took the 2D win on my sister's horse, and placed second if I remember right in the 1D division on my so-called "fat" mare.

In barrels/rodeo, just as in other events, you have people who come to these things in huge rigs with mobile homes and throw money into new horses, new trainers, and new tack like it's going out of style. This old mare cost $350. She's plain looking, and sorrel with no markings whatsoever. She's built like a gelding(yeah for tomboys!), but squeals like a mare. My mom trained her on my grandpa's farm. We grew up together. We learned together. And we kicked some major butt together all of these years, often beating those $20K horses. Money can't buy everything. Snobbery can't buy anything. Keep up the good work!

Justie Coyne,
Denver, CO

p.s. I'm a licensed attorney in Colorado, and I love getting your updates. Let me know if you'd evern like to collaborate or anything.... jcoyne@ritsema-lyon.com