The Man that Rides for the Horse
The 2021 roping season started picture perfect for trainer Andy Holcomb winning the Arizona Sun Circuit heading title and the Royal Crown Open Heading Futurity aboard “Walkin The Dog,” aka “Louie” (raised by Quentin Hall and owned by Liz Hirdes). Recently, we caught up with the ARHFA Champ and PRCA California Circuit Finals qualifier as well as his wife, Fallon, at their facility in Aromas, California. Andy gave us an inside look into their unique and successful program as they prepare for the upcoming American Rope Horse Futurity Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.
Andy’s passion for training comes from the philosophy of riding for the horse. “I didn’t grow up on finished rope horses,” he states “I had to train my own as I was learning and I built my style of riding and roping around doing it for the horse. Always riding for the next day and the next run not necessarily maxing them out right then.” Holcomb integrated “Ride for the horse” into his training program by breaking things down and valuing correctness over making the fastest run.
His training mindset had to quickly turn competitive at the age of 20 when he bought his pro card. “It was really hard for me when I started rodeoing, to let go and just rope, not always try to train on them for next day or the next event but ride to win.” This made him realize his love for training and building horses. However, it was the combination of both his training and competitive backgrounds that built the unique and very successful program he has today.
“Ride for the horse” begins with “Slowing things down and repetition.” Holcomb says, “Getting them broke and then patterned by making a lot of consistent runs to build their confidence and therefore your trust in them to perform well under pressure.” He shared with us that one of the most important things when working with young horses is learning to control your emotions. “Staying calm and never getting overly excited goes a long way.” His quiet humble nature and receptive instincts allow him to treat his horses as individuals rather than approach every one of them the same. “I like to ride the horse for what it is, without any expectation.” He goes on to add “I have written notes on each horse in my phone. They are little things I notice while the horse is in training that I want to remember when we go to compete.” Andy tells us he will glance at the notes before a show to reset himself and ensure that he showcases each horse’s strengths properly.
When asked what he looks for in young horses and potential champions he answered “Good structure, explosive feet, and presence”. He explains that presence is key because it exudes confidence in the way they move and act “The ones with presence get noticed as soon as they walk into the arena”. Holcomb also adds that for him “ A good mind is a bonus but not everything in fact, some of the toughest minded horses have made the best ones.” His most recent champions Blueberry Please and Walkin the Dog are great examples as they have both shown quick feet, a solid mind, and great presence from the beginning.
The combination of Holcomb’s passion for training and his experience in competitive professional rodeo create the ultimate program for building a horse. It is a pleasure to watch and listen to his work as it’s clear how much he loves what he does. We wish nothing but the best for the Man that “Rides for the Horse”
Keep a lookout for more pictures, videos, and content from our day with Andy Holcomb on Best Ever Pad’s Instagram and Facebook pages. We would like to thank our partners for this collaboration: Cactus Ropes, Cactus Gear, Cactus Saddlery, and Resistol.