Ben Baldus has always wanted to be a cowboy for as long as he can remember. At 17 he went to Pennsylvania and worked for Christian Evangelist, Lew Sterrett, who used horses to preach. Sterrett gave Baldus a foundation.
Then, at 20 years old, Baldus moved to Texas to work for Doug Milholland, a reining trainer, who worked for Waggoner Ranch. The ranch had a group of horses that weren’t going to cut it so the horses were aimed at reined cow horse and the Snaffle Bit Futurity.
Interestingly, Baldus never worked for a cow horse specific trainer. He has received help and advice from many other professionals in the industry. He has now been on his own for 6 years.
“The cowhorse is really fun for me and it fits me because of the variety of it; being able to cut, work a cow going down the fence and break up the routine…”
At the 2020 Snaffle Bit Futurity, Baldus took all three of his horses to the Finals. He was 2014 AQHA World Champion in Ranch Versatility, NRCHA World Champion Limited Open Hackamore, NRCHA Reserve World Champion Open Two-Rein.
What is your training Philosophy?
“Help each horse be the best individual it can be…Be as soft as possible but firm as I have to, to get the job done.”
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
“Do your best and don’t get overwhelmed. If you get a bad cow, you just have a bad cow. Learn from it, adjust, but go on and show again; there’s another show tomorrow.”
What is the most important quality you must have in a horse?
“I think a horse that’s trainable. They’ve got to be athletic, they have to be able to run and stop. For our sport, doing three different events [that] contradict each other… we have to have a horse that’s very trainable…”
What inspires you to work this hard everyday?
“I love the process. I love watching horses grow and mature. The horses that are smart and fun to train, they know the difference between the cutting, the fence work and the reining. And to have a horse that versatile is a really neat accomplishment and a fun process to be able to say ‘this horse can do anything’… and he’s fun to do it on.”
What are your goals for the future?
“Continue to progress, and get better. Be an Open Futurity finalist again at the Futurity. Pick the best Futurity horses I can, making good decisions for my business and barn staff….”
How do you deal with nerves and/or lack of confidence?
“The more prepared I am, the more confident I feel. Just go in there and be laser focused. This is just a job, this is what I ride for everyday. I just [think about doing] my job. If it works, great, if it doesn’t that’s ok too; we’ll adjust, make a plan and go again…Approaching it in that job format [and not] ‘I have to win this event, this event is going to change my life’ [because] it may or may not. I just need to do my best… Winning is a great bonus, don’t get me wrong I love that and being in the finals is great, but there’s not enough of those wins to go around so you have to enjoy the process.”
How do you define feel? Can you teach feel?
“I think you can [teach feel]. Feel is feeling what that horse’s body is doing physically while you’re riding it. The footfalls, when each foot is landing on the ground, is part of that horse’s feel. Feeling what that right hind foot is doing, feeling that left front foot, feeling your horse. I think the other aspect of feel is feeling what that horse is thinking about. You’re going to feel that horse physically and you’re going to feel the horse mentally…”