After 25 years of training reining horses and earning $1.7 million showing reiners, Dell Hendricks made a big change. After winning almost everything there is to win the reining world, his client base started to shift and he wasn’t as well mounted as he had been in the early years. Now Hendricks’ barn is almost exclusively reined cow horses and has been for the past 5 years.
Hendricks is going to catch-ride reiners at the National Reining Breeder’s Classic in Katy, TX the end of April.
Hendricks never worked for anyone in the cow horse world, in his reining career he started out working for Bob Loomis.
“It sounds like it would be a very easy conversion [from reining to cow horse] but it was not. It was very hard, I had to work extremely hard. I had been around cattle all my life but I had never done any of the cutting.”
“[Cow horse] feels more like a team sport than anything I’ve ever done with a horse.”
The cow horse started out as a hobby but now he is very serious about it. In the future, he hopes to win the Snaffle Bit Futurity and World’s Greatest Horsemen.
What’s your most memorable moment in the sport?
“Making the Open Snaffle Bit Finals this last year. Of course all my friends in the reining world can’t figure out why I can’t mark higher in the reining. I’ve tried to explain to them that I’m not riding riesling horses. They think differently than a reining horse. It’s a completely different event. The mare at the Snaffle Bit was an ok reiner but that was her weakest event…Being part of that finals was probably my most memorable moment so far.”
What is your training philosophy?
“What I try to do on a daily basis is make their job as easy as possible. Let them make a mistake and correct their mistakes and when they are right, leave them alone.”
Do you have preferences when you’re picking cows?
“The ones that will let me work them. There’s only one way to figure that out. I’ve had a lot of guys help me. That’s been the most fun on this journey just how many guys have offered to help me. It’s like a war and we go into battle together. We’re trying to compete against each other but it’s more like we’re fighting against the cows. It’s been a blast. Chris Dawson rode with me years ago and got help from me with the reined work and now he’s helped me quite a bit picking cows.”
What is the biggest adjustment or improvement you’ve made in your program the past year?
“The biggest thing I’ve been working on and tried to change is to let the cow tell them when to do the maneuvers. Coming from the reining world where the horse does not have a thought on their own unless I tell them to do it. That has been a huge adjustment for me to let the cow takeover telling them when to stop and turn. I’ve made a conscious effort in the last year to let the cow tell the horse when to do it.”
What inspires to work this hard every day?
“I tell everyone It’s a little bit like playing golf. You only have to hit that ball down the fairway once and for the next 10 years you may never get down the fairway but it feels like you have to keep striving to get there. The cow horse is like that. If you ever get one good stop and turn with the cow, that’s what I want. Everyday I’m out there trying to get one more and make it better. That drive to be a team with the horse. And letting that horse do their job.”
How would you describe feel? And can you teach it?
“The feel to communicate with your horse to get them to do anything. It’s that tie together. I think you can teach it to a certain extent. But most people learn it on their own by making mistakes. We all feel things wrong so often that when we can finally get that feel right we learn from that. You can explain it to someone, but until they feel it, they don’t understand.”