Buntin & Smith

The Cuttin' Pen Newsletter
Spring 2024

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Dec 2023 Trivia Photo

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She is the first horse that Monty Buntin took to the NCHA World Finals.
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Showman Showcase

Bob Cooley

2023 NCHA Top 15 World Finalist

All Time Favorites

Favorite Horse:
Rey Good Lookin

Favorite show pen:
Las Vegas / South Point

Favorite win or buckle:
NCHA Top 15 World Finals

"Top end scores are made in the herd" ~ Bob Cooley

Bob Cooley riding Rey Good Lookin
Bob Cooley riding Hot Lookin Cat 2024

Bob Cooley on Showmanship

Q: Which showmanship tip that you received from Monty or Tim has helped you the most in the show pen?
A: Herd work: communicate, locate, and push the cow to the outside and drive up. When you think you’ve gone up far enough, go another two or three steps up.

Q: Describe a challenging milestone you have experienced in the show pen and how you were able to overcome it.
A: The challenge was not working the herd correctly. You need to find your cow and push it out. Keep your mind thinking slow. Drop your hand and start with your horse in position.

Q: Describe your most disappointing run and what you learned from it.
A: 2nd Go of World Finals last year. I was late in the herd and the cows were pretty sticky. I finally located my cow, but once I drove it up, I could not get the separation to get the last two cows split apart. That poor cut took all the momentum out of my run.

Q: Describe your best run and what you learned from it.
WOW Finals Las Vegas. I was focused on putting the herd where I needed them to be. This set up very clean and well executed cuts, and I was able to drive up to show courage and control of the cow. I executed this well the 1st & 2nd cut, then came back and chipped a 3rd. Everything happened because of communication and execution.

Q: Does it help your showmanship improve to have Tim and/or Monty review video of your runs and give you feedback?
A: Monty and Tim have reviewed a couple of runs for me, and some of the things I’ve learned are from those videos. Video Coaching helps you to see the changes that you need to make so the next time you got to the show pen you eliminate the same mistakes.

Cuttin' Quotes

"If you are going to go to the fence…

...at least BEAT the cow to the fence!"

- Tim Smith

Tim Smith

Beyond the Cut: Monty Buntin and Kat Play at the 2023 NCHA Open World Finals

In the weeks leading up to the World Finals, my focus was on creating a balance for Kat Play, making sure he was fit and healthy,  but holding off over-working him both mentally and physically. The strategy during this period ended up being important, especially after facing adversity at the Way Out West Series in Arizona where we didn’t get past the go-round. After Arizona, in the couple of weeks before the World Finals, we spent time at Cowan Ranch in Oklahoma, giving Kat Play rest and light exercise for more than a week, a strategy that really helped us out later. From Cowan’s, we went to Dave Costello’s Outback Cutting in Blue Ridge, Texas, where we marked big the first time out, like a 151 or 152, and won the day. After that run, I made the decision not to show the gelding any more that week, since we had solidified more than enough earnings to qualify for the World Finals show, and we just thought it would be better for getting Kat Play ready.

Monty Buntin riding Kat Play

Kat Play – Owned by Dacole Investments, Debbie Day. Shown by Monty Buntin.

  • 2023 Reserve World Champion Open
  • 2023 World Champion Open Gelding
  • 2023 World Show Open Co-Champion

Strategy and Performance

My goal by not showing him any more at Blue Ridge was the same as my goal throughout the year. Our plan really was to show him as light as possible as long as we were doing good enough, and we were able to do that and keep him really strong and healthy throughout the year. So we stuck with that game plan all the way through, even knowing we had a chance to be Reserve World Champion and World Champion Gelding. I prioritized his well-being over showing more, just knowing the original goal was to get to the World Finals and try to have a good World Finals show. So we stuck with our guns. Our strategy started right at the beginning of the year. I spent a lot of time making sure Kat Play was feeling good and healthy, both in his head and body. 

Making Smart Moves

We arrived at the coliseum the first week of the futurity. Being cooped up in the little stalls there is a real challenge in keeping a horse feeling good in mind and body.  Between myself and my help, Micheal Bakey, we got him out at least twice a day and Kat Play’s owner, Debbie Day, did multiple therapies on him each day. All of this was to try and help him feel fresh mentally and healthy physically in preparation for the finals. 

During this time, I worked Kat Play every third or fourth day, often on the flag, just to keep him moving and feeling good. As the go-rounds got closer, I started working a cow on him again. It was a little tricky getting him worked in the practice pens because he needs to be worked without a lot of pressure. He needs cows to stay away from him and I need to try to get him to slow down. He doesn’t need any encouragement to go fast, so the cows were a little tricky and that offered us some challenges in the practice pens. Ultimately, I sat there and watched the practice pens and kind of studied them and saw an area where I could put the cows in a certain pen and in a certain position where I could work him and offer him a little more relief. This way he could slow down and take a deep breath and get on both sides of the cow with no panic, which is kind of the key with him. So finding that solution helped us out quite a bit.

Performance and Execution

We had a good show in the first go-around, and I was really lucky to win out of the last hole draw. We had great help; Eric Ferriera, Morgan Cromer, Kenny Platt and Mike Wood turning back. I had a great team, which is very important for consistency and success. The second round was the very next night which was tricky in deciding the best way to prepare. The first day I worked a cow early in the morning and then since the finals were at night I touched him up on the flag. The second day I got the same kind of work, set up the cows in a particular spot where I knew I could have the advantage against the cows and have it be a positive work for him. I got an excellent work on him doing it that way and opted not to work the flag that evening. So, that went well again and we marked the 222.5 in that round. Really, my horse was great. I was on point, and my team was on point. So far we were off to a good start!

Between the second and the third round, there’s quite a bit of time in between, like more than a week. So we opted for the same plan, every day trying to make sure we did enough therapy and icing, but also kept him moving enough so he didn’t lose any physical advantage or get too fresh mentally, but gave him that break. I think I only worked the gelding  two days leading up to the next two go rounds. I worked him the day before and the day of the show on a cow in the morning. I was able to get things positioned in the practice pen again to give him an advantage and to build his confidence. One key thing was that I had enough help in the practice pen that understood what I was trying to accomplish. I had my whole team there. It’s Eric Ferriera, Brielle Croake, and Michael Bakey, and you know the whole team was working together. Everybody was in there sort of trying to set things up for him to have a good work because we had a good thing going and it was a team effort to keep him happy, healthy, and to get good works on him

I didn’t show him very well at all in the third round. I didn’t execute well, and at the time I was kind of blaming the cows,  blaming the situation and my draw. After watching my videos, I realized really quickly that it wasn’t any of that. It was purely my execution. There was nothing wrong with the cows, my horse worked great, the horse was prepared well, and I had done all of the homework. I just let the desperate energy take over while I was showing and lost my focus on good execution.

After reflecting on the video and seeing the changes I needed to make, I promised myself that, in the final round, no matter what happened, I was gonna execute well. Good execution gets you good results, so showing with the type of desperate energy I had in round three chases the results away from you. The very next night, I  prepared the same way and worked him on a cow very lightly in the morning. We did his therapy, iced him and did all that kind of stuff midday. When I showed that night in the final round, we finished off strong with a 226. We had a really good early draw. I thought I made one error, in terms of my cuts. I should have optioned off on my first cut. But, when it was all over, the thing I was the most proud of was my horse was extremely healthy, extremely happy mentally and physically and there wasn’t a battle wound on him or in him.

Looking Back

Thinking about this whole experience, I’m super happy with how we managed everything. Keeping Kat Play happy and healthy was the most important thing. We made sure he got the right care and kept him moving just the right amount.

The longer I do this, the more I realize how important it is that you keep your hauling horses healthy mentally and physically. By following the plan we committed to early in the year, of only showing as much as we needed to qualify for the World Finals and to have a good show at the finals, I think we helped get the results that we did. I feel like I have a fresh horse to start the next year with! Once we got home, the newly crowned star, Kat Play, got a good three weeks without a saddle on, he just got a turnout and got to go roll around and get a little hay belly on him again.