A Beginner's Guide to Cutting: Jameson Grimes

Oh, you were starting to think I only interview Canadian riders these days? Who I, ahem, ...know personally. Well ya thought wrong! In honour of the NCHA World Finals having kicked off, and the first go-round of the 2,000 Limit Rider starting tomorrow (Wednesday the 29th), I asked Jameson Grimes if he'd be interested in taking part in the blog. Jameson is the Assistant Trainer at Mike Wood Performance Horses in Scottsdale, Arizona and he is currently number one in the world in the 2,000 Limit Rider. With $11,944.06 won this year, no one can touch him and he's already won the World Champion title heading into the show. At Fort Worth, he's setting his sights on winning both go-rounds of the World show. I could go into the long list of wins and accolades that Jameson picked up this year, but I'll let him tell you in his own words. Here he is ya'll, the King of the 2,000 Limit Rider in 2017...
Jameson riding Bless Chu Mate

When you started out this year, what were your goals?

Mike Wood's program has now had four 2,000 Limit Rider World Champions. Plus, we've had three in a row, with me included.... I guess you could say that Mike is very competitive and I've been lucky to be able to work for him this year. I was just under $2,000 in earnings when the year started, and I lacked show experience. I've known Mike, [and his partner], Roper Curtiss, since i've come into the cutting, I've gotten along with them well and really admire their program. I originally had said I wanted to make the Top 15 in the 2,000 LR and they told me that they had a mare I could show. They said, "she's a little green, but she won't be after you show her for a month. We'll haul conservatively and if we're heading to a show that you can show at, you'll come with us, if it's an aged event, you'll stay home and keep giving lessons." 

So, that's what we did. Like I said, I was just hoping to make the top 15, and they said you'll go down the road enough that you'll have a chance at winning the world, but you're going to have to do very well out there. It wasn't really pressure, it was just them telling me that I would have a good horse, but I'd still have to show well. Honestly, this year has been way more than I could have dreamed.

What classes did you show in this year?

I showed in the 2,000 but I also showed a lot of client horses in open classes. Basically, I show them to get them ready for their riders. I got a wonderful amount of experience this year from all different aspects. I learned a lot of different things - from going in to the open and getting a cheque, to sometimes going in there knowing I would have to school the horse - either way, I learnt something. For me, it was always about getting the horse right for the client.

What makes Mike Wood's program so good - not only is he very successful, as is Roper, but so are his clients, and obviously the riders he has in the 2,000?

What I love about his program is that you can watch the 15 Amateur class and watch one of his clients show a horse, and you can instantly tell who the trainer is. It's a good look. I've always thought, wow how does he do that? How does he make horses look so distinct for his clients, and for himself? 

His horses have these huge stops, if they have a miss they come right back to that cow so fast. If a cow tricks one of his horses, it's right back to it no big deal. A lot of the time, you don't even catch that miss because they are so quick to get back to the cow. His horses have so much read, you can't even tell if one gets stuck. Mike is such a great showman that he can wait, and send his horse, and the horse will make up so much ground before it reaches the wall - it's really amazing.

What have you learned from their program?

I've learned showmanship from both of them. Roper can really analyze and tell you what happened in your run. He can break it down for you really well. Then Mike, in the pen, he'll say things like "hey settle down" or "you've got to hustle over here." He's the hands-on-right-now, he's phenomenal help as far as showing in the moment. Then, Roper is the afterwards, he can tell you what you should have done differently. It's great on both sides.

As a trainer, Mike has taught me a lot about how to make a horse work for a client, yet still be good for an open rider. He's taught me you don't make the horse look good for you. As a showman sometimes you have to show it more like the client would, and then, sometimes the horses look unreal, it just works out that way.

When it comes to the business part of cutting, I've learned a lot from Roper. We'll go to a show with fifty horses and we won't miss a beat - it's a well oiled machine. Mike has to worry about nothing but showing and working horses. Everything else - whose on what, what time we're working, what time people are showing, that's me and Roper's job. Roper always has it handled.

Jameson on Cyndi Cat, who he won Western Nationals with this year.
Previous to this year, what was your biggest accomplishment in the cutting pen?

I've been lucky to show a little here and there previous to this year, but I didn't have any exciting accomplishments. Just small regular weekend shows.

Tell me about the horse you've shown all year?

I showed Bless Chu Mate (x Smart Mate), or "Chu Chu" all year, who is owned by Dr. Gerald Dorros. Personality-wise, she's a little bit of everything. She's got some quirk to her. Anything directly underneath her face freaks her out, like if you drop her lead rope in front of her, she sprawls out and stares at it. Other than that she's very sweet, easy going, lopes around with her tongue out. She hates bridles though and loves the hackamore. I had a custom hackamore made just for her this year.

She kind of bounced around a little and never got a fair chance. Her previous owners are wonderful people but couldn't quite get her figured out all the time so Mike and Roper bought her from them. Roper was showing her and trying to get her seasoned at the start of this year. Then I started showing her. At the time she was 5,000 Novice Horse eligible, but now in weekend earnings she's won just over $22,000, so I can't show her at the World Finals, because if I win money, she'll no longer be 25,000 Novice Horse eligible.

So, I'm actually going to show Cyndi Cat (xWR This Cats Smart), or "Cyndi", at the finals this year. Cyndi is also owned by Dr. Dorros, and I actually won Western Nationals on her this year, and was Reserve Champion on Chu Chu. Cyndi is a pretty incredible horse, she's won $170,000 to date. I've been lucky enough to get to show her in the Open to get her ready for Dr. Dorros to show. At Western Nationals we were bottom of the herd, 16/16, and made it work to win the show.

Tell me about each mare's style in the show pen?

Cyndi is outstanding, she's really fun to show. Mike won the Las Vegas Mercuria on her. Cyndi and Chu are completely opposite mares. With Cyndi you can feel her blood boiling when you go into the show pen. She stops so hard she literally hurts the ground. A cow means so much to her.

With Chu Chu, you walk to the herd, and she's kind of like oh whatever, she's relaxed. Then all of a sudden you start kicking her towards that cow and she starts to light up and get intense. She's a lot more smooth than Cyndi. Chu Chu is very slinky, she can make a huge move and it doesn't feel like a big move, she's super gritty.

I've maybe lost two cows the whole year I showed Chu and that's saying a lot because sometimes we cut really crappy, used cattle. In Paso Robles this year, I cut the same cow twice, and another one that looked like it was about to die because the rest of the herd wouldn't even move. I worked for maybe a total of 45 seconds on all three, and didn't make more than fifteen turns, and I won the class with a 71. I think in situations like that, especially in used cattle classes, it's about showing smart.

What were some of your favourite moments from this year?

At one of the Arizona shows, halfway through the year, I marked a 76, which was awesome. Then, having the two high scores at Western Nationals was obviously great. At one point, I went on a streak and had somewhere around 13 wins in a row. I broke over winning $1,000 per show at five shows this year, Roper held that previous record at Mike's barn with four. I won the New Mexico circuit and won a saddle, I also won Pacific Coast, and Arizona.

Jameson showing Bless Chu Mate to a Reserve Championship at Western Nationals

I feel like haulers always talk about low points when they are going down the road, did you have a low point this year?

I didn't have a ton of low points this year, I was lucky that way. I did have one show in Oroville, California, and I was definitely in my own head. I didn't feel good and I screwed up my first day. It was a four day show. Then the next day I had a decent run, but didn't pull a cheque. I was pretty nervous by the fourth day, and I ended up showing like crap. Luckily everyone else showed worse than me and I won. I kept intending to get better as the show kept going, I would screw one thing up and the next day I would be so focused on fixing that, I would mess up something else, and then I had two things I needed to fix instead of the one thing I originally needed to fix.

Then the next weekend we went to El Rancho and I showed like a badass, I was able to shake it off and put it behind me. I know that's really easy to say, but it's definitely not easy to do, but I made it work.

I'll say I'm all cool and calm but inside i'm super competitive. That doesn't mean that I don't ever want to see someone that can beat me not have a good run. I want them to have a great run, I just want to then be able to beat them at their best. But, if they beat me, I always think, good for them, they deserved it. I want to have the best run, and be on the best horse that day to win, and if I don't, my mind set is... i'm coming to beat you tomorrow.

What are your goals for the NCHA World Show - is it to win the show as well?

Absolutely it is. I'm hopeful and I'm mounted. As long as I can get my horse shown, I know I am good enough to go out there and win both rounds. If it happens, awesome, if it doesn't, that's okay too. I want to show as good as I can with the cattle that I have. I drew 14/15 the first day and 7/15 the second-go, so later holes, but that doesn't really bother me. I don't psych myself out about that, I've had a lot of luck in the last, and second last hole, this year. So, my plan is to just go out there, cut clean and show smart.

What are your plans for next year?

Honestly, we haven't even gotten there yet! I don't have anything set up or planned for next year, I'm just really focusing on the World Finals right now. Not even for me, but for Mike, Roper and their clients. We have fifteen horses heading to the World Finals in different classes, so that's my focus, just get everyone shown and help as much as I can. After Fort Worth is done I can go from there!

Jameson, and his hauling partner this year, Bless Chu Mate.

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