To uncover a horse's unique skills Frank and Christy DePriest incorporate an evaluation system used while training As all farmers know, it’s been hard to stay down on the farm during these past few years of recession. Frank and Christy DePriest of Midway, Ark., have learned that diversification is the key.
Born in Missouri, Frank has been around horses all his life. He broke his first horse by the time he was 9 years old. Since then, he’s been on the rodeo circuit as a bull rider, was a professional bullfighter and even made a living at shoeing horses back in the 70s. Once he settled back down again, he ended up in Rea Valley, Ark. Ten years ago, Frank and Christy moved DePriest Farms to Midway in Baxter County where they are presently located. They specialize in breeding and training cutting horses, but with the downturn in the economy, they felt they had to expand and diversify their operations.     
Frank said, “As the economy went south, we had to revamp things. We went to doing more lessons. The breeding end of it slowed down, so I started doing more shoeing.”    
The DePriests keep nine 2-year-old colts, two broodmares and two studs of their own. The broodmares are daughters of world champions. In addition to these, their 20-stall barn is full of customers’ horses that they are currently training. Frank said, “I train horses for people – I train cutters and show them for customers.” He and Christy have been successful, winning many awards.    
Frank and Christy have learned that each horse is talented in a different way. Even when two horses come from the same exact bloodline, each can have unique skills. It’s up to the DePriests to determine where those basic instincts lie. Frank said that once he determines that the horse is trainable, “then you have to hope that they don’t get hurt somewhere along the line. A horse is born trying to commit suicide.”    
The DePriests believe that it takes about 18 to 24 months to train a horse in the proper way. But Frank said that after just a month, he can tell whether or not a horse is prone to be good in a particular skill. Although the DePriests specialize in training cutting horses, they can train in other areas as well.
He said, “What I tell people about any horse is that it’s going to take 30 days to tell if this horse is worth spending any more money on. At the end of that 30 days, you want to evaluate and see if it’s worth putting more money in.”    
They’ve come up with a system of evaluation for all the horses they train. Every Monday, Frank and his assistant go through and assign a score to each horse. Frank said, “The ones that don’t score as high as the others, I’ll find them a new job somewhere. It costs too much to keep them and put all the hours in training them. One that may not make it as a cutter might be a world leader at team penning, barrel racing, a sorting horse or just be a normal cow horse. There’s a lot of places they can go.”    
Beyond having basic skills, a horse must also possess what Frank calls “want to.” He said, “It’s just like a stock dog. They have that natural ‘want to’ to go to that cow – that’s a natural-born instinct in them. You want that cutter to be the same way. When that flag moves you want him to have that natural ‘want to’ to follow it. Some of them have more natural ‘want to’ than others. Some of them, a stick of dynamite won’t blow ‘em off. If they won’t stay hooked up to your cow, then they don’t make cutters.”    
As for riding lessons, Frank and Christy have people who come from as far away as Harrison once a week to take lessons. He said that he tries to improve their horsemanship skills. He added, “What I try to teach these people is not only how to ride a horse, but how to make a horse do what you want it to do, and why that horse responds the way it does.”    
Fortunately for Frank, Christy has her own special set of skills. She works as a veterinarian’s assistant at the Animal Clinic of the Ozarks in Flippin, Ark. She said, “We do all our own shots and our own AI. We don’t hard cover anything anymore.”    
DePriest Farms also sells semen from their two cutting horse stallions, Smart Tipster and Smart High Richochet. It’s just one more way of maintaining the 20-acre horse farm during an economic downturn. But Frank remains hopeful. He said, “I think the equine business in general is coming back… I just hope it comes back pretty soon, before I get too old to appreciate it.”


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