AJ Fuchs is a roping horse trainer and PRCA roper who grew up riding cutting horses and skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He now lives with his wife “Courtney” and two kids in Stephenville, Texas. AJ has been training horses for close to 15 years, starting off riding cutting horses and breaking colts before finding his interest in Team roping and roping horses. He moved to Stephenville in 2011 and graduated from Tarleton State University in 2013 with a degree in Equine Science. He now trains horses full time specializing in heading and heeling horses along with general horsemanship.
Growing Up in Ski Town
I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is a place like no other, with huge mountains shooting straight into the heavens and incredible wildlife behind every corner. I grew up skiing on these mountains which began my training in focus and coordination. On these mountains I often found my self in “fall you die” scenarios, where one mistake means severe injury or even death. Talk about honing your focus! Quickly learned to pay very close attention to what I was doing and what I was thinking. Also taught me to plan my routes and lines very carefully if I wanted to get home safe. Looking back I realize that horses are not much different. When things are thought about carefully before they are executed, they often go off without a hitch. But when jumped into without a plan to execute, can have dire consequences. This is probably where my love for a plan and a system on a horse came from. I continue to see more and more the better I plan with a horse, the better results I have.
Riding Cutting Horses
When I was about 11 I started getting an interest in riding horses. Started by riding horses in a cutting horse barn there in my home town. I quickly fell in love with the cutting and was hooked. I loved how much you had to trust those horses to do their job, and how much training it took prior to that to get them were they needed to be. Started off riding more finished horses before being offered a job to start saddling and unsaddling and turning back when I was about 12. This is where my career as a horse trainer really started. I would have to care for, saddle, warm up, turn back, cool out and unsaddle up to 25 horses everyday for my mentor Mel Dahl. Even though I was still a young kid who didn’t know a whole lot, I got the chance to ride a ton of horses early on. I realize looking back that much of my comfort on a horse comes from those days where I had to get on so many horses everyday. And the horses could be anything from a 2 year old with 30 days on them to a 10 year old client horse with problems. Was amazing how just being exposed to that many horses helped so much.
As Mel’s trust in me grew, I got to start actually training horses. It became my job to start showing the 2 year olds cows and begin showing them their job. From working the mechanical cow to tracking a buffalo around the arena, I had to show them what their lot in life would be. I also got to start showing horses a lot, and its amazing how all your flaws come out when you have to put your hand down on their neck and just use your feet. Really shows you the areas to work on. That’s something I’ve never forgotten, transferring into roping horses, that if you want to see their flaw, just put your hand down, trust me they will show you the gap in their training. It also taught me to leave horses alone and let them work.
Riding cutting horses was on of the best things to ever happen to my career because it truly taught me how to ride. I recommend to a lot of young horseman coming up, if you get a chance, go ride a cutting horse. It will open your eyes to all of your flaws and weaknesses in your riding.
Getting Started Roping
As I got into high school I wanted to start high school rodeoing, and didn’t want to be just a one event cowboy. So I started working on team roping and eventually calf roping. I’ll never forget, my Dad told me he would help get me on one head horse, but if I messed that one up there wasn’t going to be another one. That lesson has always carried with me in that, we need to learn to make our current horse work, even if its just for the lesson it teaches us, before we move on to the next. I see so many young kids these days that are allowed to blow a horse up and then just get a new one. If you can learn to fix the one you have, you might actually be able to keep a truly good one working.
I began to truly love roping and there was more opportunities in roping for a young kid rather then in cutting. More horses out there, many more places to go, and all of my friends were ropers, not cutters. As my high school career progressed I got a chance to go to nationals in 2 different events. Finally had my head clear and was ready to win. This was the first time I just truly focused on my horses and the results were awesome. I was able to execute on all 3 of my runs in both events, placing in the top 10 in both and win the National All Around Championship. That year was the first time I learned to win through my horses rather than my rope.
Working for the Horse Whisperer
As a final chapter on the beginning of my horsemanship career I got a chance to work for Grant Golliher. This was a great opportunity to learn a new kind of horsemanship. Grant is where I really learned to set horses up for a win. Grant taught me that if I put horses in a bind, I shouldn’t be shocked when they don’t work properly. We broke a lot of colts from halter breaking on up. One of the biggest things he taught me was to not ask for too much but to ask for enough everyday. Consistently ask for progression on young horses and soon you will look up and they are a well trained animal. When horses were bad, Grant let them be bad but made it very hard on them. When they wanted to play nice, they were treated very well. Grant was one of the bedrocks in my horsemanship philosophies.
Horses are full of lessons to be learned. I’ve been blessed to learn many of these lessons at a young age through several great mentors. I always try to remember to have a plan for success, give horses a chance to work, learn to fix the one you have, and always set them up for a win. Taking these lessons forward I can’t wait to ride more and more horses and learn the lessons that the future holds. I look forward to writing future articles here on X-Factor Roping. Follow our blog for weekly articles on horsemanship and roping along with helpful tips to improve your horses. Thanks and God Bless.
AJ Fuchs is a roping horse trainer, and PRCA roper who lives in Stephenville, Texas with his wife and two kids. AJ has been professionally training horses for over 10 years, he specializes in Team Roping horses and overall horsemanship. Look him up on FB at AJ Performances Horses or website at ajfuchs.com