Women of the West — Morgan Cromer
Cattle, cutting horses and cow dogs fill this young trainer’s day.
Morgan Cromer spent her childhood showing English horses, gathering cattle and riding cutting horses. Her first job out of high school was working for cutting horse trainer Russ Westfall. She won two major cutting futurities in 2005, then in 2007 she and fellow trainer Kate Neubert started their own training business in Santa Maria, California.
I THINK A LOT OF GIRLS get out of high school looking to get married in order to make a living. But I don’t want to depend on somebody else to make a living for me.
I ENJOY HORSES, cattle and dogs, and I get to use all of that every day. Sometimes you get so focused on the work that you forget you’re doing what you enjoy. You get stressed out about having to pay the hay bill. But when I stop and think about it, I’d rather be doing this to pay the bills than working in the strawberry fields.
WHEN I STARTED RIDING cutting horses, I didn’t want to ride hunter-jumpers anymore.
MY MOM TRAINED English horses—hunter-jumpers and all that. Now, she gives a lot of kids lessons. At some point she was probably thinking, “Aren’t you going to ride English?” But she never did make a big deal out of it. She’s pretty happy with what I do.
MY DAD always loved the cowboy way. He taught us to rope and would take my brother and me to brandings when we were little. I would show English ponies one day of the weekend, then go to a branding with some friends the next day—all on the same pony.
MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE gone to college. People say, “What happens if you get hurt and don’t have anything to fall back on?” But I’m 24, and a lot of kids don’t know what they want to do when they’re 24. I knew what I wanted to do, and I did it.
THE DAY AFTER I GRADUATED [high school], I moved to Russ’s to work. I had already spent summers working for Russ, and before that with [cutting trainer] Scott Weis. Both those guys have been real good about helping me.
I THINK I’LL ALWAYS train horses, but I don’t know that I’ll always train for the public. If I had a family and didn’t feel like I was doing a good job at both of them, I’d raise my family. I wouldn’t give up my family just to train horses.
BEING A WOMAN, I don’t think I’ve been treated any differently. If you can handle it well, I think it’s not that big a deal. If I do everything the guys do, they won’t treat me any different. I’ll go build fence with them. At a branding, I’ll throw calves with them.
SOMETIMES, YOU DON’T get involved in the guy jokes and all that. But that’s okay. I don’t mind staying out of that.
I HARDLY EVER wear a baseball cap. Every once in awhile, Russ would come out with a t-shirt on. Or I would. And then we’d make fun of each other. I wear a scarf probably 365 days a year. I enjoy really good boots and hats. These custom boots, I’ve had about five pairs of them now. It’s kinda like girls and all their shoes—except I like boots.
ABOUT EVERYTHING I’VE EVER DONE as an extracurricular activity has been with horses. On Sundays, I’ll check my cattle and work my dogs at the same time. [Kate and I] hardly ever go to town or go to a movie. We pretty much just work. I guess when you enjoy what you do, it’s not like you have to run away from it and do something else.
THIS IS SOMETHING that not many people do when they’re our age. Usually, people are running around, partying. But we’re having a good time running a business.
I SECOND-GUESS myself and sometimes think I’m not doing a good enough job. But Scott, Russ and Tim [Smith] have always been behind me. And some good customers have come along and stuck with me. That’s what’s made me believe I can do it.
IT’S NOT JUST about TRAINING horses. It’s taking care of everything. You’ve got to be everything from the fence-fixer to the accountant.
I THINK SOME GUYS get the feeling that because I’m prominent with what I do, they think I want to be the head of everything, that I want to be the boss. But I want somebody who can be the man. I think men should be the head of the family.
I DON’T DRINK and never have. And I think a lot of kids think that they have to do that to be cool. I like to tell kids that you don’t have to do that. Sometimes we have 10 high school kids here, just coming to help out and hang out. Being a good example to younger kids is more important to me than getting horses trained.
THE PEOPLE I RESPECT are not necessarily on the front of the magazine. They’re the people doing a good job raising their family. Maybe they are not making the finals or going to every show because they want to be home watching their kid play baseball.