Ask Seth E. Holcombe about his refined skills atop his mare, Like It That Way, and he transforms into a walking infomercial for renowned trainer Austin Shepard.
Holcombe believes he's a better cutter than he was a year ago thanks to Shepard, his fellow Alabamian.
"With the help of Austin coaching me through it, I think I've improved" Seth said. "He's taught me a lot about (Like It That Way) and other stuff."
On his mare, the up-and-coming Holcombe recorded 217 to win the $20,000 Non-Pro Any Age go-round by four points Thursday evening at the Augusta Futurity.
The top eight horses with scores of 210 or better advanced to tonight's finals. Holcombe will be joined in the championship round by his father, Van, who marked 211 on Daintys Tom Cat.
Seth, an 11th-grader at Briarwood Christian High School in Birmingham, Ala., is making his second trip to the Augusta Futurity. Last year, the 17-year-old advanced to the finals of the $20,000 Non-Pro and $100,000 Amateur for 5/6-Year-Olds. He said this was his best show of 2006 as he experienced ups and downs with his new horse.
And 2007 might be even better since he believes he's solved the mystery of his mare.
"I finally figured her out," he said. "She was a little tough at first to figure out how to ride her. You just have to use your feet a lot and keep her up in that cow and help her through."
The Holcombes purchased the horse before last year's Augusta Futurity from Shepard. Seth knew what he was getting since he's helped Shepard the past three summers, and he's ridden the horse before.
"She always got along with everybody well. She came up for sale. (Shepard) thought she'd be good for me," Seth said. "I tried her and got along good with her.
"I like her style. She's got a neat little style about her. She's real easy to get ready. She's real easy to get along with."
Like It That Way does not come from a long line of champions, but that doesn't bother Seth. The 6-year-old mare is by Lena My Way out of Jamaican Tio.
"She's not bred really well," he said. "But she'll go out there and show it and give it her all."
Seth's been showing cutting horses for four years. His dad got interested in the sport and he soon followed. They decided to improve their cutting skills and contacted Shepard.
"He made a world of difference," Seth said.