Guiding your horse smoothly and accurately through quick moves during the cut can be a tricky thing, no doubt.
One reason is that cutting horses are trained with a lot of direct rein that points their nose initially in the direction of the turn. And then the turn is completed with an offside rein and leg to bring the shoulders across the hind quarters to complete the pivot.
Recently I was asked for tips to stop squeezing your legs as you go across the pen, especially on a fast cow.
Of course, you don’t mean to squeeze … you just do! Then your horse gets the wrong signal, goes too fast, misses a cow or doesn’t stop well. It’s frustrating. I understand.
Let’s work on this squeezing challenge by first identifying what you do want your legs to do.
There is almost nothing that feels as good as when a horse stops deeply with a cow … and then draws back and holds it. The stronger the horse, the deeper the stop, the more complete the draw … well it’s just heavenly.
So what happens if you have a run and your horse either doesn’t stop well or he doesn’t draw back over his haunches before he turns? How do you know if it’s because of something you’re doing or if there’s something going on with your horse?
Quitting a cow is one of those crucial decisions you make at the spur of the moment when you show. This article is about helping you make good decisions about when it’s time to do just that.
Here are a few generalities regarding “good, mediocre and bad” cattle:
Perhaps you are an amateur or a nonpro who did not grow up around cattle … and now you still don’t have many opportunities to be around them or work them. You’re not alone.
Maybe one of the few times you do get to experience cattle happens during a show run. That’s very challenging and less than ideal on the job training!
When I walk into an arena at a cutting for the first time on any given day I just might ask the first person I see if the cattle are good.
I never enjoy hearing, “They are TOUGH!” But anyone who rides a cutting horse, will hear those words from time to time for as long as he or she cuts. So when I do, I just have to get my big girl pants on and do my job.
One of the biggest challenges in learning to cut is to sit at the right time, to sit deeply and to allow your horse to turn correctly. Three simple steps can help the following cutting challenges:
We all would LOVE to be calm in the herd. We know that’s a good thing. But then the cattle start swirling; the helpers start saying different things; we can’t find a cow … etc, etc.
There is a common emotion we all feel when we are NOT calm on the inside. We feel like everything is going on around us at mach speed. It can all seem like a big jet-propelled blur.
So given that being scattered within feels fast, let’s define calmness in the herd as feeling slow on the inside no matter what’s going on around you. And when you feel that sense of calmness, you will be able to make the best possible on-your-feet decisions without feeling like you are rushed.
About 4 or 5 years ago, a talented Australian, Rob Leach came to our barn in Brenham and did a horsemanship clinic. He had worked for several prominent cutting horse trainers.
He taught us a “system” for teaching a horse to move his body parts. Ultimately, he seamlessly combined sequences of body part movements to teach a horse to turnaround. Rob’s system tremendously impacted me.
Have you ever wondered what someone means when they say, “Get a hold of that cow!” You might think, “What in the world?????”
When a trainer or a helper says this, he or she means to become more aware of your mental and physical connection to the cow in that moment. It’s like saying, “Above all else, zone in on the cow.” That’s because beyond all of the technical things we do with our legs and seat, we always need to relate them to the cow first and foremost.
Most of us who cut don’t have to worry about staying hooked on cutting! We’re all plenty hooked on the fun, the adrenalin and our awesome athletic partners, our horses.
It is important though to know what to do in certain odd situations that will inevitably come up when you show.
This article is about what to do when a cow runs through the turn back people and you want to keep working it.
There is a great formula for cutting success that involves technical skills combined with the feeling of executing those things with confidence.
Here’s what I mean. As you’re learning to cut, you absolutely need to focus on how you hold your reins, which foot to use, how to round your lower back, etc.