“How to Guide Your Horse on the Cut”
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.
Cutting horses are trained to turn in this manner. The trainer initiates the turn with a “pull” of a direct rein. (Direct rein means if you’re turning right, you would pull the right rein.) That direct rein points the horse’s nose initially in the direction of the turn. Then the turn is completed with an offside rein and leg to bring the shoulders across the hind quarters to complete the pivot.
The challenge is this.
Sometimes when you try to neck rein during a cut the horse ends up getting bound up or going the wrong way because inadvertently his nose was pointed in the wrong direction at the beginning of the turn.
The nose of the horse started in that opposite direction without you being aware of it. Then, the harder you tried to neck rein the more the off rein pulled the horse’s nose in the wrong direction because the offside rein got shorter and shorter as you pulled.
The “secret” to an accurate turn is to always make sure your horse’s nose is pointed either straight ahead or in the direction you want to go before you apply the offside neck rein and leg.
Here’s how …
To initiate the turn, first lift your hand to lightly connect to your horse’s mouth. (This is one of the reasons we back horses right before walking to the herd … so they get back off the bit easily.)
Secondly, place a soft calf/leg pressure on the horse’s side in the direction you want to pivot. The key words here are “soft pressure.” Most horses will respond with a tilt of the nose on the side where you lightly touch your leg to your horse’s ribs.
Only THEN when the nose is faced forward or pointed toward where you want to go, do you apply off rein pressure on the horse’s neck to make the turn in conjunction with with off side leg pressure.
Of course this is a sequence of movements that requires muscle memory when things happen quickly. You can make this an automatic skill for yourself by practicing guiding your horse outside of the show pen. Take your time repeatedly to get the sequence down.