The Road to Buying a Cutting Horse: A Guide, 2.
So, if you have been following along, we have already narrowed down what we are looking for, and have asked the seller for photos, video, and further information regarding the horse they are selling. So, if the horse that you have been talking about seems like it may be a fit, or something you are interested in trying, make an appointment to go see the horse.
First things, first...
1. Initial Things to Note
- Condition of the Horse
- Watch them Saddle the Horse
- to see how the horse reacts to bridling/cinching
- Equipment Used
- Bit & Saddle
- Does the saddle fit? Is the bit severe, or normal?
- If the Seller warms the Horse up
- How the horse is moving (any signs of lameness?)
- How the seller rides (similar/different to yourself?)
2. Get on the Horse!
- Walk/Trot/Lope horse both ways
- How does the horse feel? (lameness?)
- Is the horse easy for you to ride? (are you comfortable?)
- Get a feel for the horse
- Turn horse around
- Stop Horse
- See how responsive the horse is to leg & rein aids
3. Flag Horse
For those of you that aren't cutting horse savvy, "flagging" is the act of using the mechanical cow, or flag, on a line to "work" a horse. Meaning, it's a way of mimicking working a live cow. It is a training, and practice, aid that we use with cutting horses.
For me, I'm not 100% comfortable with working and pulling on a horse, but I definitely have a feel for it. So, when flagging, I picked up on the horses a little bit to see how they would react. You can tell a lot from a horse by what they do when you pick up the reins. Are they bracey? Are they listening to you? etc. Next, drop your reins, and "pretend" to show - is the horse honouring you? Are they working correctly? Are they listening to your leg aids?
&, if you get the chance/opportunity too...
4. Work the Horse on Cows
This step can be a little intimidating, you don't know the horse, you're riding the horse in front of the seller, etc. etc. But, be realistic, you are buying this horse for the purpose of working cows on it - you should know how that feels. Some horses are completely dead on a flag, but the minute they see a cow they completely pick up, some are in-between that, some are similar both ways. Also, a horse may expose a lot more training flaws and issues on a live cow than it did on the flag. Finally, if you are nervous - good! be nervous! - how is the horse reacting? Chances are, your going to be nervous if you are just learning how to cut - is the horse picking up on your emotions a little too much, or is it honouring you as a rider?
After working a cow, ask yourself if that horse felt right for your ability, and level. Most riders will know to some extent, if the horse was a decent fit for them. When I was looking, I felt horses that were below my level, at my level, and above my level. Some too much, some just a bit right. I wanted a horse I could step up into, and so the horse I chose had a couple moves I wasn't ready for, and a couple moments where I got lost in. That's okay - we can learn together, and obviously the first work is never going to be seamless. But, she also got me out of some icky situations where I wasn't sitting her turns, or stopping on the ends - she kept working correct, and that's what I need as I'm learning.
5. Camp Out If You Can
Sit on the horse, hang around, see how the horse is to be around...
Talk to the seller/trainer while you're still on the horse
Ask any further questions you may have, listen to what the seller/trainer has to say
Next Up - You've tried the horse, where do you go from here?