A Beginner's Guide to Cutting: The Elusive 75

Another accurate depiction of my horse after I get in her way and completely ruin our runs
Wow ya'll, when you stay up late one night and chuck out a post to the blogosphere about unicorns, glitter and tears, and you relate it to cutting - you definitely don't think it's going to get the insane reception it's received. 350+ shares on Facebook, 7800 views on my blog, and I'm starting to feel like - WOW, you guys really do like me! (Also starting to feel like - how am I going to top this?! Just saying..) But, in all honesty, jokes aside for a quick second, it really warmed my cold little beginner heart how many of you related to the post, laughed with me over it, shared your own stories with me, shared the post and commented on it saying things like "GOD THIS IS SO TRUE, keep writing!" So, for you, I shall.

I thought for my second fun little post I would discuss the score that all of us dream about at night, (and hope our horses dream about - but we know they are dreaming about grain and turn out, so....), the elusive 75. But first, I thought i'd hit you up with some fun facts about me so that you can get to know the girl that talks about rainbow puking unicorns a lot.

When you are legit terrified, but your horse is holding down the fort for ya.
Photo Credit: Sandy Hansma
I know a lot of you are probably looking at the above photo and saying, "I thought she said she didn't have a glitter covered unicorn?! What a liar!" Okay true, Lady (also known as "Mates Special Lady") is a badass unicorn, and she does glitter regularly, but her rider gets in the way of the glitter more often than not. This was the best show we've ever had together, for some reason it just worked for once, and we won both days and I won my first buckle... that was in June? and we have struggled to replicate anything similar ever since. Le sigh. I live in the frozen tundra of Canada, specifically in Alberta, which is sort of our own, much colder, version of Texas for my American readers. I work for a trainer who is really, really great to me. As far as being a loper goes, I think i'm pretty good, I LOVE being a loper, I take it super seriously. But as far as being a "client", I think i'm probably more of a hell-client. Like all the tears and whining he has to deal with... can you imagine having to pay that person to work for you?! So, i'm very lucky in that sense that I work for someone who tries so hard to coach me and help me every way he can. My horse, Lady, like I said, is a unicorn. She's 13, a Smart Mate out of a Hickorys Special Gal (x Docs Hickory), all of her full siblings are money earners over +$20K, including an Amateur Futurity Champion, she has won A LOT less than that. I tell her that she's still the best, and to ignore her over achieving family members. She is the sweetest, quietest, most nicest horse to be around. BUT, she hopped around a little from home to home before I purchased her, never really got shown all the much, and when she was, it was by trainers... who knew what they were doing. So, when I got on her back like the wildly spurring monkey I am, she quite quickly falls apart. (Duh). For many of you trying to "do it yourselves", you know this recipe of disaster all too well. That blog post is coming, trust me. Lady is back in the talented hands of my boss, and she's much happier about it.

Told you... here I am scrubbing all the glitter off my unicorn and losing a cow in the process
Photo Credit: Glaze Photography

Side note, I can't believe I just posted the above photo on the internet, self deprecation at it's very finest. Anyways, as far as #LoperLife goes, I've also worked in Texas and in Arizona. When I was in Arizona, I worked for a fantastic trainer who had a barn that specialized in Non-Pro and Amateur coaching. It was there I had the chance to show for the first time, and it was also there that I fell into the biggest beginner trap of all, "The Beginner's Luck Trap." How many of you already know what i'm talking about? For those of you that don't, let me explain it to you in the form of a little story. I had the honour of showing a very nice mare in the 2,000 Limit Rider class in a club cutting. The mare was very trained, very quiet, very easy to show. I had only shown once before and it was a bit of a disaster, mostly because my help told me to "cut for shape" and I literally had NO IDEA what that meant. Am I out there cutting triangles, squares? Where do these shapes occur from? What is a shape even?! Back to grade two we go! Like, what does that even mean?! For those of you that don't know what a shape cut is, it's basically drawing cows out in front of you, and "shaping" one off the top. So you aren't specifically cutting a certain cow from the very beginning. Often, this technique is used if you are showing on used cattle, if the cows are "sticky" and don't want to come out of the herd easily OR for beginners, because, as all trainers know, most times if you let a nervous beginner pick their cow from the beginning, it's going to be a wreck. This is when you'll hear terms like "bring a bunch of cows up with you", "LOOK UP", "CUT WHAT STAYS." Classic 2,000 Limit Rider lingo right there.

So, I was a little nervous about showing again, you know... thinking about all those triangles and shit. But we went home and my boss at the time explained cutting for shape, and we practiced it, and I felt pretty confident. Foolish beginner move. So, I went to the herd, I dropped my hand and that mare carried me through a perfect run - I marked a 74. A 74 PEOPLE. THAT'S A BIG SCORE. I didn't even RECOGNIZE what a big score that was. I was just like, shit ya look at me with my 74 and my bad ass self. Looking back, and knowing myself as a rider a bit better now, I imagine (I KNOW) I was just sitting there and she was piloting us through it. She was a unicorn, people. But, I fell into the beginner's luck trap, and I see people do this ALL THE TIME. All of a sudden, I felt pretty confident in myself, I blew it out of the water. People were telling me what a great run I had - man, that feels pretty good. Look at me now, mama we made it, Fort Worth here we come! Did I grasp the difference between a small club cutting and an NCHA event? No way. Didn't need too - I was Matt Gaines on Special Nu Baby ya'll.

Heading head first into the Beginner's Luck Trap
So what's the beginner's luck trap? It's that you don't know any better, you don't know what your horse is suppose to feel like, so you go out there and your not taking it very seriously, and you probably win, or atleast you do pretty good! You start feeling ultra confident, you start actually riding your horse more, your using your legs like your Lloyd Cox on Smooth Talking Style and all of a sudden, you aren't doing good anymore.. because you are riding them wrong. Before, you were staying out of their way, now you are directly in the road between them and the cow and they can't get it cut because all they can see is your stupid face! Can you see where i'm getting at with my own riding? When I started showing my own mare - not as pilot-able as the last mare - I got sucker punched with two realities - you need to be able to ride your horse RIGHT and that just sitting there IS NOT THE ANSWER if things get scary. This is my BIGGEST fault, and I think it directly relates to that 74 that fell from the sky that day in Arizona. It has taken me a very long time to get over the mental hurdle that way back then, at that one very small show, I just sat there and that score came to me. Well, dumby, that was a DIFFERENT horse, a DIFFERENT time, DIFFERENT cows... come on. My mare doesn't work that way, if I just sit there, nervous as all hell, it's going to get even worse. Ride your pony, but ride them right! Learning curves, no more beginner's luck for this gal.

I do want to speak on something else that I didn't really address in my last post, and that's a personal belief I have that really helps me in my own riding. I may be posting about being a "beginner", which I am, but I also see myself as a "Novice Competitor." I really do think, that even at the lowest levels of the sport, the more you see yourself as a competitor and an athlete, and your horse the same, it will put you in a better mind frame to succeed. If you are constantly berating yourself for all those sixties, and how you are "just a beginner", and how everyone is "so much better than you" on "way better horses than yours", you will not succeed. If you are actively thinking of yourself as a competitor, that's suppose to be there, amongst those other competitors, and you have the horse power underneath you, you've already jumped a big mental hurdle in cutting - I believe in you!

So, i've marked a 74 and that's the highest score I have yet to receive, and looking back now, I recognize I had little to do with the equation. So how do you mark a 75 as a beginner?! There are many ways...

- Go out, and Buy a Tub of Glitter.
Shower yourself and your horse in it and show up at the cutting. Step to the herd and loudly announce, "I'M HERE TO MARK A 75" as you blind the judge with your radiance and he or she will have no other choice than too score you a 75 mostly because they couldn't see your run over all the shimmer in the air.

- Beginner's Luck.
You don't know how it happened, but it did, so take it, run with it, sleep with your scorecard, send up a prayer, you do you because you somehow did it.

- Learn How to be a Competitor. 
Ahhh, this one, this one is the hard one people, but I think this is the one that's worth it. Firstly, because as anyone knows that has any experience with glitter - glitter is very hard to clean off yourself, you don't need that type of negativity in your life. Second, it's what I touched on earlier, if you're thinking of yourself as a competitor, if your working on your skill day in and day out, if you're thinking about your runs at dinner when you should be listening to your god awful date talk about the stock market, surround yourself with the right people, the right trainer is SO KEY to your success. ... when you get that 75, you'll know you earned it. You'll know that everything came into place, your help, the cows, the stars above, but that you were right there with your horse and you were riding to your stops, you were watching your cow, and you were riding when you needed too be riding. It'll feel way better than the beginner's luck 75, I promise you that. (Or having all that glitter stuck in your bra or boxer shorts depending on who ya are and what ya do... just saying.)




Until next time - keep believing in yourselves and working towards those 75's!

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