A Beginner's Guide to Cutting: You Can't Do It From the Sidelines

How I look when I go to sleep at night after giving advice from the sidelines, and not having to actually show myself

Somehow between showing my pony, working for a trainer, and airing all my dirty show-related laundry to the world via this blog (we ain't talking about dirt covered white Iconoclast's anymore ya'll!) I have become known as someone that show their horse. Um... duh, you're saying, but hear me out - I've actually re-evaluated and shifted gears this year with my plans to show. So now, like this last weekend, when I appear at a show and haven't entered my own horse, I often get the shocked, "You aren't showing?!" to which I have to give the inevitable, slightly embarrassing, answer of, "Not enough money yo." It's true, money and the stress that surrounds cutting on credit, as I like to call it, has really messed with me mentally and in many ways ruined showing my horse for me this year. So I am sitting out the next few major shows, which is equal parts really good for me/my wallet and my mental state but also equal parts bad because i'm not the type of person that likes to sit and watch from the stands. It's a frustrating balance. I plan to show in a few weeks and then I'm not exactly sure where i'm going to go from there. The winds of change are kind of swirling around me and my horse right now and there's lots to report... just can't report any of it yet. Many of you may be thinking - is this the end for A Beginner's Guide to Cutting?!... yeah right, I could show twice and have enough material for you guys for a year. Lucky you, I've been dabbling in this game for three years now, and in the industry for six... I've still got lots of stories to tell and I'll have lots more stories in the future too.

When I was in Arizona working for a trainer we had lots of Beginner/Amateur/Non-Pro's, that was the focus of our business. So, I watched a lot of these people walk to the herd. I got pretty good at evaluating runs. I could generally tell you where you were going to score, but I probably couldn't exactly tell you why. It was one of those beginner traps. I watched enough cutting that I thought, yeah I can do this, she should have just committed to that cow at the top, he should have dropped his hand sooner, she needs to trust her horse, I can do all those things. I get these horses ready for these people, surely I can show them too!

But hold up... can you actually?! I bet not. See the thing with becoming a sideline coach and an in-the-stands judge is that you aren't truly feeling what is going on during that run. You are evaluating it from a totally selfish place, you aren't on that horse sweating through your nerves, you aren't feeling that horse roll that ribcage towards the cow, ready to push up the pen. You didn't kick a second too late and KNOW it. You haven't had to get off that horse after a SHIT practice and vowed you are going to be confident in the horse the next time. You haven't been run over three times in a row and you sure as hell haven't cried in front of your turn back help, just to try to get back at it again the next day. 

This weekend I watched a lot of beginner/amateur runs in the show pen. I watched really good horses pilot nervous riders to decent scores, I watched nervous riders second-guess themselves and their horses. I watched confident riders let their horses really shine, and I watched over-confident riders completely get in the way of their horses. I watched good and bad and sucky and everything in between. I could tell you what went wrong in most, if not all of those runs at the beginner level. It's easy to dispense advice from the sidelines, it's a comfortable place. You know what, it felt kind of good to be an in-the-stands Judge... "You need to sit back on your horse." "You gotta trust your pony and kick him to that stop." "Look up at the top - that cow was up there waiting for you to cut it, you didn't need to turn it into a battle." "Woulda been a 72 if you hadn't gotten in that horses way." There are no nerves on the sidelines, there is no judge in the judges stand, there is no turn back help hollering at you to slow down. Life is pretty easy and breezy out there on the sidelines.

Which is why I'm going to preach on you for a second - if you are, or you think you are becoming the type of person who dispenses way too much advice, and can't walk the walk yourself, it's time to get your butt in the saddle. Look, taking that walk from the sidelines into a cutting saddle, that's a big, expensive, all-consuming walk. You are going to find that once you plop your butt in that saddle, that you thought you could walk the walk, but you probably can't even tie your laces yet. It's going to be a humbling experience for you, but you'll get through it because let me tell you, showing cutting horses, it's the best, it's so worth it. It's the most exhilarating, calming, beautiful feeling in the world. Heck yes, I'm getting a little sappy about it because I'm dialling back my own showing and I LOVE to show. Like I hate to show, I hate having to deal with the mental game and the hurdles and the cost, but at the core of it - I love showing horses. It's like nothing else in this world. We are so lucky to show horses, to be able to be their pilots, their friends. To be involved in this time-honoured tradition, to be a part of this industry. Don't forget that.

Which leads me to my second moment of preaching - if you are, or you think you are becoming the type of person who really wants to try cutting, who really wants to see if you can do it. GO FOR IT. Head my advice - don't go get some sorry pony you have to two hand around, or one that rears up and runs off, or one that quits you all the time. Go find yourself the nicest horse you can for your budget and go learn properly. Learn how to school a horse that will stay together for you. Learn how to use your legs and feet on a forgiving horse. Learn how to cut a cow comfortably and with confidence on your unicorn. What I'm telling you is get the best horse you can, get the best help you can, and DO THE DAMN THING, because it's unlike anything else and you sure as hell can't do it from the sidelines.

Comments

  1. Ha this was so me before we got a cutting horse. That looks fun and easy! Little did we know, at least its fun lol

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