The cow will run, turn, duck, dodge, and jump back and forth, to try to “fool” the horse and rider team and get around them. At times the horse must run along with the cow and then come to a hard stop, followed up with a split second change of direction.
The art of cutting cattle demands a saddle that can handle the quick athleticism required from the horse when working a cow and a design that enables the rider to be in balance and not interfere with the horse during quick turns, explosive acceleration, and sudden stops. They must be practical for competitors who show on the weekends for fun and hobby, as well as get the job done in high performance cutting exhibitions.
They are significantly taller and wider than usual (as much as 8 inches plus) to enable the rider greater balance control and a more secure seat when the horse drops in the front end when engaging the cow. The horn on a cutter can also be slanted slightly forward or straight up and down depending on the preference of the rider.
Since the horn is high in stature, it allows a rider to push down towards the horse during instant stops and turns, or pull back on it to assist with swift accelerations. The modified horn is a great asset when trying to stay in harmony with the nimble cutting horse.
The castle should be low in stature so that it will not hit the rider in their back which can interfere with the performance and be extremely uncomfortable. A low castle also enables the rider to sit deep if needed during explosive maneuvers executed by their mount.
Another option commonly seen on a cutting saddle is thinner stirrup leathers that enable greater freedom of movement for the legs and aid in making it easier to signal the horse. One thing that riders do agree on is the use of a back cinch in addition to the front girth that will assist in minimizing movement of the saddle.
This opens the door for use in multiple purposes such as; reining, team penning, trail riding, and training. A good working saddle can give years of reliable service when properly maintained.
In this article, Al gives our reader--and you--the lowdown on what it really takes to be cutter, and how to do it without breaking the bank (cutting can be an expensive sport). He also provides detailed info about the cattle used for cutting, and what kind of horse it takes to get the job done.
Top-notch cutting horses are expensive; the show entry fees are high; and buying and maintaining cows is costly. Many local clubs and NCAA affiliates offer shows for novice riders at a more affordable cost.
But, if you aim to compete at the big shows, you'll need to lay down a good chunk of change. In my following tips, I'm going to address cutting at the novice level and give you advice on how to participate without spending a fortune.
I suggest you watch some cutting events before putting in the money, effort, and time required to pursue the sport. Go to the National CuttingHorse Association's website to find an affiliate group in your vicinity.
If you can't find a group near you, and trailing your horse to the nearest affiliate isn't an option, call the closest chapter and ask about your area. Another good way to prepare is by watching instructional videos and reading books on cutting techniques--and to brush-up on your riding skills.
A good trainer will give you constructive criticism to build your self-esteem and help you enjoy the sport. I also suggest you observe a prospective trainer's coaching techniques at a show to see how he works in a stressful environment.
Your trainer should also provide the facilities to practice, and help you determine what tack is best for your horse (more on this below). If you're looking to buy a new horse, specifically for cutting, seek the expertise of your trainer.
At novice shows, pay attention to the caliber of the competitors' horses and consider one similar. A horse with 'cow sense' means he recognizes a cow and is willing to pursue it with interest.
If your current horse fits the bill athletically--he's sound, agile, and adequately muscled for quick movements--you can most likely train him to cut well enough to compete in novice. If you aspire to compete in the big shows, look for a horse that has at least some cutting blood, and one who's been introduced and trained with cows as a youngster.
But, even if you're showing at the novice level, your horse needs the athletic ability to move and turn quickly, meaning he's well (but not overly) muscled, and he's flexible and supple through his front and hind ends. So, if you have a great Western pleasure horse or a reliable trail mount, don't assume he'll pick up cutting as well as he does his other job.
After discussing your training and showing aspirations with your trainer, you'll be able to assess whether your Quarter Horse will be suitable for the job. For someone who's just starting out, I suggest you save up and buy a slightly older, more experienced cutting horse, as long as he's healthy, sound, and safe.
The initial price tag might be higher than the younger prospect, but it'll pay off in the end. Your bit choice largely depends on the sensitivity of your horse's mouth, but you'll need one that doesn't hinder his movement--physically or mentally.
Because your horse needs to be able to move and turn with lightning speed, your arena's footing is an extremely important factor. If the footing is too hard, your horse could easily slip or fall; if it's too deep, he could catch a leg and pull a ligament, or worse.
I like to combine my footing with sandy loam, because it contains clay and helps maintain consistency. When introducing your horse to a group of cows, carefully observe his body language to determine his level of interest in them.
It's likely you'll also notice a change in your horse's reaction when he's working with a seasoned group. But, in most cases, a horse without cutting blood can be trained to have cow sense, as long as he's reasonably athletic and has adequate muscling.
If his ears are up and you feel his body slightly tense as he watches the cows, he's paying attention. Next, guide your horse closer to the cows, but continue to move parallel to them, slightly more toward the front of the group.
In your regular work sessions, practice your own exercises to hone the following skills: Turning freely; supple in his front and back ends so his body parts move together.
You need to be physically fit so you'll have adequate stamina and agility to work well with your horse. You need to be physically fit so you'll have adequate stamina and agility to work well with your horse.
Ask your trainer or a fitness expert to suggest exercises out of the saddle to help you stay in shape for cutting. Final note : Cutting is a great sport, and can be a lot of fun for both you and your horse.
So, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities in your area, research what's out there, and pursue your ambitions to cut! Revered trainer and legendary horseman Al Dunning has been a leader in the local and national horse industry for over 30 years.
There are literally hundreds of bit options out there, from snaffles to curbs. The next section focuses on “bit criteria” for selection, along with a few specific examples of these ideas in practice.
One difference between the two bits pictured above is where the rein attaches. On the snaffle bit (top), the rein attaches directly to the ring that the mouthpiece is connected to.
The shank is measured in inches from the mouthpiece to the bottom ring. Similar to a curb bit, it uses leverage action and requires a chain.
A port is a curve to the mouthpiece that changes where the bit applies pressure. The port can take quite a few different shapes: wide or narrow, low or high.
Direct pressure is typically used with a snaffle bit and is common in hunt seat riding. The horse above is being ridden in a snaffle bit with contact (no slack in the reins).
Typically, riders should maintain light contact with the bit. Indirect pressure is associated with curb bits and is more common in Western disciplines.
The amount of pressure the rider exerts on the reins is multiplied by the length of the shank. This is essential for the bit to function properly and ensures a comfortable fit for the horse.
It also limits the amount of pressure on the palate as the bit rotates. If the chain is too loose, it won’t be effective; too tight and it will be uncomfortable.
General practice says you should be able to fit the width of two fingers between the horses’ chin and the curb strap. If your horse has “more whoa than go” you probably don’t need a severe bit to control him.
It is always a good idea to involve a horse trainer in a bit evaluation and selection. If you’re experiencing behavioral issues with your current bit, it helps to have a veterinarian rule out any medical issues that could be affecting your horse ’s mouth.
Despite having virtually no contact with the bit, you can see in Picture A that Scotty’s head is tucked in, or behind the vertical. This is undesirable for hunter under saddle classes, and as a result we hadn’t been placing well.
This bit has copper on the mouthpiece, which has a sweeter taste and encourages salivation. Some horses really like this style, as it doesn’t have the nutcracker action of the single-jointed snaffle bit.