Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Technical Part Of The Cutting Clinic

For the record, I'm giving this clinic an A and will definitely be going back to DoubleTree for more of Carl's assistance.

Now, technically speaking, we worked backwards from what you would do if you were training a cutting horse. But, for the benefit of training riders, this worked really well. As par for the course, we were all eager to get to working cattle and by jumping right into the herd work and actual 'cutting' of cattle, Carl played it pretty smart.

After a warm-up and just a few minutes of practicing a few specific maneuvers to get everyone concentrating on getting their stops down and showing everyone how to get their horses into the correct body position, it was right to cattle work.

While the cattle were being settled, Carl spent time explaining the jobs of the cutter's helpers, their positions and where the cutter should try to be...
In cutting, the cutter has 4 helpers. Two people sit in the corner's by the herd. Their job is to help the cutter push the herd forward when he rides into it to make his selection, make sure the herd stays pretty much centered, stays against the fence and also guards the fence against a cow that gets back in the corner. Technically they are not supposed to push the cow out of the corner if it gets back there, but by keeping their horse's butt close to the fence, they can effectively block a cow from getting back to the herd, which is a major fault in cutting. Points are of course deducted in competition as well if you let your cow get back into the corners, but it won't 'kill' your run the way losing a cow will. The other two helpers are your turn-back people and their job is to keep the cow not only from running to the far end of the arena (LOL), but to keep the cow coming back to the cutter. Learning how to ride turn-back effectively, without ending up engaging the cow yourself is definitely a learned art. If your turn-back pushes your cow to you too hard, they can force it into the corners (losing you points). If they do not push the cow into you enough, the cow can totally lose focus on the cutter and just sort of wanders around in a 'safe-zone' between the turn-back and the cutter. For a cutting horse to be really effective, they need to have the cow engaged with them as much as possible.

Now, people who are eager to learn and do something are as bad as a fresh colt. They don't want to think, they just want to do! (Guilty!!!!) So, when I say that Carl played it smart by working in reverse, I mean, he utilized everyone's freshness to get through the herd work. The horses were fresh, the riders were fresh and the cows were fresh. We all got two trips through the cows doing herd work. I actually got 4 runs because I had the two horses. At the time I registered, there were only 5 other people registered and Carl told me it was okay if I brought 2 horses. By clinic day, the class was full (12 people) and I think Carl forgot about me bringing 2 horses. However, he was good to his word and let me ride both horses.

But, once we all got the high off, Carl switched to some slower work and started focusing on correctness. By now, both us students and our horses were ready to listen-LOL.

Carl split everyone into pairs and we started working on 'shadowing"...
Shadowing is an excellent exercise, particularly if you are stuck working slow or sticky cattle or have a friend that likes to work cattle too. Both riders focus only on the cow, not what the other rider is doing. It's really good for training, refreshing correct body position for your horse and nipping any tendency a horse has to anticipate or cheat the corner in the bud.

While 1/2 of the people worked on shadowing, the other half worked in the round pen...
If you ever want to work cattle by yourself, are stuck working by yourself or starting a horse on cattle...this is the perfect way to do it. All you have to do is throw a few flakes of hay in the middle of the round pen, the herd stays there, you can sort out a cow and work around the outside of the round pen. It's usually nice quiet work and can give you and your horse lots of time to work on reading the cow, figuring out how body placement of the horse affects the cow's movements and due to it's mostly slow nature, builds a solid foundation and lets you and horse work on correctness.

I am hoping to find someone local who has some cattle, so I can work on them more regularly, but if I have to, Carl does rent out his cattle for $30 a session. He has enough cattle that I can work a couple of horses at a time for that price. But his place is an hour drive away. Not bad, but not something I could afford to do a lot. It's definitely something I need to get back into doing.


Rising Rainbow said...

I'm so glad you explained what you were supposed to be doing. I have seen cutting but never really understood exactly what I was supposed to see other than the cow moving around.

I know what I'm looking at in working cow but not cutting.Now I have an idea about cutting.

It seemed to me when I got to announce for a team sorting show one time, that what I saw about how you move the cow was very similiar to how you move a horse when you're on the ground. While the cows don't seem to be quite as responsive as the horse, it seemed they responded to pressure the same way and the read on too much and too little seemed to be very similiar. Do you find that to be the case?

Crystal said...

I like your shadowing excersize might have to try that. We did one similar, but no cow. One rider was the "cow" and the other rider was working the "cow". Its a lot harder than it sounds! but fun too.

Angie said...

What an exciting experience you had. You and Moon looked good out there.. I would love to do that..:)

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

MiKael-It's exactly the same. Some breeds of cattle are duller than others, but after any of them have been worked a lot, they lose respect for maintaining space. Cows are not totally stupid. When they figure out they don't *have* to move, they quit working and you can run into them with your horse and they really don't give a crap.

Crystal-Carl had us do that exercise too. I didn't mention it, because I kind of thought it made the horses dull. Umpteen years ago when I worked for a cutting horse trainer, *I* was the cow a lot of times. I think using a person on foot is better than using someone on a horse, but that is just my personal opinion. Also, using a flag on a pulley works really well. I'm going to tinker with that and see if I can't get one built to use around home.

Angie-Thanks...I did have an ulterior motive for letting Moon run back and forth across the pen. Next post ;-) It kind of made me miss 'the good old days'...and then I remembered why I got out of it. The rock grinders, spade bits and working babies to death was just to disheartening to do it for a living. On a personal level it is a blast though!

Shirley said...

We are trying to get a cowhorse group going here, and the exercises you mentioned will be good practice for us. Especially the shadowing; if there is a day when we can only get a few cattle that would be a good one.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Thanks for all the details. One day, I want to try working cows. I love to watch the cutters and my Yalla's daddy is a top working cow horse. It's in her blood.