Cutting is fun. It is supposed to be fun. Fun is a very important component of Cutting. If you, your trainer and/or your next of kin are not having fun, then your program is all messed up.
People tend to get it backwards. They aren’t winning, so it isn’t fun. Not winning isn’t fun, but quitting the fun part won’t make you start winning. When it isn’t fun is when the winning quits. If the only thing that makes you happy is winning, then you won’t be happy very often. After all, the Cutter’s prayer is, “Lord, I don’t need to win, just let me be third. Every time.”
Maybe I should define “Fun.”
Fun is when you prepare properly in a relaxed atmosphere with a good teacher, maybe in the late afternoon on a pretty day or on a godawful morning before sunup in a freezing arena. That doesn’t sound like fun? It is if your pony was golden and your trainer complimented you! (A real compliment, not just him being nice.) That is fun. I promise.
Fun is when you get to the Cutting and everyone is glad to see you, or at least they act like it. Fun is putting up horses, seeing old friends and making dinner plans, which may be steaks on a grill beside your living quarters trailer. Maybe it’s at an outdoor arena with your horses stalled only a few yards away and coyotes howling in the river bottoms – river bottoms that are home to 500 mama cows whose yearling calves you are going to cut tomorrow. Maybe it’s sitting around a fire with seven or six other liars. That is fun. I promise.
Fun is when the Cutting is in some major metropolitan multipurpose facility with rented everything to put on a show. There is nothing but asphalt, concrete, shopping centers, casinos, fancy restaurants and people who have never seen spurs up close, like in real life. You get to spend a week being all Cowperson. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be a cowperson? Everybody wants to be a cowperson! They will ask for your autograph. That is fun. I promise.
Fun is when the Cutting is the Futurity, in Fort Worth, in the Coliseum. It’s when you get to lead your project horse through the back gate, through the tunnel into pure awesomeness. It’s being on the dirt, and hearing your name called out by the Tom Holt. It’s where you will ride to the herd, cut a cow and drop your hand on your horse’s first professional cow. That is fun. I promise.
Fun is when most nearly everyone knows your horse’s barn name, and when you get congratulated about a good check. It is even fun when they commiserate with you about the sorry cow that ran over you a month ago. That is fun because you know your horse is worth taking note of. It is a sign of earned respect – not bought, earned. That is fun. I promise.
Cutting is occupied with the physical. Feeding, saddling, loping and actually showing – there is always something that needs doing that is all about using muscles. But that is not what wears most of us out by the end of the day. It is the mental exercise.
Cutting is 90 percent mental and the rest is in your head. Brains, human ones anyway, do not function well in the mad position. The common sense, rational thinking, consequences department is bypassed, wired around and ignored. This is good in an emergency, where brute strength will carry the day. If saving your life means running through a burning wall, you do not want the “This is going to hurt” department giving any advice.
When you step into the herd with your mental list of cows, and none, not even one, is seen, that is not the time to stick a spur in a belly thinking you’ll just flush one out. For sure, whichever one you launch out will not be a money cow. Money cows are rare and delicate. They must be handled gently. If you go to the herd mad, you will leave madder. That is not fun. I promise.
Cutting is fluid, constantly changing and never still. Cutting itself and your Cutting is a nonstop pursuit of improvement. It is not a linear journey. You don’t start at Point A and proceed to Point Z. You start at Points A, T, H and W and proceed two letters forward and six numbers back. Improvement in one area will bring out your ineptness in another. Fun is mastering the fine points of getting your horse shown to his best ability. Going to the herd, making really pretty cuts and getting run over in the last four seconds will crush you. Until some stranger says, “Tough break, but your second cut was gorgeous.” That is fun. I promise.
Let’s talk truth. Cutting is not for everyone. Nothing is for everyone. When we drop our hands, there is something in our DNA that lights us up like a Chinese firecracker factory in a lightning storm. If you aren’t geared towards overcoming hard things with a good attitude, if you are bad-minded, if you can’t set aside frustration and concentrate on getting better, if you can’t be honest with the mirror, then Cutting may not be fun. For you. And that is a shame, because you will miss something very special. I truly hope that you find something else in life that brings you what Cutting brings us. Fun.
Cornbread Thinks: Cutting is fun.
You can reach Cornbread (Jimmy Bankston) at [email protected] or see him on Facebook