Cornbread Thinks: Learning What You Don’t Know

Buttermilk and I have been going to some “weekend” shows. It has been like high school homecoming – a comfortable thing, seeing old friends and making new ones. There are two and one-half minutes in the herd, but 24 hours in a day. It is all about the two and a half, but it would be not near as much fun without all the rest – loading before daylight, watching the sun come up, Allsup’s coffee, saddling, hanging chaps, bridles and war bag on your horse. Once your feet are on show dirt, all is right with the world.

Park your horses – I say horses because I am sure you brought a using horse. Then it’s on to the secretary’s stand. Swap a few insults, show your credentials, surrender a signed check and enter away. Often, the judge is sitting there and you can exchange some pleasantries without the caution of a major event.

Wander over to the concession stand, which varies in quality and variety, although the longer you wait, the better it gets; which reminds me of my first cutting ever. The day before was a practice at B.F. Phillips’ place. It was also a small, semipolitical social event. B.F. had it catered by a chuckwagon barbecue outfit. About 300 people were there. Poisoned every single one of us. It was the State Fair of Texas Cutting, which is famous for best-tasting and worst-for-you food, ever. Everyone who wasn’t sick kept talking about “Jack’s French Fries,” corny dogs or salt water taffy, with whiffs of cooking smells drifting in. Words cannot convey how bad it was. This supports my theory on cutting being in your DNA. Since then, we’ve had outstanding feeds at some weekend shows. Others? Sustenance is sustenance.

There are not as many lopers at weekend shows, so us non-pros get to play like we are pro lopers. This is a good thing. Cutting is very simple, as long as you know everything. Learning everything is nonstop, never ends and comes from all directions. Learning and doing what a loper does will help your showing. You will develop a “feel” for not only a horse, but your horse. You are training muscles and developing muscle memory, molding your muscles to the saddle and becoming truly comfortable. The most comfortable place I ever am is on a horse – not in my living room or in my bed or on the beach. On a horse.

This provides for plenty of interaction with each other. The conversations while riding in circles are priceless, building friendships that last forever. Wisdom can be found in quantity and quality. So can lies and rumors. By the way, when women do it, it is gossip. With men, it is “bidness.” Here’s a hint: Asking who they got it from is an effective defense. Bad info usually has no known source. Section 4.g of the unwritten rules of cutting provide it is a violation to introduce yourself until we know more about you than you do. This is where that info is obtained.

Sitting on your horse, watching horses work is a bucket-list thing. Exchange knowledge and observations. At times, it will be very green amateurs, other times, multi-million-dollar winning trainers or a legend, one of the greats, cutting royalty. A comment of no singular import can be the puzzle piece that ties something all together. You acquire an “eye” to spot the tiny differences between winning or leaving. You can practice scoring runs, spot penalties and learn how a credit-earning situation looks to a judge. Learn cows. Meet your future.

Weekend shows are like aged events, except different. The rules are the same, which is “purrrfect” for mastering basic skills and polishing finer skills. It develops your internal two-and-one-half-minute clock. Einstein obviously never showed a cutting horse, or it would be the Theory of Relativity, maybe. Entry fees can be one-tenth of those at a major event. Your pony is cheating you, but not the trainer, on the ends? Quicken up that curb and be ready. No amount of practicing and schooling at home can duplicate going to the herd in a real show.

It all raises your comfort level. Not having your mind cluttered about anything besides going to the herd is invaluable. Cutting is 90 percent mental and the rest is in your head. There is a rhythm and a feel to showing. Things become automatic when you relax, freeing your mind for that two and one-half minutes.

Cornbread Thinks: Weekends are good and good for you.