Cutting is 90 percent mental, the rest is in your head. Even if someone could program what needs remembering into a ’puter, it wouldn’t be fast enough. Besides, cows are always thinking up new stuff. Someday I want to meet one of the cow trainers, just to ask why they are so hateful.
Getting your head and body in sync is crucial. The mail can’t be late. Center stage is not very big – there is often only room for one thought at a time or two at the most. So best not try and put six or five there. Getting the “Hot Quit” application mixed up with the “Cow-Side Leg” application won’t work. Ideally, we keep center stage empty, with the hundreds of “apps” arranged neatly and in order around the edges, and none out of reach. There is no room for the latest episode of “Househusbands of Poolville.”
It’s best to have a plan and a routine. Including trainers and lopers in the plan is good. Have your stuff and be there early, way early. Wear your show shirt. This show shirt is often the same one, or at least the same color. Like Glade Knight only wears red shirts. Many wear black, especially for the finals, but certainly a nicer one, starched and maybe monogrammed, usually without bloodstains. Lots of people call these “lucky” shirts. What they really are is a red flag, a sign, a warning, a request to leave them alone. There is thinking to be done, which is a dangerous thing for some people. My wife, Buttermilk, gets downright psychotic on show days.
The human brain is a complicated thing, even in stupid people. It can take in massive amounts of info – more than it can ever use – and is easily cluttered, kinda like a big tack room with all your gear thrown in one big pile. It’s all there. You need every bit of it. Spending 30 minutes looking for each thing is tiresome. So you take a day and organize it – Busters with Busters, RRs with highports, wraps here, boots there, chaps over yonder. Your brain will do this if you let it. You have to give it a chance. The instant you quit forcing it to compute, it will go to organizing. Ever struggle with a problem, give up and go to bed, then wake up at 3 a.m. with the solution?
Every now and again, just don’t do something. Sit there. Kick that sucker in neutral. Let it sort through those 5 a.m. practices at the trainer’s place. Let those up-and-out-and-at-it-everyday-for-two-months-before-the-show lessons puzzle piece themselves together. Some people worry they or their ponies will forget something if they take time off. Maybe if you don’t take time off, lessons get buried, discarded even, because they are in the box of junk. Give the brain time to sort it out.
There is tired and there is fatigue. Tired is a long weekend with short sleep, a laundry basket full of dirty jeans. Fatigue is three months of showing, short sleep and you don’t own anything that doesn’t need maintenance, including your marriage. The effects are cumulative, like concussions.
Show day is no time for idle chitchat or seriously engaging discussion. This makes serving as a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) director or executive board member an even greater sacrifice. Everybody wants to help you “fix” NCHA; it is a wonder those guys can even find the herd by the end of a show. Leave them alone. Write them. Call them. Take them to dinner or to Andrea Bocelli.
When you see a friend sitting off by their lonesome, wearing their good shirt, maybe they aren’t so lonesome. Maybe give them a good leaving alone. Quit with the questions already. One of the great things about cutting is the great people you meet and the friendships you develop. The important part is getting your horse shown. Do that first. Do that always.
All those things you need to remember? If you don’t go to a cutting, review the rules tape. Have it on your mind. Know this – if you don’t learn something every time you get on a horse, you are a pretty poor horseman. You don’t have to cut a cow to sharpen your cutting. Getting a horse to go where you want just by thinking about it never hurts. It’s all about being comfortable on a horse. Watch those big dollar winners go to the herd. Their hair could be on fire and they would just keep cutting. Hopefully the judges would stop them.
Cornbread Thinks: Give your brain a chance.