Cornbread Thinks: Some Assembly Needed

Semifinals at the National Cutting Horse Association’s 2014 Summer Spectacular, sitting in my and Buttermilk’s box. Tom Holt just said the prayer and played the anthem – a grounding moment. There are five sets of Derby semifinalists; it’s do or die. The big money and fame are for the taking. It’s about getting one shown. Putting a run together.

Repeating that. Putting a run together. There are two-and-one-half minutes to assemble actions and events no less complicated than building an aircraft carrier. Leaving out the smallest piece in a mechanical thing or a run can result in the loss of all. All must smoothly and seamlessly merge into “run content” and “overall appearance.” Numberless minutiae that are only minute when done right and on time. Five sharp-eyed judges who, individually, rarely, if ever, miss anything. The whole misses nothing, functioning as designed and trained. Like horse and rider, becoming one thing.

Restating a previous Cornbread thought: If Einstein had been a Cutter, it would have been “The Theory of Relativity, Maybe.” During a run, seconds become minutes, minutes become hours, hours become milliseconds. Holding a “stop” for two hours inside your two-and-one-half minutes is a mystery. The winners do, others go to the trailer.

Pieces and parts: cow list, a pretty and skilled cut to the middle, trapping them there for a decent amount of working time while never being out of position and an artful tag off. Three times. Nothing to it. Yet, this doesn’t win it. “High degree of difficulty” must be added. The gamble. The dice roll. Trusting your pony to hold a quick and evil cow. The money cow – one who all too often will trip her circuit breakers into a blind panic and go to the herd despite all efforts. There is a “courage” box on the scoring sheet for a reason.

Like in life, it is often not the big things, but the little things. Take care of the little things, and there are no big things. The finer points of assembling a run: Working a cow in the center of the pen, giving some ground to “draw” her to you for a standing still quit in the middle. Turning your pony in his tracks to immediately enter the herd is a skilled art. One motion, almost.

When the elites enter the herd, having a picked cow “take” a horse and drive her lonesome through the herd to the top and out is to be marveled. Finishing that cut in the middle with a cow looking at the judges while rider drops hand is not easy. For us mortals, this is the frustration. When done right, it doesn’t look hard. Even simple. I know I am an excellent cutter…in the driveway.

An educational exercise is to watch some runs – not in the whole, but in pieces, in your mind applying the rule to the action. Separate the pieces to learn how they fit together. If you are anticipating just what happens when a great one drops her hand, you are missing what makes them great. Try to spot their cow by where they enter the herd. You will be surprised at how good you can get at this. Hint: Sit in the corners where you can hear them talk. No matter they have won millions, they still tell each other what to do. Watch the farthest side.

Well, manure. I just got word that a horse fell on J.B. McLamb this morning and broke his lower leg in two places. Heartbreaker. The comfort comes from knowing we will come together and do what is possible. J.B. is owed something from every cutter. He and Ginny have given above and beyond of themselves to make cuttings great. Prayers for them now, please.

The more you learn the less you know, till finally you know nothing. Then you can start progressing in learning. Never knowing anything. Learning how to “think” things to happen cannot be well explained. Developing a trust and confidence partnership with all the horses you are going to saddle is a never-ending process. If you aren’t making a conscious effort to learn something every moment, you are falling behind.

Good runs are like having all the pieces from five or four jigsaw puzzles in a sack. You have two-and-one-half minutes to make a picture. All the pieces are good, but you don’t need them all every run – just the ones for this run.

Cornbread Thinks: Study the pieces, not the whole.