Watching cutting horses at work through the lens of a camera or trying to describe their athleticism and obedience in print is nothing new to me. There’s something really beautiful about observing a horse really lock onto a cow, and I’ve imagined the moment to be even more incredible in the saddle.
On May 5, I got to stop imagining and start doing, thanks to Quarter Horse News editor Stacy Pigott and Cutting Horse Central’s new Cutting Club. Managing Editor Kelsey Pecsek and I were able to experience all the cutting action first hand, and it was truly an evening that won’t soon be forgotten.
Mark Michels, the man behind Cutting Horse Central, started the Cutting Club with the intention of giving riders who had never been on a cutter an opportunity to do just that. The event supplies the horse, trainer, venue and even dinner for participants, and Stacy thought this would be the perfect setting for Kelsey and I to dip our toes into the discipline.
Kelsey and I audited the first-ever Cutting Club event held a few weeks ago at Lindy Burch’s Oxbow Ranch, and the session we rode in was held at Tatum Rice’s T/K Cutting Horses. There were a few big meat smokers steaming when we pulled up at Tatum’s, and just after the killer barbeque dinner, it was time for me to saddle up.
I was given a horse named Leo, and I knew nothing about him when I got on. Luckily for me, it turned out he had a way better understanding of what we would be doing than I did. Coming from a show jumping and dressage background, I’m used to riding with a whole lot of contact and I knew that would be the biggest adjustment for me.
I didn’t have time to lope my horse down, so I was thankful we started work on the flag. At least the flag couldn’t blow past us if I made a big mistake. I could tell Leo was a little fresh, and I made the error of tightening up on my reins. That only made him antsier and a little crooked in our flag work.
After I started trusting him a bit more, I let out the reins and everything started to go a little smoother. He relaxed and really got hooked on the flag. At that point, I was just along for the ride, and a wonderful feeling it was. I’d never been on a horse that knew his job as much as that one, and that was priceless in itself.
As soon as I thought I had it down, we moved onto the cows and I quickly realized how wrong I was. I don’t know anything about cows, and I will tell you that cutting one out of a herd is a lot harder than it looks. It took me about five tries to finally get one in a good place to cut, and I was not prepared for the speed and intensity of my horse when that happened. I held on for dear life, while praying and blubbering profanities into the GoPro that Mark strapped to Leo’s headstall, but when it was all said and done, I survived. And despite some brief feelings of embarrassment, I had an awesome time doing it.
It’s safe to say that all the warnings people gave me about catching the cutting horse bug were all true, and I’m just incredibly thankful for the opportunity I was given. If you’re interested in trying a cutter for the first time, I know Mark is planning on putting on more Cutting Club and would love to see you there!