Working Is Not Learning

We all go “work” our ponies. “Work the flag.” “Work some cows.” “Practice cuts.” Most of the time these are short sessions. Show up early, often right after breakfast, which was right after last call. Saddle up, lope a little, work, put up and leave. In some cases, your horse is ready and you step on, work and leave.

Trainers are busy and business like. Good ones anyway. They have many horses to get worked before it gets hot. They have a routine, which is easier to not alter much. When heat isn’t a factor, they may start a couple three hours later but for most people, it is still before business hours. This is part of why you don’t have any friends anymore that aren’t cutters.

The focus is on getting ready to show with a little corrective work on your latest abject failure to execute the simplest of tasks, like doing what all four of your help was telling you to do. What you are mostly doing is getting your timing tuned up. Getting comfort- able. Getting your horse paying attention to you. Good stuff, but usually not very deep into the brain box.

Going to the herd is our central focus, our destination. It is only a small part of this sport. It is the other parts that make cutting our passion. The family-like structure. The life. The respect we earn in the world by being a “cowboy.” Living in the elements. Our critters. Our being immersed in the natural world. In short, being a cutter.

An excellent way to do all this is clinics. As the Amateur classes have grown, the need and opportunity for clinics to thrive has grown. Spring and summer are prime times for clinics. I went to the first-ever Cutting Horse Central Cutting Club Clinic at Lindy Burch’s in mid-April. This is a different format from usual. One night. One trainer. Varying levels. Some loaner horses for beginners. Very much Grass Roots targeted. About half were veteran cutters. It allows trainers to showcase their facility and people to know trainers in their area. It’s an idea whose time has come. Again, the plan is for the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) to facilitate more of these in other areas and even countries. Good on you, Mark Michels.

Since it is against the unwritten rules in cutting to introduce yourself, this is a very good way to develop friendships. Many of my deepest friendships began at clinics. It’s a great way to learn; one body doesn’t have to ask all the stupid questions or make all the mistakes. Your ego isn’t so bruised that it can’t take correction.

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