I love when people ask me how they can get involved in Cutting, because I genuinely enjoy sharing my excitement for the sport. There are few western disciplines able to offer as much variety and challenge as Cutting. Each discipline comes with its own set of unique qualities and amazing horses, but none with as many moving components as the sport of Cutting.
For example, in the sport of Reining, you have a rider and the horse in the arena.
Western Pleasure? There’s a rider and the horse – and there may be a few other competitors, but again that’s pretty much it.
So what’s amazingly different (and so appealing) about Cutting, is that there are so many variables! You have a rider and their horse, two herd holders and their horses plus two turn back men and their horses. It takes a team to get this thing done! Five riders and five horses can create a lot of energy in the ring!
When you throw in a herd of cows, things get really interesting! Every single cow is unique, each herd is different and how your interaction with that herd will be exclusive to that grouping of cows. Since you never encounter the same herd twice, every time you enter the ring, things are going to be different.
While Cutting is exciting, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy sport. A lot of people watch a show and think to themselves All you do is put your hands down and the horse just cuts! Well that’s sort of true, but there’s a deep communication with your horse through your body, legs and even the thoughts passing through your mind. All of these components work together when you enter an arena.
Maybe you’ve competed in other disciplines, but something about Cutting appeals to you. Or maybe you’re just getting involved in the horse industry and you feel like Cutting is the place to start. Either way, here’s where you should begin.
THE VERY FIRST STEP
I know the first thing you probably want to do is hop on a horse and stare down some cows, but you need to have a better understanding of the sport before that can happen. Check the NCHA (National Cutting Horse Association) website then Google NCHA affiliate clubs in your local area. Go to the shows. See who does well and identify styles you like. Watch which trainers are working with beginners. Be observant and gather information from the sidelines. Because that takes us to my next point…
WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL
After you’ve seen some local trainers in action and have a better idea of what you’re looking for, go ahead and reach out to them. Start with trainers close to home. Tell them you’re interested in Cutting and see if you can take a few lessons. It’s important for you to try different trainers because training programs and personalities are as individual as the horses we ride. It’s not always possible to make a decision after one meeting or lesson. You’ll also want to ask if they have lesson horses available because some trainers won’t have that option.
Each time you work with a new trainer, ask yourself if you like their program. Does your learning style match their approach to teaching? How many other amateurs do they work with? Do they mainly do aged events or weekend cuttings? As a beginner, you’ll probably do a lot of weekend shows, so you’ll want to make sure your trainers program includes weekend events. Your trainer needs to be someone you can see yourself trusting because you’re going to need to have faith in them for the next step…
COMMITTING TO A PARTNER
You’re a beginner and you need a horse that’s suited for your level. Don’t feel like you need to go out and spend $50,000 on a horse. I promise, you can get in and participate in the game at a lower level. This will give you time to make sure Cutting is the right sport for you and your trainer may even have a horse that matches your needs and skill level.
Now, once it comes time to buy, purchase a horse slightly above your level in Cutting. The right horse can help you learn and grow as an athlete. Think of it this way: a beginner is like a first grade student in elementary school. First graders don’t need a twelfth grade horse. They need a third or fourth grade horse. As your experience increases, your horse “grades” will increase too. The main point is to grow your ability to the competitive level of each horse. In this way, you’ll learn and grow as a rider and Cutter.
Each of these steps builds upon the one before it and the speed in which they occur is up to you. Make sure you take enough time to fully understand and appreciate Cutting. It can take years to reach your desired level of achievement, but that success if entirely possible if you lay a firm foundation.