I've been on vacation for three weeks now. Three. Whole. Weeks. My sister and I have been staying in Texas with my Aunt Normi and Uncle Herb. We don't know them too well and they don't know us too well either. It's been a journey of getting to know one another and I'm enjoying every minute of it. There are times where it's difficult, trying to figure out what's appropriate and what's not. We've been with our Northern family more than with our Southern family, and what's appropriate for them may not or is not appropriate down here. Figuring all that out is just a part of getting to one another though.
I wasn't thrilled at the thought of staying down here a few years ago. I don't know my Southern family all too well and the thought of staying that far from home; with relatives I didn't know, in the Texas heat just didn't seem ideal at the time. I was going to come down last year, but the stable I worked for was in desperate need of help. I did so much work for them, that to just up and leave on vacation would have crippled them that year. So I stayed home on the premise that the following year, this year, I'd stay. So here I am. I'm college bound and older and more mature emotionally, so it seemed appropriate to stay with my Southern family this year. Their endless support of my love affair with horses and desire for vet school means more to me than they know. The path I've picked is hard and any and all support I can get is greatly appreciated.
The Texas Sun has not been brutal, but I've been told next month it'll be horrid. I don't mind the heat or the sun, I've been enjoying it quite a bit. Of course, there are horses out back too, so, the heat hasn't been my focus. Being back at the ranch has been nice. Sunday I watched "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" on my Aunt's couch; where I watched it for the first time twelve years ago. Their ranch, that movie and those horses in the back pasture are where my love affair with the equine species began.
I've always loved and admired my Aunts and their tenacious ways. Those women know what they want, when they want it and how they're going to get it. They're all very successful women who've achieved much and will always have my respect. My Uncles aren't half-stepping either. Providing for their families, extended or not, has always been a priority for them, and they work hard to do so. My Uncle whom I'm staying with has always been my favorite above all(shhhh, I didn't say that). He's kinda the reason I became interested in horses, an interest that has and is fueling my journey for vet school. Ever since I can remember vet school has been something I've said I'm going to do, and look at me now. August 22 I'll be starting pre-veterinary medicine. In eight years I'll be a certified veterinarian for horses and cows living in Texas. It's a dream becoming a reality, and I can't wait for it to begin.
Believe it or not I am going to discuss horses on this horse website. I'd like to spend a little time on Cutting.
I remember watching RFD-TV one day, there was a cutting competition on. Some chick on a pretty palomino was cutting this red cow. The cow was intense but so was the horse and rider. It was awesome. She cut two cows after the red one and won with the highest score. After the cutting show was done Team Penning came on. I was glued to the TV as I watched an all girl team kick butt. That too looked awesome, along with the reining competition I watched. From that point on I was pretty much set on doing Cutting, Reining and Team Penning. I was, and still plan, going to compete in reining and cutting at the AQHA Congress and win. Of course, in order to do any of those you have to first be able to ride. I spent a year and a half learning to ride and practicing Trail Class patterns. I can walk, trot, lope; back up; do figure eights and serpentines; trot and canter barrels and poles; went over jumps and through "ponds"; I even taught myself how to do basic bareback riding. I then went to work for a stable for a year before coming to Texas. The stable was pretty strict and did not allow riding. I "rode" occasionally the horses who acted up under saddle. Usually I was only in the saddle for a few minutes doing lateral flexion, backing up and working on steering. I practiced my Natural Horsemanship techniques and helped to teach children how to ride. I gave a few lessons and helped with many more. It's been a while since I last truly rode a horse, so, needless to say I've been pretty anxious when riding my Uncle's mare. But I've been relaxing and finding my comfort level. It's been far too long since I last loped on a horse, I'm feeling the need to start that up again. Loping through a field is my favorite thing to do. Ahh, but I'm rambling. Cutting is what I wanted to spend time on.
I've watched my Uncle cut cows and read a book on cutting, and this is what I've learned so far:
* BALANCE IS KEY~ have you ever watched a cutting competition? Like, seriously sat down and watched it? That horse is whipping to the right, whipping to the left and crouching down low. If your balance is crappy you'll go flying into the dirt. I did. The horse I used to ride decided to cut sharp to the left and I went flying to the right. Little bit about the horse I rode. He was a beautiful buckskin Quarter Horse that looks identical to Spirit. He was stubborn as a mule and lazy as all get out. Cody didn't have a mean bone in his body and was generally a sweetheart. I love him to pieces. Every now and then he'd give me a few good, hard bucks and try to take off, but usually I could correct it and go on as if nothing had ever happened. His hocks aren't the greatest so he can never be used for anything intense like reining or cutting, so he was used for lessons and showmanship shows and trail classes. Cody had head-shaking syndrome, which is a fancy way of saying, he gets horrible migraines in the summer. When he gets these migraines he becomes very hostile and aggressive. I had no clue how to tell when he was experiencing this as no one ever told me how to know when it was bothering him. All they said was "You won't forget it", and I haven't. Last summer I was in a paddock with him, I had just been riding and was feeling rather irritable. Cody had acted horribly under saddle, taking the bit, bolting and bucking a few times. He refused to stand and refused to do anything that I asked of him. He spent most the time tossing his head and snorting and shaking his head all over. Disgusted, I ended with a pattern we knew and got off. I untacked him and was going to turn him out when he just came after me. Ears pinned, teeth bared Cody charged me from across the paddock. The lead rope was in my hand and I used it to deter him from running me down. Cody did not like things waved at him and would steer clear of things that did. He continued this hostile behavior, twice kicking out as he came past, for a while before finally calming down. I approached him, placed a rope over his neck, and let him out to pasture. He seemed almost apologetic the entire time. This was not normal behavior for Cody and bothered me for some time. I did not bother riding him the following day as he was still hostile and I didn't feel up to facing that challenge. I believe he was experiencing one of his head-shaking episodes, and my riding him and having a bridle on didn't help any. Cody was and is lazy. The lope is my favorite gait and the lope is the one where I face the most challenges with my balance. I have good balance at the trot but when it comes to loping I struggle. I spent a lot of time last year working on my balance at a lope and I must say I've made great improvement. Of course, whether my balance is still strong now is a good question, but I intend to find out. Anyways, back to cutting. Balance is key to being able to stay on that horse as it cuts the cows. Sit deep on your pockets, push against the saddle horn and pray to God you stay on. It sounds simple enough but something tells me I'm going to be eating some dirt haha.
* A Horse With Cow Sense~ the next and last thing I've noticed so far is that not every horse is suited for cutting. Cody is terrified of cows but Blue, a Quarter Horse mare I know, loves them. Her ears go up, her eyes get bright and you can see the excitement in her body as she tracks where those cows are going. Sugar, my Uncle's mare that I've been riding, is the same way. I remember sitting on her as a herd of cattle came into the arena. Her ears went forward, her eyes lit up and I could feel all her muscles tense up as she waited for the chance to cut some cows. As they moved about she watched them and kept track of where they went. But I don't think every horse possesses that same lust for cows. Not every horse is curious about cows or gets a high from chasing them. A horse that expresses curiosity for cows and shows interest them, I feel, has more potential for cutting than the horse that doesn't. Sorry Cody, but you'll never be a cutting horse in my book.
These are just a couple of things I've picked up since watching and reading about cutting. The only thing left is to actually experience it for myself. Cutting is an art that's beautiful to watch and looks like a load of fun to do.
That's all for now,
~Have a happy ride~