I know I promised some video of me and Rudy from the show this past weekend…do not fear. It is coming! But before I start attempting to be tech savvy and figure out how to get said video footage onto my laptop, I wanted to share a fun experience I had this weekend!…
I visited my old college roommates this weekend in their hometown. We went tubing down the river (so much fun!), reminisced, drank, ate, and had a grand time. One of my roommates and I first connected over our mutual love for horses. So naturally, we can’t spend much time together without horses coming into the picture before too long! While her and I ride Hunter/Jumpers and were on the IHSA team together, her dad is a cutting horse trainer. I always love going to his barn and riding his horses when I visit with her. It is so interesting to me to see the different approaches he takes as well as the similarities.
Today I got to ride a young Quarter Horse gelding named Scooter. Scooter was apparently “big” for a cutting horse. I would guess he stood just around 15 hands. I got a chuckle out of that! And then got teased for my 17h warmblood, how big his shoes are, and how much it probably costs to feed him (all in good fun of course!). Scooter was a blast! I got to warm him up and play around in the ring before her dad got on to “work the flag”. It was described to me as being similar to gymnastics for jumpers…
It’s essentially a flag tied to a long (about 60 feet) horizontal rope that moves side-to-side by the control of a motor. There are different patterns, speeds, lengths, etc. that you can set it to or you can control it with a remote you Velcro to your wrist while you ride. It is what they use to school their horses for cutting so that they are sharper when they cut actual cows. It was a neat concept I thought! They will use other things besides a flag too. They also have a “critter”. Which is a fake cow on a mini-railroad track that operates similar to the flag and string. I got to work the critter one time and it was a lot of fun! I rode “the babysitter” and she wasn’t as athletic as the other cutting horses but I got the general idea and had a good time.
While riding I was surprised at how similar it was to what I do. Obviously there were some differences too. For one, I was in a big western saddle. Duh. You use a lot less hand, less “supportive” leg, kept your hands lower, and the horses have a lot more woah. However, Scooter was naturally forward, I didn’t use big western spurs, he moved off my leg, used the same aids for a lead change (except more lift with the inside rein), etc. I was told “just ride him like a hunter horse. He’s broke.”
While I was riding I realized that the western saddle actually really helped my seat. And the way you are suppose to ride (how I attempted) helped me to relax my leg and wrap around the horse more. I rode in an English saddle later today and felt like I could sit better even after just one ride! I don’t think riding western very frequently would benefit my hunter/jumper riding, but definitely a few times hear and then is a good way to readjust some bad habits I get from being too comfortable in the English saddle.
When watching some of the horses get worked on the flag and a few lessons be taught I again noticed similarities and came away with a few things to help in my own riding. One beginner rider was instructed on how to stay more balanced while the horse swept around to change directions and chase the flag. “Put more weight on the back [outside] stirrup while he moves so you don’t lean and fall to the inside”…Wow. That sounds familiar. I don’t know how many times I have heard “Turning should come from your outside aids. Don’t lean through the turn”. There was a lot of “be softer”, “you ride better when you just relax”, “think less and let it happen”, “stay out of her way”… Again, all things that apply to my (really, all…) discipline as well.
When in the barn, again, there was both differences and similarities. Grooming was essentially the same but they keep their tails showsheened and braided and manes long. These horses were clean, slick, well fed, and shiny. I wanted to steal all of them and turn them into division hunter ponies. Stalls were bedded with similar bedding and to the same depth I bed my own stalls. Turnout was different. There was only two pastures for eight horses but horses were turned out by themselves for just a few hours occasionally. Instead of turnout, horses were usually put on the walker, which had different settings to let the horses either play, trot, have a brisk walk, cool down, etc. ALL of the horses had amazing ground manners. Which was impressive because there is hardly ever a horse over 9 in the barn and most of them are under 4.
What I took home from this experience (besides wanting to add a cutting horse to the list of horses I want when I win the lottery) was that there is something each discipline can teach us. There are great horseman in all disciplines and there are poor representations of all disciplines. There are jumpers that tear around and make people think jumpers are all about being fast. Then there is Beezie Madden (enough said). There are eventers that are dangerous. Then there is Mike Plumb. There are dressage riders that over flex their horses. Then there is Totilas…I can only give these examples because I am not familiar enough with other types of disciplines like racing, western pleasure, walking horses, cart horses, etc. I would love to expose myself to other disciplines more frequently. I would like to observe and learn from the best of each discipline. Many, if not all, disciplines are rooted in history and have evolved over the years from practical use. I believe the foundation and basic principles of all disciplines are all very similar. After all, “we are all horse people”.