To a first-time spectator, cutting may appear to be an individual sport. At times a seasoned competitor may feel like he or she is all alone in the middle of the pen. I am certain that a lot of performance nerves stem from thoughts like “Everyone is looking at me! I don’t want to loose a cow!” It is true that for two-and-a-half minutes it is up to you and your horse to mark that 74……but it takes a team to get you there. I have found that if I am mindful of my support team and actively support my team mates, I experience less anxiety and more confidence at a show.
Who is allowed into your inner cutting circle? Who do you turn to for guidance and encouragement? These people are extremely important and more than just casual friends. They can be as much of a part of your success as your horse. The good news is that you get to hand pick these people. So what should you look for when building your support team?
In addition to training your horse and keeping them correct, your trainer is your coach and mentor. When choosing a trainer you have to take into consideration not only your needs, but your horse’s needs as well. This article is focused on your needs. It should go without saying that you must be able to trust your trainer to put your horse’s metal and physical well being first. That leads into a deeper discussion that deserves a separate platform.
Your trainer is the most important member of your team. Be picky. Do your research. Ask other cutters for recommendations. Take a lesson with a few different trainers. You are looking for someone who’s teaching style fits you. Then ask yourself a fewquestions. Do you feel like you got the one-on-one time you needed? Did the instructions and feedback make sense to you? Were you able to ask questionsand were they answered? Did you see any improvement? Was there an “Ah-Ha” moment? Did you have fun? Did you leave feeling positive about the overall experience. It is very difficult to learn in a negative situation. Trust me, I know!
When I was in my mid twenties, I started taking a few cutting lessons with a local trainer. I was wearing rose colored glasses because I wanted to cut so badly. This man would yell and swear at you during your lesson. I guess that was his teaching style. After a few weeks of riding with him, I invited my dad to watch one of my lessons. I will never forget what he told me after that lesson. He said “Megan, don’t you ever pay someone to talk to you like that.” That was my last lesson with that particular trainer. I had such a sour feeling over the experience that I quit riding for a few years. When I decided to start taking lessons again, I made an appointment with NCHA Hall of Fame trainer, Todd Bimat. Before my lesson began I asked Todd if he yelled and swore during his lessons because my dad told me I shouldn’t pay someone to do that. He laughed and said good-naturedly “Well we sure try not to! We try to havefun.” I can say that I never left Todd’s barn without a smile on my face and having learned something. Consequently, I haven’t quit learning or smiling.
In addition to your trainer, surround yourself with positive, motivated cutting friends. Attitudes are contagious. Cutting is such an emotional sport for a lot of people. It is inevitable that you will have a bad run from time to time. Value the people who encourage you and build you up. Avoid the people that just look for someone or something to lay the blame on. It’s easyto complain about the judge, herd help, or cattle. It is also not productive. Whether you mark a 72 or a 60, value yourself enough to be selective about who you lean on. Are these folks congratulating you on how yourhard work paid off? Did they notice the elements of your run that you have been focusing on at home? Are they willing to look at your scorecard and watch your video with you? Are they just there with you or are they really there for you?
These special people make up what I call my “barn family”. Cutting is a sport that no one will ever master, much like golf. There are too many variablesthat you have little or no control over. A supportive barn family will be there to celebrate the great runs and get you through the bad runs. They are an integral part of this competition that we all love so much.