How to Coordinate Your Hand and Feet on the Cut

How to Coordinate Your Hand and Feet on the Cut

There are three main things going on as you’re walking through the herd to make a cut. The first is effective communication with your horse. The second is reading an ever-changing situation. The third is making good decisions moment-to-moment.

That’s a lot to manage all at one time! 

This article is about how to use your feet to communicate with your horse on the cut (as opposed to the natural tendency to go to your hand almost exclusively.) The truth is, good communication with your horse on the cut is about seamlessly integrating your hand with your and feet. 

Here are 5 guidelines to help you coordinate your hand and your feet on the cut.

1. Keep your eyes focused on where you’re going. 

When we’re not sure exactly what to do next, it’s easy to get flustered, look down and start moving our hand erratically. 

No matter what, keep your eyes up with a wide vision. Then as you develop the feel of moving your horse with your feet, you will guide him more accurately because your eyes are always focused on where you want to go. 

I’m not sure why this is such a powerful concept, but it is. Controlling your eyes is instrumental in using your feet and hand appropriately. 

2. Know that when you have light contact with the horse’s mouth, he will respond. 

You want to know that at any moment your horse will “listen” to you when you pick him up to direct him or guide him. Ideally, when you pick your hand up, he is light, pauses and waits for you to give him his next direction with your feet. 

3. Point your hand. 

Point your hand on the mid-line of his neck in the direction you want to go. Additional communications as in lateral movement, forward movement, and acceleration come from your feet. 

4. Add your feet purposefully after you point your hand.

  • To add speed to continue on in the same direction, use both feet simultaneously.

  • To shape a horse’s body part, use one foot. For example, a light foot pressed against a horse’s rib cage will typically cause him to turn his nose in that direction.

  • To hold a horse steady, apply consistent pressure with one foot to keep a horse from “wiggling” back and forth. For example, if he wants to move his hind quarters to the right, just move your right foot back and towards his hindquarters and hold it there until he stops moving. Then release your foot.

  • Both feet may be used in sequence or simultaneously for different functions like shaping a horse’s body in the direction of the turn prior to a pivot, but then use the opposite foot to move the horse through the turn.

5. Coordinate your hand and feet when a cow jets quickly across the arena. 

When you get a fast cow on the cut, the movements are the same as described above, but they are happening at mach speed. In general, use your hand to point in the direction you want to go and “keep your horse with you.” However, it’s your feet that shape a horse’s body, move him laterally or across the arena and then up into a cow. 

It takes patience to develop these complex skills. With time they will become more natural.

7 Steps for Making Good Decisions in the Herd

7 Steps for Making Good Decisions in the Herd

It’s easy to wait to hear your name called and then rely on your trainer for a cow plan as you walk to the herd.

However, I believe this is the slow road to becoming skilled in the herd.

There is so much you can do to set yourself up for herdwork success … as you collaborate well with your trainer or #1 helper.

Here are 7 steps to help you make the best possible decisions in the herd:

1. Have a plan for your herdwork. Will you cut shape, specific cattle, or both?

Be proactive in planning details. Will you watch cattle? Who will keep your horse warm? When will you get on your horse? If you cut shape, where will your eyes be?

Then there’s the universal plan for all cutters: cut your cow way up and in the middle of the arena.

2. During your warm up and/or as you practice watching cattle in previous classes, mentally rehearse scanning the cattle as you walk through the herd. This mental rehearsal will prepare you to see situations as they change as well as respond to them moment to moment during your show run.

The ability to scan the cattle by moving your head and observing the big picture of what is going on in the herd, as well as seeing the cow you want to cut, is one of the most important skills for making good decisions in the herd.

3. Set up a communication system with your helpers for the cutsprior to your run.

Who is your main person? Visit with them about things they say during your cuts that really help you. By initiating a conversation about what confuses you and what helps you prior to your run, you will set yourself up for success during your cuts because everyone will be on the same page.

4. Get into a calm and focused state of mind before you walk to the herd.

Review your herdwork plan. Focus on what you will do. Feel grounded and patient … yet authoritative. Put your chin up and shoulders back. Keep your eyes on the herd. Breathe.

5. On each cow, enter the herd with purpose. Know where you are going and why you are moving in a specific direction before you enter the herd on each cut.

Remember to pause, breathe and take time to do regroup and re-focus before your 2nd and 3rd cuts. It’s easy to feel mentally sped up after working a cow.

Always enter the herd with purpose. Resist the tendency to just start walking and then decide what to do.

6. Walk through the herd with patience and purpose as you continually scan the cattle to evaluate how the situation is shaping up moment by moment.

Scanning allows you to see and take advantage of opportunities to drive your cow way out, up and to the middle of the arena. Scanning is the master skill of making good decisions.

7. Get re-grounded between cattle.

Have a routine between cattle. Quit with smooth hand motions. Turn your horse slowly. Pause. Breathe. Decide what your next move will be. And only then, continue on.

How to Make Change Less Scary

How to Make Change Less Scary

Can you relate to being at one place in your riding at one point in time … and then … for whatever reason … life and ‘stuff’ happened … and you’re less confident … maybe even confused … now?

Perhaps things snowballed in your mind. “What do others think of me? Can I really do this? My progress is too slow. I feel stuck. I’m not like I used to be. I’ll never get there.” And on.

One way to face change is to understand that your situation will always change. 

No one escapes change. 

Sometimes it sneaks up on you. Sometimes it knocks you in the head.

Some changes are out of your control (like getting older, or forced time away from riding). Other changes are more subtle, like different desires now. It’s all so personal. 

However, all that really matters is this place in time, right now … today. 

What do you truly love and want to do, now? But of course, because of all the things you think about your past and other people etc., it’s natural to feel confused and/or lack confidence. 

What made a huge impact on my life (once again) was the work of my mentor, Dr. Jim Loehr. He talks about who you are becoming because of all you do … and designing and judging everything by your own scorecard. 

Your personal growth and joy with horses is truly at the heart of all you do. 

When you value, above all else, the positives and the challenges of your personal journey with your horse, change can be less scary. 

Start from where you are. Keep growing personally. Continue to learn and advance your technical skills. Practice mental skills. Make choice that make you happy. Embrace the adventure of your journey. 

Thennnnn, your brand of your life with your horse … well … it will all be personally fulfilling and free. 

You don’t have to be any place other than where you are right now. It’s enough. You are enough. 

And from this moment in time you can face change, and choose to do whatever you want to do. You design the “terms” of your success … and fun.

8 Reasons to Quit a Cow

8 Reasons to Quit a Cow

Quitting a cow is one of those crucial decisions you make at the spur of the moment when you show in cutting or in herd work classes. This article is about helping you make good decisions about when it’s time to decide if you should quit … or not.

But first, here are a few generalities regarding “good, mediocre and bad” cattle.

If your cow is “good” has she been maximized … that is, did you get all the credit-earning work out of her yet?

A good cow faces your horse and goes back and forth for 15-30 feet at a medium speed in the middle of the arena. She has “feel” which means she stops and goes the other direction when you get into the correct position to stop her. The ideal cow never darts toward the turn back people, the herd holders, the back fence or the side walls of the arena.

If your cow is “mediocre,” is she worth staying on for what you need to accomplish in your run as a whole?

Typically this kind of cow wanders around a lot or stays out away from you. She’s not that interested in you and your horse or even interested in getting back to the herd. She also might move at a rather slow speed so she doesn’t give you a chance to earn credit. She’s “safe” but not not run building.

If your cow is “bad,” is the only smart thing to do quit and get another cow?

This could be a cow that doesn’t move, doesn’t respect your horse or who runs all over the arena. Normally, you need to quit that kind of cow immediately.

Here are eight reasons to consider quitting a cow.

1.) She starts off well, but then darts hard towards one of the corners.

The key word here is darts. You can bet that the next time she comes back in the same direction, she will try even harder to get to the corner and/or return to the herd. That cow is no good. Do your best to stop her and quit working her as soon as possible.

2.) She is numb.

She stands there and your turn back helpers are yelling and slapping their chaps. She barely moves. Quit.

3.) She is crazo!

Her tail goes up and maybe over her back. She is on a mission to go anywhere at jet speed and get by any horse she can. She might aim at the turn back horses or just run around wildly in the arena.

If she is super wild and you keep working her, even if she’s not coming in your direction, chances are she’s going to turn on you sooner or later and come at you hard! Stop working her.

4.) She starts off like an ideal cow, but then starts moving in any direction out of the middle of the arena sweet spot. She may not be that bad, but chances are you’ve gotten all of the good stuff out of her and she’s not coming back to stage center. The choice to stay on her depending upon other factors, like how good or bad the cattle are as a group, how much time you worked your first cow, etc.

5.) She starts running from wall-to-wall. It’s time to quit.

6.) She tries to get through the turn back helpers. Thumbs down.

7.) She snorts at you! Quit ASAP.

8.) From the very beginning she has absolutely no interest in your horse.

She wanders from one place to another … everywhere but in the vicinity of you and your horse. She may or may not be that “bad,” but without you and your horse being able to really affect her behavior and stop her, you won’t be able to earn a lot of credit while working her. Again, it’s your call whether to quit her or work her a little bit longer, depending on other factors.

A great way to practice deciding when to quit is to watch cattle from the bleachers during other classes. As you watch, regardless of what the cutter does, decide when you think it is the best time to quit.

How to Find the Courage

How to Find the Courage

It’s a common thing to love what we do, but settle for less than what we really want to achieve.

By that I mean we allow our past results to dictate how we see our future potential.

If you see yourself in terms of past mistakes and disappointments, most of the time you will continue to do the same. And, by the way, we all tend to do this.

Often this limited view of yourself makes you feel sad, and less than enthusiastic. You might settle into a quiet resignation that things will never change.

You settle for less.

I do understand it can be difficult to see yourself achieving the success you deserve and desire. Many times it’s because your view is blocked by reasons why … try as you might … you believe you just can’t do things differently.

However … the past NEVER equals the future.

There is a fun way to think of future success that can stir a new belief about what can be for you.

This may sound a tiny bit odd, but here goes.

Tell a story about yourself in the third person … as if you’re speaking of someone else.

It might go something like, “Once upon a time, there was a fun loving young girl (or guy) named, ___________ who LOVED horses. In her youth she got to do ________ and ________. And then later on x, and x, and x, and x.”

(Of course this person is you.)

Bring your story up to date.

Now, you’re ready to tell yourself “what happens in the future.” This is where you tell the future story with details that excite you.

” (name) decided one day to break out of feeling stuck. She saw herself doing what she really loved.

She decided to never let adversity dampen her spirit. She used obstacles as opportunities to grow ever wiser and stronger.

She took risks. She designed a riding life she loved, which was ___________. She went on to ________________.

She got feedback and instruction from __________. She practiced new mental tools to stay calm and focused. She always saw herself as an awesome rider.

She was so excited to not listen to those voices in her head that told her she couldn’t do what she loved in the way she loved to do it.

She told herself that she was enough … and that it was all about HER journey … and not how things were judged on the outside.

She became creative. She asked for help. She never gave up. She loved her riding life. She went on to __________.”

As you dare to tell a story to yourself … about yourself … in the third person … that will make you smile. All of a sudden those things seem possible.

Most importantly, you will feel enthusiastic again.

Live, and relive, and relive that story in your mind as if you’ve already achieved it.

This simple story telling tool can light a spark of new belief in unlimited possibilities for you.

Perhaps your story will come true … perhaps it won’t. But to be sure, whatever version comes true, you will have the joy of a moment-to-moment journey. And who you are becoming … and the magnificence of the journey … is what it’s all about.