Tips to Develop Your Cutting Seat

Tips to Develop Your Cutting Seat

“Seat” as used here refers to stability in physical balance as well as a close connection to your horse.

Physically, I’m referring to your backside, particularly from your lower back to the top of your legs.

I’m talking about the ease and stability of that portion of your body as it acts like a flexible, heavy anchor aboard your horse. With this soft and heavy comfort, the rest of your body parts can function freely and independently.

It is finding and flowing with the movement of your horse in this sweet spot that allows all other parts of your body to their jobs.

When this part of your body feels soft and heavy, your arms, legs and feet will feel like they are on hinges as they work independent of your lower center of your body.

You will feel grounded physically AND mentally because this is the part of your body where your emotions are housed as well.

There are some simple things you can do to find and keep your seat.

1. Try this simple action. It is more internal than external in developing this anchor of stability.

Press your abdomen/tummy within towards your back bone. Feel the compression on the inside.

It will feel heavy, yet you will feel connected to your horse. With this awareness, soften your shoulders and your arms. Feel the independent use capability of your arms and legs.

2. As you ride your horse in different gaits, become aware of your seat bones and how your horse moves your hips and specifically those two seat bones.

3. Keep reminding yourself to be stable and conscious of your core by saying a word or words to yourself over and over to develop this awareness.

For example, say to yourself, almost like a chant, “Core. Cow. Core. Cow. Core. Cow.” These two words will keep you focused on the cow and focused on your core/seat at the same time.

4. Remind yourself to stay loose and watch the cow as you work the cow. Add “Loose” to your previous mantra. Or, you might want to add the word, “Heavy’. Say to yourself whatever works for you.

Keep telling yourself this. I know it sounds a little unusual, but when you say these words to yourself over and over, to “Cow… Core… Loose… Cow… Core… Loose,” now you are the one in control of feeding yourself the reminders that you need to be connected to your horse, loose and connected to the cow.

Enjoy developing more balance and more connection with your horse, as well as the ability to use your hands and your feet independently as you work a cow.

Show Time

Show Time

The shows are really beginning to open up now. Hallelujah! 
This quote so inspired me when I reread it this week, that I wanted to share my thoughts with you about showing. It’s one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Jim Loehr:
“When you ride, you’re deepening your sense of joy and appreciation for this opportunity with your horse. You’re learning so much about yourself and your horse. The whole thing is such a fabulous gift in your life. If you win great championships and if you win great medals, that’s just icing on the cake.”



Hey, it’s Barb.

I know that a lot of the shows are beginning to open up across the country. That’s so exciting! 

If you compete, I also know you’re really happy about this because we’re all ready to get out. And showing is such a great opportunity to see your friends and have fun!

I want to take a few minutes today to just talk about competition a little bit. Here’s the thing. 

We always think so much about competition in terms of how we and our horses compare to other people… and how were judged… and the results.

Black and white results are important, of course. I’m not minimizing that at all.

I do want to share a little research with you that I think is insightful. It might also be a little bit surprising to you. 

When Dr. Loehr did his original performance research, which was all about performer skills and one’s ability to perform under pressure in any competitive arena… as time went on… he found that if certain athletes did do well, they felt they had to do well again… and again… and again. When their whole purpose was to achieve external results alone, they found themselves on a never-ending wheel of proving themselves. They had to continue to be the best, and never slip-up, at least in their minds!

That’s insatiable, really. 

But what further research showed is that when athletes knew their personal values, that is they knew why they competed and they knew what was important to them. They knew they were becoming more as a person. They knew they were enjoying their friends. They knew each competition was an opportunity to put themselves on the line and stretch! Then, they were happier and kept growing personally. 

So if we as riders have great challenges and things don’t work out very well in the show pen… we can still know that riding and showing a horse is an awesome gift in our lives. We can get up again and brush ourselves off and keep going and growing.

It really boils down to knowing and appreciating what a tremendous opportunity it is to show a horse beyond the end of the day results. 

We can celebrate our friends. We can keep reaching for excellence, keep striving and keep learning. 

Whether you win or whether you don’t win… whether you place or you don’t place, you can review your ride and evaluate all by your own scorecard. What did you do well, and what can you do better? What do you need to work on for the next time you show?

Reaching and learning and enjoying continues on forever. It never changes.

Most importantly, because of these fabulous ups and downs, through it all, as a person you are growing… and becoming… and experiencing!

Again, your friends, the horse you’re riding, and all of your adventures… these are what’s remembered and cherished.

That being said, go get ‘em and have a great time! Stay encouraged. Stay focused on your path. Keep reaching and improving. Measure all by your own scorecard. 

Stops On A Fast Cow Can be Harrowing!

Stops On A Fast Cow Can be Harrowing!

I receive some form of this question a lot:

“What advice can you give an amateur cutter who becomes very anxious and feels out of control when the cow takes off running when practicing in a large round pen … and your biggest fear is the unexpected STOP. Any advice or practice tips you can share to help get control of this?”

This can be a really scary situation, not to mention a little dangerous sometimes.

My first thought is a rather obvious one, but I have to mention it.

Stay safe. I don’t really know how your horse stops when he goes fast. If he stops on his front end every time, that is difficult for anyone to ride.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that your horse stops on his hindquarters… at least most of the time!

These three things are necessary for stops to be comfortable at high speeds:

1. Both the horse and the rider must rate the cow.

By this, I mean that if as a rider you are dreading the stop and you’re not focused on reading the cow, there is no doubt you will most likely keep your feet in your horse and cause him to stop on his front end.

Riding cow horses has a tremendous amount to do with reading a cow no matter the speed… slow or fast.

It takes time to trust your horse and yourself as you read a faster cow.

However, that being said, you can talk to yourself constantly while working a cow and tell yourself, “Read the cow. Read the cow. Read the cow.”

This mantra helps you focus your eyes and your mind on the cow instead of thinking about the fear of the speed and what could happen. By saying this to yourself repeatedly, over time you WILL learn to read a cow if you focus on it.

As you learn to read a cow better, you will begin to round your lower back and drop your seat down as you see the cow begin to stop, which gives your horse time to stop on his hindquarters in position with and in time with the cow.

2. A horse must be collected and have some propulsion to stop well.

The rider aids collection and propulsion (or hinders it) with what he or she does with their feet while traveling with a cow.

Regarding a stop, make sure your seat is down and stays down as your horse stops AND all the way through the turn.

Your feet need to be OUT OF HIM as he’s stopping.

When you begin to travel with a cow at the end of the turn, your feet re-enter the scene to guide or propel a horse.

My suggestion is to really understand (with the help of a trainer or mentor) this entire sequence of how to use your feet for the stop and turn.

Different trainers have different philosophies about this. Really seek to understand first. Then, practice it on a flag if you can, as well as on cattle.

It takes time to master timing with your feet, but it has everything to do with if your horse stops well on a fast cow.

3. Your upper body needs to stay soft and pliable, especially your hips and your lower back.

Your center of balance is in your lower abdomen. Your hips should feel soft and heavy and your back should feel soft and rounded for stops.

I agree with the concept of “push on the horn” if you are just beginning to work a cow, especially if you are pulling on the horn.

Beyond that time however, I believe it is much better to tell yourself to “Get heavy, soft and deep in your hips,” as you stop.

I WAY prefer this to “push on the horn” which makes your arm stiff… which stiffens your entire upper body… and ultimately actually takes your balance out of your seat.

I do think it’s a good idea to gently use the horn as a balancing lever by pressing against it with the heel of your hand if necessary from time to time, but not as an end in itself.

When someone tells you to push on the horn, press gently on it and get heavy in the saddle. Consciously tune into softening your hips and lower back.

While these three suggestions are not all-inclusive, they are vital to help you develop great stops with speed.

In time you will come to love feeling the rhythm in controlling a fast cow. In the meantime, practice the above and be patient with yourself in this learning curve.

Although it takes time, the end result is well worth the time and effort.

The Rhythm of Working a Cow

The Rhythm of Working a Cow

One challenge in working a cow, is to get all of the pieces of accuracy, form and rhythm to stay correct … no matter the speed of the cow.

This video is a great example of the pretty form and rhythm we all aspire to achieve as we work a cow. Below the video, I explain the component parts of working a cow.

Identify those pieces as you watch Lloyd Cox and Blackish work a cow.

Let’s start from the place where you and your horse are traveling across the arena, on a straight line, and in position with a cow.

You: Good position as you travel … slightly ahead of the cow … your leg in the cow’s shoulder.

Cow: Begins to slow down.

You: Because you’re reading the cow as you travel … and you and your horse are in position to stop the cow … when you see the cow begin to even think about slowing down, your seat drops to help your horse rate the cow and get ready to stop.

Cow: Stops.

You: Collapse your back and drop your seat softly down “into” your saddle as you see the cow stop. Continue to exhale and imagine your core dropping into your horse. 

Cow: Still stopped.

You: Stay low. Stay down. All the while, read the cow. Sink lower.

Your Horse: His weight remains on his hindquarters as he feels you stay quiet, still and low in the saddle. He reads the cow.

Cow: Turns and goes the opposite direction.

You: When the cow first begins to turn, you stay still. Your eyes remain on the cow. There’s a momentary “wait”. You stay low as the horse pivots 180 degrees on the “line” and comes out of the turn slightly behind the cow.

You: When you get to the 180 point, you are behind the cow … again, just for a moment.

You: Now, proactively, but accurately, you accelerate your horse on the line to get into position to stop the cow.

You: Now you’re back traveling with the cow. The cycle begins again as noted beginning at the top of this list..

NOTE: The natural tendency is to do the opposite re: rush the turn when you need to wait … and not travel in position or with authority once you are traveling on the line.

Walking Through Difficult Emotions

Walking Through Difficult Emotions

Staying home for the past few weeks has given me, probably like you, some time to reflect.

There are a couple of powerful ideas that are central to personal performance training that not only work with our horses but also in our daily lives. I want to share them here with you. 

But first, I want to take a moment to thank the health care workers, the grocery store clerks and all those who are the true heroes on the front lines of this pandemic. I also think we need to thank their families. It’s worrisome and exhausting for everyone. They are the ones who are putting themselves in harm’s way for us. I can only imagine how hard that must be… so thank you all.

The challenge is that now (because we have no idea how to handle a pandemic), we have unsettling emotions wash over us. We often have no idea what to do with. 

We feel vulnerable. That’s never comfortable. 

The first idea I want to share from my personal performance training is becoming aware of our own emotions… our own energy state… and then choosing how we will respond to how we feel at any moment in time.

If we find ourselves in a state of emotion that does not serve us, we truly have the power to change it.

It’s a practice. We’re all a work in progress.

It’s not to say that not feeling nervous or fearful or vulnerable is the goal. That would be impossible. We all experience all kinds of emotions all across the board many times throughout every day with our horses and of course, during these current times.

But I think these vulnerabilities and unsteady feelings give us opportunities to develop qualities that serve us well in riding and in living.

The first is self-awareness.

When we ride, and now, we make it a priority to tune into our own emotions on a regular basis. For example, we get grounded before we get on. We get present in the moment with our horse. We take a breath and leave the rest of the world behind.

The way it works in our everyday lives is that we notice how we are feeling. We lean into it. We are aware and then we make a choice of how to respond.

The second step is to respond first with calmness. In riding, breathing consistently for the goal of being in a state wherein you can make the best choices possible, sets you up for success. 

Next, talk to yourself to either let mistakes go or coach yourself through what you need to do. These two tools are truly so empowering.

In these times, when feelings I’ve never experienced before wash over me, I notice them. I do my best to lean into them… and breathe. I have some favorite go-to quotes or scripture verses… or I decide if the fear I feel requires action, I’ll do my best to take that action… or will I just let the feelings wash through me?

I don’t just believe, I know, that as we lean into our vulnerabilities, whether it’s with our horses to make a prettier lead change, or lean into challenges in our lives that we never dreamt would happen… we can take a moment, get calm and then decide on our next best steps.

Every time we do this simple process, we set ourselves up to choose thoughts and actions that empower us and then find solutions.

Let me know what you think about this three-step process of becoming self-aware, cultivating calmness and then making choices.

Blessings to you and stay safe, dear friends.