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.