Two Cutting Mistakes

Riding accurately will help prevent these two common errors in the cutting pen.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Editor’s Note: This is a taste of Part 1 in a two-part series about accuracy in the cutting pen with AQHA Professional Horseman  and Team Wrangler member Ed Dufurrena. Part 1 appeared in its entirety in the November Journal, and you can find Part 2 in the December Journal. For great training tips every month, subscribe to the Journal.

Amateur cutters tend to make two mistakes. Both mistakes come from inexperience. Gaining experience only comes with time, but amateur cutters can take a shortcut if they learn one simple trick: riding accurately.

Cutting looks exciting, but fundamentally, cutting is more about accuracy than speed, and paying attention to the fundamentals is how you create a winning run.

Most people start in the sport of cutting by seeing the brilliant open runs at National Cutting Horse Association aged events in Fort Worth, Texas.

So when they start riding cutting horses, they either assume that the horse does it all, or they override, putting their horse into jeopardy.

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To me, confidence comes from consistency. So whether I’m training a young horse or helping an inexperienced amateur, we ride to the same position on a cow every time to give the rider a target and the horse a comfort zone.

First Mistake

Cutting is a team sport. It takes both horse and rider to make a winning team. Some new cutters don’t understand their role in the process, but they have to ride. That’s their part. They can’t just sit there and

let the horse do all the work.

In beginners, especially, I see riders who are out of position because they are trailing the cow, and that mistake comes from riding too passively.

Riders are responsible for making things happen.

I train horses to go to the same spot every time, but it’s the rider’s job to make sure the horse gets there.

Second Mistake

The second mistake that new amateurs make is that they try to override their horse. You can’t win the NCHA Futurity every weekend, and riding like you’re in the futurity finals is a good way to lose every weekend.

Shannon Hall, a cutter with more than $3.2 million in earnings, said it best. He said, “You can’t go win a cutting. All you can do is cut the best cow you can find and work that cow.”

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He’s right. If your horse is on target and you choose a great cow to cut and the judges like your run, then when the tabulations are finished, you might win.

I find that in the long run, it always pays off to keep your run simple and accurate.

When an amateur makes the second mistake of overriding, he gets ahead of the cow, sometimes to the point that his horse gets agitated and out of control – and then the rider does, too!

As an amateur, if you find yourself getting tense and getting ahead of the cow, you have to slow down your emotions and your feet. Go back to the fundamental mechanics of riding to the exact same spot every time.

If you’ll do that, it’s amazing how your problems will go away and you’ll start to find some natural rhythm in your cutting run.