Choosing A Horse
It is wise to spend time getting to know the rules of the sport, as well as your own goals, before you invest in a horse. Enter the sport at a level you can enjoy.
An ideal horse for the beginner is an older, seasoned horse that knows the rules of the game. A horse which will not be flustered or confused by an inexperienced rider's body language is best. While it is difficult for most horses to stop when the rider is hanging on with both spurs, a good beginner's horse is forgiving.
Once you learn the basics and earn a few checks in competition, you will be ready to move up to the next level. That is the beauty of the sport.
Finding the Right Saddle After the horse comes the saddle one made specifically for cutting competition with a spacious, flat seat. The saddle should fit both the horse and the rider, and may have a breast collar or back cinch. A list of details to look for in selecting your first saddle would include the following: seat size, fender length and stirrup style, shape and height or horn, height of swells, and hard seat or padded seat. Other features such as tooling, conchos, and color are cosmetic. Another factor to consider, is the trade-in or resale value of the saddle. Choosing the Right Tack When picking out tack, take someone knowledgeable while shopping if you are unfamiliar with the NCHA equipment rules. Choose your equipment so it may be something that your horse can be "worked" in while practicing as well as shown in. Stay focused while shopping; purchase items that are proven basic and practical. Good equipment helps you and your horse stay competitive enabling the "WIN"!
"Gimmick" items always need to be checked on with your trainer before purchasing. Quality and fit should always be your highest priority. Examine the product, think about how it will "feel" and "how much you will feel back from your horse".
The tack items needed are as follows:
Bridle: A leather headstall is preferred, brow band, split ear or slot ear designs are the options. A bit made from "Sweet Steel" that will enhance a "Wet Mouth"; your bit will need to be matched to both your and your horse's ability. A curb chain made from either all leather or leather and chain combination to fit the horse's temperament. A pair of split reins made of heavy harness leather; they may be sized in both length and width to fit the comfort of the rider's hands.
Saddle Blanket: The blanket should be constructed from all natural fibers; hand-woven 100% wool is the most common. It should be larger in size than the skirts on the saddle and have wear leathers on both sides to help protect the edges underneath the fenders and tie-straps for the cinch.
Leg Protection: The horse needs splint boots for the front legs and back boots or skid boots. These boots will protect the horse's legs during the rigorous stops and turns demanded during cutting competition.
Chaps: Although they are not required, leather chaps or leggings protect clothing and help the rider stay put in the saddle. Whatever your choice in style and design, it is recommended to have them custom fit.
Grooming Kit: Good grooming is as important for the horse as it is for the rider. Top quality brushes, sponges, shampoos, and coat conditioners are a necessity. Information contained in "Finding the Right Saddle" and "Choosing the Right Tack" is courtesy of M.L. Leddy's Boot & Saddlery. For more information about purchasing your first saddle contact M.L. Leddy's at (817) 624-3140. The NCHA is proud to have M.L. Leddy's as the "Official Saddle of the NCHA". All M.L. Leddy's saddles are hand fitted to the lifetime guaranteed tree.
Finding a Trainer
Trainers are an invaluable source of information. In addition to teaching you the fine art of cutting, your trainer may work with you on basic riding and horse safety skills, depending on your needs.
Remember, do not be afraid to ask your trainer questions, no matter how trivial a question may seem to you. Contact the NCHA for a list of trainers in your area. Preparing for the Show Cutting is both a physical and a mental game and preparation begins well in advance of the competition. Just as you lope and exercise your horse, you should prepare yourself physically, as well. Consult your doctor or fitness instructor for a stretching and exercise routine to fit your needs. Not only will it help your muscles to relax, it will help you prepare mentally, as well. Take a few moments, if possible, before you show, either by yourself or with your trainer, to focus and review your game plan for inside the competition arena.
Loping Pen Etiquette and Guidelines
- Stay to the inside if you want to go slow, stay to the outside if you want to go fast.
- Never stop in traffic. Stop in an area with no traffic. Groom and apply boots in areas with no traffic.
- If you must tie your horse, tie him to something secure.
- A rider must be in control of his/her horse at all times.
- Look before leaving or entering traffic. Yield to lopers.
- Do not exercise horses or train young horses when there is limited space in the loping area.
- Do not weave in and out of traffic without looking. Maintain constant speed and stay to the inside when going slow.
- Change directions and maintain flow in one direction when asked. Always ask when you wish to change directions.
- Yield to tractor and be careful of pedestrians and other lopers wishing to exit or enter. Leave pen when asked by announcer.
- Try to maintain a good sense of humor. People may be tired and nervous. Be patient with newcomers and try to help them learn by referring them to these guidelines.