The skill and agility it takes for a rider and horse to remove – or ‘cut’ -- a single cow from a herd and keep it from rejoining its fellow animals is often surprising: a series of quick adjustments, movements and turns made to look seemingly effortless in spite of the short reaction times.
Then there’s this interesting fact, especially with older animals: for the most part, the horses are doing it all on their own.
Anyone looking to see such skills firsthand can do so this weekend during the Moose Jaw Cutting Horse Show, taking place throughout the weekend at the Golden Mile Arena.
“This really shows the horse’s intelligence and athletic ability,” said event organizer Barry Good. “So when you go to sort that cow, you drive it out there and put your hand up, that horse has to hold it, on its own. You’re allowed to help a little tiny bit, but not with your hands, you can’t steer it, so you’re demonstrating the fact this horse can handle, control and stop the cow on its own.”
Each horse and rider are judged and given deductions for errors, with the highest score taking the competition.
Thursday afternoon saw some of the youngest animals in action, with three- and four-year-olds taking centre stage. Like any youngster, they need a helping hand in the ring as they find the footing and necessary skills to become a top-flight cutting horse.
“For a lot of these horses today, this is the very first time they’ve ever been shown,” Good explained. “So they’re needing a bit of help, but they’re babies. Where this morning you would have had the six- and seven-year-olds and they can do a lot on their own, they don’t need as much help.”
That’s where things will be the most interesting on Saturday night, with the 7 p.m. performance featuring the Open & Non-Pro classes with some of the top veteran horses in western Canada on display.
“They’ll really show their chemistry and ability, they’ll be some of the best horses here this weekend,” Good said.
The entire event comes straight out of a ‘my horse is better than your horse’ competitive spirit and is a direct product of actual, day-to-day farm and ranch work – working with a herd, separating a cow that needs to go someplace else and moving that sole animal along to its destination. Naturally, having a horse capable of such work, and especially one capable of doing it all on its own, is a major part of the job.
“So we’re taking a farm or ranch activity and making a game out of it,” Good said. “This is the kind of thing you’d do on a ranch or out in the open, where you’d sort the different owners’ cattle and things like that. And we still do it today on the farm, it’s an actual ranching chore.”
Competition resumes 9 a.m. Friday at the Golden Mile Arena as the Limited Age Event continues, with sessions starting at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday.