As I mentioned yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a working cowhorse clinic this past weekend. This is the third time I've been to this particular clinic, but the first time I feel like I really did well at it. The clinician was Lynn Anderson, who is the current National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) president, as well as a phenomenal rider.
I do have to point out that I am only 99% sure it was actually called a working cowhorse clinic. Honestly, I can hardly keep all the different cowhorse disciplines straight. I do know that it was a clinic on the cow work portion of the reined cowhorse competition. It is my understanding that there is the rein work, cow work and herd work portions of reined cow horse competitions. The rein work is basically a reining pattern. Then when you complete the pattern, they give you a cow and you go straight into your cow work that includes boxing the cow, taking them down the wall, getting atleast one turn each direction and then circling the cow a full 360 degrees each direction. Then the herd work is more or less cutting. We worked on boxing, taking them down the wall and circling.
Holy cow, what a blast that is! I thought cutting was fun, but this is just an adrenaline rush on four legs! Wow. W-O-W.
If you go to the NRCHA website there is a video on the homepage of what it is supposed to look like. Keep in mind the pros make it look easy to do. In reality it is probably one of the most difficult things to do with cows. You are going full out, balls to the wall galloping to catch those cows and control them and then stopping and turning on a dime, into the wall. It is difficult and dangerous and the most fun I think I've ever had on my horse.
I was pretty excited to get another chance at this clinic this year. I've been the past two years, but have been more then a little disappointed by my performances. The first year I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew nothing about reined cow horses and had never seen them in action. I was absolutely clueless. Which probably turned out to be a good thing. If I had known what I was getting myself into I probably would have had a panic attack and sold my spot. You see, two weeks or so before the clinic Midori decided to be a terd and took off bucking on me. I stuck it out, got her pulled around and disciplined, but as soon as I let up for a second on the rein because I thought we were done, she took off bucking again. At that point I had no stirrups and had only stayed on up until then thru sheer will. The second round of bucks put me up on her neck, connecting hard with the saddle horn on my tail bone on the way. This was two years ago and I still feel it. You can imagine what I felt like two weeks in, headed to a day long clinic. On top of being injured, not able to ride properly and certainly not able to sit deep for hard stops and turns, I was absolutely scared to death of Midori. The clinic was only the second time I'd been back on her since the incident. I spent the whole entire day near or in tears, practically hyperventilating any time Midori did more then a slow controlled jog. Like I said, if I knew what I was doing going into the clinic I would have sold my spot. But I'm glad I didn't.
We didn't do horrible, but since I couldn't sit down much we didn't get any hard turns or stops in and I had to hold Midori back quite a bit because I just wasn't ready to let her go all out. I survived the day and Midori behaved herself. In fact, she enjoyed it. She was having a blast chasing those cows around! I had fun, but was really disappointed in myself for being such a weenie.
Then I started doing some research on what we were trying to do and knew I wanted to take another stab at it.
Which brings us to year two. My favorite saddle to ride in is my 14" Circle Y park and trail. It's a simple saddle, no bling, nothing special, not even great leather, but I love Circle Y's and it is comfy and I have a solid seat in it. I had decided that I wanted to spend a little more and get a really nice saddle to use since I was really getting back into horses. After a little shopping and a test run, I decided on a Reinsman. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it and then found out that they now have the same designer that used to do the nice Circle Y's with the softee leather that I loved. Go figure. Anyways, long story short, I decided I wanted to use my barely broke in Reinsman for the clinic instead of my usual Circle Y. Stupid, stupid, stupid! It's a super comfy saddle and I have a nice solid seat in it, but the stirrups were a little long for my shrimpy short legs and I had no more holes to go up. Besides that, they weren't turned yet, despite my best efforts with a broom handle. The morning boxing practice went alright, but when we got to the afternoon runs down the wall and I kept losing the stirrup that would have been on the outside of my turn, it was not so pretty. I didn't trust my seat to stay put thru a diving turn into the wall without a stirrup to lean on so I was holding Midori back on the turns again and holding on to the saddle for dear life. I think I was actually grabbing the horn, which I never do. I still had fun and learned a lot, but I was once again disappointed with my performance because I had held back. Again.
Flash forward to this year...I'm going into this thing uninjured. I'm using my broke in, still favorite Circle Y. Midori is more cowy now after cutting last summer and more broke then ever and we have a better understanding and base for what we are about to do. Midori is solid and spicy and I'm not scared of her. I was sooo looking forward to this so I could really feel like I got something out of it instead of failing because I was holding back and focusing more on how scared I was then on the task at hand. And this year I was going to get 3 runs, 1 morning boxing and 2 runs down the wall. I absolutely couldnt' wait to get out there and ride like hell!
To be continued....