Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CUTTING HORSE COMPETITION IN COLORADO

We are back in Crested Butte, Colorado for a few weeks - and the cool mountain air is a welcome relief from the intense heat in the east when we left. The extreme drought in this part of the country this year has pretty much decimated the wild flowers in the "Wildflower Capital of Colorado", but besides working in the yard and playing a lot of bridge there is always plenty to do and see. This year we happened on a new experience for us, a cutting horse competition at the Lacey Rance a couple of miles south of Crested Butte, with entrants from all across the country. A cutting horse is an athletic and willing animal possessing an innate "cow sense" and ability to respond quickly and turn sharply that is trained to keep a cow from returning to the herd. The horses involved are typically American Quarter Horses, although many other stock horse breeds are also used. In the event, the horse and rider select and separate a cow (typically a steer or heifer) out of a small group. The cow then tries to return to its herd; the rider loosens the reins ("puts his hand down" in the parlance) and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. A contestant has 2 ½ minutes to show the horse; typically three cows are cut during a run, although working only two cows is acceptable. A judge awards points to the cutter based on a scale that ranges from 60 to 80, with 70 being considered average. As the cow turns, the horse is to draw back over its hocks and then turn with the cow. The rider is centered over the horse keeps his or her eyes focused on the cow’s neck so as to anticipate the cow’s next move. The horse’s shoulders during a run are parallel with that of the cow’s. The team is judged on how the horse moves in relation to the cow. Leg aids may be used to steady a horse and keep them from falling in on the cow throughout a run. Since the actual competition was held in a huge roofed barn or rink lacking a lot of light my photos were limited to the outside.
In the main area outside the horses were warmed-up by their riders.
I especially liked this beauty with his braided tail - and lovely rider.
Along the fence where soft sandy loam was spread, this horse was practicing by following the black and white marker (simulating a cow) as it moved back and forth in random patterns.
Having completed a good workout or competition the horses were treated to a cooling shower.
In this corral the a rider who was soon to compete was able to put his horse thorough a last five minute practice, turning sharply,
or stopping on a dime.
Out back in a series of corrals the cows waited to do their part in the competition.
They were fed through the gate in groups of 47, often reluctantly, by the cowboys and exchanged for the group presently in the barn. It was a beautiful view with the Crested Butte Mountain showing in the background
Before we left for home we had a delicious lunch, of course waiting our turn behind the cowboys and their horses.
Leaving the main area I couldn't resist this photo of the reflections of mountain and clouds in the water at the edge of the ranch.

1 comment:

Sandy Sandy said...

Sounds like an interesting and exciting competition. As always, beautiful shots, Sally!