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Western States Cutting Horse Association

by Lincoln Rogers
Parker, Colo.

The Douglas County Fairgrounds hosted some of the best athletes in the region recently over an April weekend. They all dug deep and laid it on the line every time their name was called. When the dust settled, their reward was water, fresh hay, and grain. The sport of Cutting is not new to the state of Colorado, and it is thriving despite the difficult economic strains of the region’s horse community.

“The Western States Cutting Horse Association (WSCHA) was founded in 1959, so it’s got a lot of history in the state of Colorado,” said Jon Strain, WSCHA President, a 15th ranked Non-Pro rider in the nation in 2007, and the man behind the microphone during the local April competition. “I believe we have members from 10 or 11 different states. Originally it was formed for Colorado and Wyoming (but) the membership has expanded. We have people from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah … all the surrounding states.

Many of those members were inside the arena, competing or getting ready to compete at the Douglas County event. While the riders’ skills were evident, the sport of Cutting ” even more than many other equine sports ” is all about the horse.

“The horse has to know what to do,” said Pete Clark, an Elbert, Colorado resident who won Saturday’s $50,000 Amateur Class aboard his 17-year-old mount, Meradas Sunset. “If your horse has to wait for a signal from you, by the time your brain processes it and then you give him the cue and his brain processes the cue, the cow you were working on is now back in the herd. So your horse has to know.”

Clark went on to share that while training is important and helps a lot, if a horse isn’t born with the instinct for Cutting, it won’t be successful.

“It’s instinct,” said Clark, sharing experience and insight accompanied by smiles and easy laughter. “It has to have cow sense. It has to have a tremendous amount of cow in it. The good ones take it personally. If a cow beats them, they’re mad. A good cutting horse knows that cow is not supposed to get by him,” continued the personable cowboy. “If it does get by him, he’s (really mad). So that’s important.”

What is important for anyone wondering about the sport of cutting is the fact those participating can’t seem to get enough of it.

“It’s probably the most fun you can have on a horse,” said Strain about the competition of horse against cows inside the pen. “To feel that is hard to describe. It is very exhilarating for two and a half minutes to be out there and know you’re on a highly tuned, highly trained animal that is as good an athlete as you’ll ever be around.”

Clark echoed Strain’s enthusiasm for the sport.

“It’s a rush. It’s the most exciting thing I can do on my horse,” he described of separating a cow and preventing it from returning to the herd, no matter how hard it tries. “It’s the teamwork, me and the horse, against a herd of cows. They’re so quick. It’s animal against animal and you’ve got the best seat in the house. I’ve done Team Penning, Sorting ” I think this is the ultimate equine activity you can be involved in.”

The Douglas County Fairgrounds hosted some of the best athletes in the region recently over an April weekend. They all dug deep and laid it on the line every time their name was called. When the dust settled, their reward was water, fresh hay, and grain. The sport of Cutting is not new to the state of Colorado, and it is thriving despite the difficult economic strains of the region’s horse community.

“The Western States Cutting Horse Association (WSCHA) was founded in 1959, so it’s got a lot of history in the state of Colorado,” said Jon Strain, WSCHA President, a 15th ranked Non-Pro rider in the nation in 2007, and the man behind the microphone during the local April competition. “I believe we have members from 10 or 11 different states. Originally it was formed for Colorado and Wyoming (but) the membership has expanded. We have people from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah … all the surrounding states.

Many of those members were inside the arena, competing or getting ready to compete at the Douglas County event. While the riders’ skills were evident, the sport of Cutting ” even more than many other equine sports ” is all about the horse.

“The horse has to know what to do,” said Pete Clark, an Elbert, Colorado resident who won Saturday’s $50,000 Amateur Class aboard his 17-year-old mount, Meradas Sunset. “If your horse has to wait for a signal from you, by the time your brain processes it and then you give him the cue and his brain processes the cue, the cow you were working on is now back in the herd. So your horse has to know.”

Clark went on to share that while training is important and helps a lot, if a horse isn’t born with the instinct for Cutting, it won’t be successful.

“It’s instinct,” said Clark, sharing experience and insight accompanied by smiles and easy laughter. “It has to have cow sense. It has to have a tremendous amount of cow in it. The good ones take it personally. If a cow beats them, they’re mad. A good cutting horse knows that cow is not supposed to get by him,” continued the personable cowboy. “If it does get by him, he’s (really mad). So that’s important.”

What is important for anyone wondering about the sport of cutting is the fact those participating can’t seem to get enough of it.

“It’s probably the most fun you can have on a horse,” said Strain about the competition of horse against cows inside the pen. “To feel that is hard to describe. It is very exhilarating for two and a half minutes to be out there and know you’re on a highly tuned, highly trained animal that is as good an athlete as you’ll ever be around.”

Clark echoed Strain’s enthusiasm for the sport.

“It’s a rush. It’s the most exciting thing I can do on my horse,” he described of separating a cow and preventing it from returning to the herd, no matter how hard it tries. “It’s the teamwork, me and the horse, against a herd of cows. They’re so quick. It’s animal against animal and you’ve got the best seat in the house. I’ve done Team Penning, Sorting ” I think this is the ultimate equine activity you can be involved in.”


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