Early in my career as a cutting-horse trainer, I noticed special showmen. Certain people consistently qualified average horses for the final. They regularly collected big checks. Other competitors would show an outstanding horse and fumble. I was intrigued to understand the differences.
In my own experience, some days I showed a horse to his potential. I helped him when circumstances threatened to expose our weaknesses. I asked for more when opportunities arose to maximize his strengths. Other days, if I concentrated on something going wrong, that’s all I could think about. The rest of the run fell apart.
I now realize the essence of a magnificent performance. It is a series of beautifully interwoven moves that set it apart from the “also rans.” It’s an evolving masterpiece as one maneuver flows into the next. During a reining run, a dramatic sliding stop followed by a blur of spins and gorgeous circles leaves you watching in awe. In a cutting run, precise, deep stops and expression mesmerize. Great riders and great horses lure us into thinking that they have achieved supernatural performance levels. As perfectionists, we turn green with envy. We would pay anything to make that ride.
The perfect horse with the perfect rider is an illusion. Below the surface of our visual perception lie two top performance secrets. The first is the rider’s ability to remain focused in the moment. He or she is not worrying about what almost happened, what just happened or what might happen. The rider is mentally centered in the millisecond at hand and nowhere else.
The second secret is a rider’s ability to respond to the horse from moment to moment and make appropriate adjustments. A sensitive feel of what a horse is about to do right or wrong and then changing seat or leg cues, for example, are the little things that make a ride appear perfect.
If moment-to-moment focus and minute adjustments are the goals, we need strategies to achieve them.
For Barbara's suggestions, go to America's Horse Daily.
Photo: During a reining run, a dramatic sliding stop followed by a blur of spins and gorgeous circles leaves you watching in awe. Journal photo.