Cutting & reining on the same horse?
How To Train A Horse To Compete In Both, Cutting & Reining
By Art Grunig
A pro’s advice about how to accomplish the difficult task
of training a horse to compete in two contradictory
events… reining and cutting.
Watch the VIDEO that showcases
how to teach a horse to stop.
Dear Friend and Horseman,
Welcome to another Horse Training Tips Insider.
You know, I get a ton of email from my subscribers. And one of the most asked questions I get is… “I want to train my horse to do both, cutting and reining. Is this possible?”
I gotta tell you, there is no cut and dried answer to that question because there are a lot of variables involved.
However, in this issue, I’ve invited a top trainer to share his insights on this topic.
The trainer’s name is Art Grunig and he has trained more champions than I can count. Many of those champions, Art showed in multiple events like reining, cutting and reined cow horse.
To tell you the truth, I only know of a handful of trainers who have the knowledge to successfully do that as it’s extremely difficult to do.
In the article below, Art shares with you information that is very, very hard to come by.
If you find his insight valuable, please take the time to let him know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Is It Possible To Do Reining & Cutting
On The Same Horse?
By Art Grunig
Can you cut and rein with the same horse?
Yes, if the horse is suited to doing both events. The reining horse needs to have the ability to stop strong and often and have a wonderful/beautiful way of cantering and galloping while giving an impression of confidence and a love of its job. This requires a strong sense of confidence in itself and its rider. It needs to be at least comfortable being handled by the rider and to be able to handle pressure from the rider and keep its cool with only the rider to focus on. The reining horse reads its rider not a cow so it must be comfortable knowing what it is going to do and still wait on the rider to tell it when, where and how hard or fast to do the maneuvers.
LITTLE JAZZY LENA is an example of a horse that lacked the look of confidence a reiner needs. She is a horse I trained and took to the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. I showed her for about a year after the futurity. She could do all three events but she had a hard time scoring well in reining because she wanted so much to do well that it showed on her face and in her body language giving the impression that she was unsure of herself and a bit stressed. Many times she would have the best technical performance in reining but would be second or third because of her expression. In cutting however she did very well. She looked intent on the cow instead of concerned. As she matured she gained more confidence and did really well as a reined cow horse.
TATER JIM was a horse that demonstrated the willingness to listen to the rider while doing a reining pattern. He could do everything better than most horses. He won at reining, cutting, working cow horse and could do dressage and jumped well in spite of not appearing to have the conformation for it. When he was first shown by his amateur rider she would lean into the lead changes causing him to counter canter. Tater Jim would sort of look back at her as if to say ”we usually change leads here in this pattern, are you sure you want to wait?” When the rider would give up on the change and straighten up, Tater Jim would look a head to the pattern, change leads, and continue on as if nothing different had happened.
The reiner does not need quick reflexes. In fact a deliberate way of moving and doing things can be an asset. The reining horse must change leads smoothly with a pleasant attitude. You can rein on a horse with a weaker stop but you must be able to get the horse ready to stop beautifully with a minimum of stops. If you exceed the horse’s stopping strength the horse will get sore and start doing poorer stops. To get a horse trained and prepared to show with with a limited number of stops takes a horse with a lot of ‘want to’ and a rider with a lot of skill.
A cutting horse does not need to gallop pretty, does not need to change leads and does not need as strong a stop. In fact, the cutting horse should stop more on it’s front end than a reining horse. While confidence and a cool demeanor are important to a reining horse, we want intensity in a cutting horse. Quickness in a reining horse is not a big asset but in cutting it is a huge asset. Agility is a big asset in cutting but not so much in a reiner. A cutting horse needs to be willing to think for itself to a high degree. Controlling a cow in front of a herd does not leave time for the rider’s input when the cow gets testy. One to one action and reaction is necessary. A horse that is very serious about controlling the cow can make up for many things, especially if it is smart. However, a horse can be too slow in its reflexes or too lacking in agility to keep up with tough cattle.
Can you do it at the same time or should you do one then the other?
Yes, you can do reining and cutting at the same time if the horse is truly well suited to both events. The horse will not have any trouble switching from one to the other. From the horse’s point of view – there is a cow in front of it – there is no cow in the arena? how easy it is to tell them apart! The events are very different from a horse’s point of view. Some horses that are borderline suited to either cutting or reining may find it easier to do just one at a time, at least in the training phase. It can keep the pressure in the horse’s training schedule lower. A stressed horse does not do very well.
The other situation you need to contend with is the shoeing. The only difference I have in shoeing cutters and reiners is the shoe itself. I trim the foot the same and fit the shoe the same but I put a slider (smooth shoe 1 to 1.5 inches in width) on the reiners and put a standard keg shoe on the cutters. When I need the big slide for the the reining and some traction for the cutter on the same day I change shoes between classes. I hand make at least one of the sets of shoes so that I have the same nail hole alignment for both sets of shoes. That way when I reset the shoes using the same nail holes over and over I do not damage the hoof wall enough to notice is spite of the many changes.
If the horse can not do both at the same time, which would you do first?
I let the horse tell me what to do first. The approach I use for reining is ‘guided freedom’. All horses enjoy this. They do not lose their joy unless you exceed their talent and personality limits. I start all my horses with the basics of reining. I also use whatever level of reining the horse can do as my warm up for working cows. It enhances their training and gets them working with me faster than just mindlessly loping around until the horse is warmed up. Reining training gives me the handle on them that I use to teach position and form for cutting and reining. Also, all my horses get some cow work. It helps a horse learn to think and relax at the same time. All horses enjoy working cows, it is an expression of the dynamics of being a herd member. If the horse is not suited for working cattle it will not begin to find it un-enjoyable until the work gets tough enough to exceed the horse’s talents and personality. As the horses progress they will be telling me a lot about themselves. I discover what their talents and handicaps are. Then I start making decisions as to where and when to go with the horse. Sometimes a horse will only do one event in competition for a while because it is slower to develop in one part of either of the events.
Wyammy Matt Boon is an example of this. He is an amazing horse. He has won Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association Junior Cutting Horse year end title twice, AQHA year end Champion Cutting Horse Stallion all ages twice, and was Pacific Coast quarter Horse Association fourth place year end in Junior Reining. He also jumps and does most dressage maneuvers including all the lateral moves, four tempe changes and both walk and canter pirouettes. I did not do serious reining on him at first. He was doing really well at cutting and all of the reining maneuvers except the turnaround. He would draw too far back to cross over in front easily. Under pressure he instinctively wanted to draw back onto his hind quarters even more. While this is good for a cutter, to turn around well he had to learn to stretch into the spin. Rather than risk causing him to feel bad about himself by trying to make him turn around better I backed off the pressure and just played with the turnaround and let him figure it out. In about a year he could do a very good turn around. In the mean time he was a winning cutter. Now he is really good at both and has won at both cutting and reining on the same day.
Are all horses suitable to do both?
There are a lot of horses that will not excel in both events. Often they are really good at one event but their talents are too extreme for one event and/or too limited. If the horse does not have the talent and personality to excel in an event and enjoy itself, I will not take that event seriously for that horse. Even if you can be successful for a while, the training pressure needed to win will be too great and you will end up losing the horse’s winning edge. The joy of doing the job must overshadow any stress involved. It takes a happy, thriving horse to win consistently.
Autumn Wyammy is a young mare who is too quick and energetic to be a good reining horse. However she can steal more points from the judges in a cutting than any horse I have ever shown. She can also do all the reining maneuvers but she is so sensitive and so quick that she looks tight and quick even when she is relaxed. I still work on reining at a low key level with her because it helps her have more confidence and comfort with me when I work her on a cow, but I have no intention of taking reining seriously with her.
EAT MY DUST CODY is a horse that is a good reining horse but is not good as a cutting horse. He is suited to reining in all ways. He has won Western Cow Horse Association Open year end Championship two times. He loves working cows but has a natural tendency to want to get taller in front when a cow faces off with him. This getting tall in his shoulders is good for the stops in reining, but it limits his lateral movement giving the cow an athletic advantage. Over a period of two or three days I can train him to get lower in front on a cow and when he does he then gets the advantage on the cow and it works well, for a while. If I give him a day or two off the subject he wants to get tall in front again. It is his natural response. Rather than keep putting pressure on him over and over I do not take arena cow work seriously with him. He is very good at gathering cattle and is really good as a help horse with the cutting. Because he enjoys cattle I make a point to have him do things with cattle but I stay within his talent and abilities.
What difficulties do you have turning a cutter into a reiner?
If the horse is not suited to be a reiner, it does not matter how talented a cutter is, it is still not going to be a good reiner. If I have a problem with a horse trained by someone else the number one difficulty is the lack of softness, the lack of suppleness and smoothness in the horse’s response to the rider. When the horse’s ribs are stiff to my leg and the horse pops its nose when the bridle is picked up it is hard for me to do any reining that is smooth and beautiful. Shaping and balancing the horse for maneuvers and maintaining collection are difficult. When training a horse to cut, the cow gives the horse the warnings and indicates the required actions for the horse. The rider ends up being the ‘corrector’ to a very large degree compared to reining where the rider gives the warnings of action and the directions to the horses. If the cutting horse does not read the cow right and respond to the situation right the rider corrects it. There is often an element of surprise in this. Surprise can lead to a quick, snappy and often sort of grabby response in the horse. It looks good with a cutter. However the reiner should be flowing and smooth and confident looking. With the rider being the sole source of information for the horse it is easier to keep the reining horse smooth if the horse is comfortable with the rider handling it. While the potential for surprise from a cow can seem limitless there are no surprises in reining. The patterns have only a few preset sequences that are known before hand.
What difficulties to you have turning a reiner into a cutter?
When there is a problem turning a reiner into a cutter the biggest difficulty is usually a lack of suitability. If the horse does not enjoy thinking on its own and/or does not have sufficient quickness and agility it will not excel at cutting. Some horses are a surprise after a bit. They just have not had a chance to develop the independent thinking and the agility and they really come on with some experience.
How does one event conflict with the other?
Teaching a horse to rely on the rider for reining can lead to a cutting horse watching the rider more than the cow. Teaching a horse to out think and out maneuver a cow and the necessary corrections when the horse makes mistakes can lead to a horse that is quick and abrupt in response to the rider instead of smooth and trusting. For some horses pressure in more than one area or event is just too much.
How does one event support the other?
Most horses enjoy variety in their lives. Doing another event can break up the pressure and monotony and give a horse a broader base of experience to rely on for a better performance in one or both events. The other thing is that both cutters and reiners need to have good form, balance and footwork to do well. Teaching this sets a reinier up for the stops, spins, and lead changes and keeps the circles nice and pretty and flowing. Teaching the same things to a cutter gives the trainer the ability to shape and position the horse on the cow in the right place and with the right balance and form to move correctly. Teaching form during the reining training takes the pressure off the timing. Teaching form and position on a cow takes the pressure off the emotions because the horse can see reasons for the things you are asking for other than just the riders whims.
How do you get a reiner to think independently to work a cow on its own?
Once you have the horse trained to the point that is understands the job of cutting start letting the horse do more on its own and correct it when it needs correcting instead of helping it. ‘Correcting’ has more of a ‘just do it’ feel where as ‘helping’ has more of a supportive feel.
How do you get a cutter to tune into the rider when it is in the habit of thinking on its own?
The one thing that seems to work best is getting the horse to trust being soft to the rider. Let the horse feel how much better it feels to do the reining maneuvers with a flowing grace instead of an abrupt effort. In the end you will improve the horse’s trust in the rider.
Art Grunig on a reining horse
About the author, Art Grunig
Champion trainer, Art Grunig lives in Windsor, California where he trains horses for the public.
Art also offers instruction to riders of all disciplines including reining, cutting & reined cow horse.
You can contact Art via his website: www.ArtGrunig.com