Scott McKinsey riding Catherine's Choice, finalist in the 2005 Heartland Futurity in Ada, OK.
Photo by Catherine Forrest Photography.
About 3 years ago as I was watching America’s Horse on TV, I saw a
man, a horse, and a calf, work in total harmony. The man was sitting back,
hands on the saddle horn, reins totally slack, seemingly only there for the
ride, as his horse masterfully walked into a herd and picked out a calf to
break away from the rest. The two animals went face to face, trying to outsmart
the other as to who would win this battle of wits. That calf REALLY wanted
to get back to the safety of his herd, but this horse had no intentions of
letting him do so. At one point the horse was down on his belly stalking like
a cat, as his riders boots touched the ground. How the heck did that man stay
on his horse, I wondered? It was pure poetry to watch, and I was hooked!
I decided to breed my QH mare to the former AQHA World Champion Cutting stallion Personality Doc, with hopes that
Scott working HT with Buffalo.
Photo: Marsha McKinsey
she would produce a colt with the athleticism and cow sense that it takes
for cutting.A year later a deep sorrel filly with a big white blaze and flaxen
mane registered as Personality Gin Lena, was born. A few hours after birth
the vet came out to check her over and give her shots. The filly showed her
lack of enthusiasm for shots by kicking Dr. Groves squarely in the shin, hence
her nickname H.T. (short for Holy Terror).
Fast forward to this year as I looked for a cutting trainer for my coming 3-year-old filly. I searched the Quarter Horse Directory list where I found dozens of trainers to choose from. I went down the line looking for location, experience, training techniques, facilities, etc. I came across Scott McKinsey, a professional who worked for NCHA Hall of Fame rider Bill Riddle for over six years. He was also an NCHA judge, specialized in starting colts, and seemed to have a good philosophy on training. I drove up to Glen Rose, Texas, home of the famous Dinosaur State Park and the Three Rivers Ranch. The ranch was quite impressive with an indoor round pen, a huge indoor arena, two outdoor areas, two inside stables, and a dozen outside stalls and corrals. The ID cards on stalls read like the who’s who of cutting. Bloodlines with names like Smart Little Lena, Peppy San Badger, Color Me Smart, Doc’s Hickory, Doc’s Stylish Oak, Young Gun, and so on. I decided this was the place where H.T. could maybe again become Personality Gin Lena.
A month into her training I sat watching intently as Scott and H.T. worked a calf back and forth in the arena. The cattle dog would occasionally nip at the heels of the calf to get it to move, and H.T. would turn it back. It seemed pretty straight forward, so when Scott asked if I’d like to give it a go, although having never done so before, I said O.K. I followed Scott’s directions, keeping the horse’s head parallel with the calves. Hey, this was pretty easy and fun! All the sudden the dog decided to bite the calf on the nose and the startled animal took off like a rocket, and so did my filly. As a total amateur at the sport, I grabbed the reins for dear life as she spun in the direction of the calf, and in doing so, pulled her off the calf. After a talking to by my trainer, we both decided that I needed some schooling myself if I planned on riding a horse in training again.
Jackie Frady on Doc's Oak Image at the cutting clinic.
Photo by Pat Enyart
I got my next opportunity to ride just before one of Scott’s cutting
clinics last month. It was something I will never forget. I was hired as the
clinic photographer, but was hoping to maybe learn something while watching
and taking pictures.
Arriving the night before at probably 10 PM, I thought I’d find Scott and his wife Marsha, with their new twin baby boys, getting ready for bed. Instead Scott was on the tractor watering down the arena, and Marsha cooking supper. Scott came in at about 11 PM, and announced, “It’s time to bring in the cattle”! The babies obviously knew the routine, and were sleeping like, well.... babies!
I was mounted up on a stout Buckskin gelding, (an own son of Son of a Doc, and a winner of about $40k in cutting). He was such a nice, easy-going boy, about 17-years-old and dead gentle. We methodically drove the last of the herd into the arena about 1 AM. I thought we’d be headed in for the night as the clinic started at 8 AM the next morning, but Scott had a different idea. He decided since the arena was lit, we had a pen full of fresh cattle, and it is such a nice evening, that it’s time for an impromptu cutting lesson. (I’m sure he was also thinking that this time I couldn’t do much harm on a trained horse.) First let me explain that I am a 40-something year old woman that has been on a horse about 4 times in the past year...on the trail...at a walk. Little did I know what I was getting into.
Scott tells me to sit back on my pockets in the saddle, drop the reins, and let the horse do the work. My horse calmly cut out a calf, so far so good, but then they square off eye to eye. Within a split second the calf bolts to one side trying to get past the huge beast that had separated him from his herd, but that gelding had already anticipated his move, blocking him by spinning and diving across his path.
Picture this scenario. A middle aged woman, holding on to the saddle horn for dear life, with a huge grin on her face, eyes bugging out of her head, feeling emotions somewhere between shear delight and terror of dying. Unconsciously, words of excitement flew out of my mouth, ”Holy Crud!”, (or something along those lines), combined when an occasional shriek of delight. When it was over, I pried my white knuckled fingers one at a time off the saddle horn, and rode back to the barn, completely out of breath and exhausted, but still grinning from ear to ear. I’ve come to realize that is what the sport of Cutting is all about. Aside from maybe, 100 times more exciting than riding on the biggest roller coaster in the very front car, I don’t know how better to describe it. Whether you are watching it on TV, or participating, it is an extreme sport that will definitely get your adrenaline pumping.
The next day I took photos of the clinic and watched as a diverse group, some as young as 8 years old, others my age worked those calves. The one thing I noticed they all had in common was a big smile on their faces.
For upcoming clinic information go to Scott McKinsey Cutting Horses or call 254-823-6799 or visit NCHA.
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