STONY PLAIN – If ever there’s a sport that demands total teamwork, it’s the cutting horse event in rodeo.
You see, if man and animal aren’t in perfect harmony as they work on separating an obstinate bovine from its closest friends and companions, and then keeping them apart, there’s little to no chance of success.
Knowing that, Onoway area cowgirl Kelsey Hodgson, 14, and her mount Baggy Shorts, were as close to perfect as one could be in the sport this past season as they tied for first place in the national cutting horse championship. Ultimately the pair ended up as the Reserve Champions in the Canadian Cutting Horse Association’s junior division as opposed to the Open Champion simply because a fellow competitor earned a bit more money than her during the year’s competitions.
Over the year, Hodgson said she participated in “around 10” events spread far and wide which is something of an annoyance to her dad, Ryan, who bemoans the lack of any such events nearby.
“Fifty per cent of the cutters in Canada come from the Edmonton area but the closest show we’ll have in Alberta in 2012 is in Ponoka,” he said.
As for the basics of this sport, the dad said it’s about making the right choice not only in choosing an animal to work with but in the people you have aiding you in the chore, three ‘outriders’ in a sense.
“You want to cut a fresh cow that no one else has cut and you sit with your friends that you trust and try to match the perfect cow to the type of horse you’re riding,” he explained of the sport.
Kelsey said choosing a partner, in this case a horse, depends on several things including “how they react to the cow, making sure they have a good stop and a good turn.
“It’s 50-50,” she said of the partnership between horse and rider inside the ring. “The horse knows which one you’re going for.”
“It takes a long time to develop that chemistry,” Ryan picked up, “and there are no shortcuts. You’ve got to ride every day.”
As for her introduction to this sport it began very young, Ryan noted of his daughter’s progression.
“She started riding cutting horses when she was two but she just started competing a few years ago.”
Off to the U.S.
Besides competing at the national finals Kelsey will participate in the Western National Championship in Reno, as she’s qualified as one of the best in her age group in Canada.
“They take the best in every state and every province and they all compete for the championship,” Ryan said of the Nevada event.
“It’s been a long journey. Kelsey’s been riding, been watching me and learning the basics of saddling and maintenance of horses; feeding them properly to get the most performance you can possibly get out of an animal. We have lots of friends that are world champions and we all share knowledge and Kelsey has that. Over the next few years she’ll continue to get tougher.”
Scores in the sport are based on marks. Each rider starts with an average of 70 and the better the horse and rider work the cow the more points added on. It’s important the horse stay low and riders must keep their hands low and inactive during the cut. A team has two and a half minutes to cut three cows.
“When your horse gets low, crawls around on its belly (basically staring down the cow) your points will go up,” Ryan explained. “It’s based on eye appeal and the degree of difficulty. If you lose a cow your score goes down to 60. A score of 76 is very high, 60 is very low.”
Kelsey said she gets wound up before a ride but then again, so does her partner.
“I get nervous but it goes away when I sit on my horse,” she noted. “My horse gets nervous though. He holds his breath.”
As for taking on the second and third cows to be cut during a run, that’s where the turnback people come in. They know the animals chosen and help move them away from the crowd. That help is crucial in having success.
For Kelsey, her riders include Jason Hanson, Brad Peterson and Doug Reinhart.
“They’re honest help and that’s very important in this sport. It is very competitive,” her dad said. “It’s dog eat dog out there – this is not everyone walking around loving each other.”
Over the past season Kelsey won the 10-show Peace River Association in both the Youth and Novice Rider groups and also placed second at the Calgary Stampede.
“I find the more you work at it the easier it gets,” she said about putting in the time to improve.
“The cattle always react differently but you get used to the way they react.
“I think though this is going to get harder as the others get older and get more experience,” but at the same time, this young lady is going to keep on improving her game as she continues down the cutting horse trail.
Source: Spruce Grove Examiner