Setrics Tracker

Showing Tips

Loping Tips To Prepare Your Cutting Horse To Show

June 9th, 2017 by Simone Cobb

Top Loper Miranda Westfall

It’s a sight synonymous with cutting: dozens of horses next to the show arena being loped, and in some cases loped more and a few cases, loped more still lol! Yes, there are horses that need a lot of preparation while others just need to stretch and warm up. So do you know, exactly what your horse needs and can you tell when your horse has reached that ideal, show-ready state?

Below you’ll find some great tips for loping by one of the industry’s top lopers Miranda Westfall. But first let’s explain why we even lope horses before competition.

Cutting is an explosive sport, where horses gather up their power in the stop in order to pounce in the right direction, at the right time and in just the right amount to block the cow. But if they have too much energy stored in their bodies, they pounce too far and from there it all unravels.

Another reason for loping is to get the horse’s mind on the job, to help them focus and to make sure they are listening to foot cues, your seat etc. Loping is part of the showing ritual, that signals to the horse that it is time, not just to go to work, but to perform at their best.

So tips to help you prepare your horse to show:

  • Know your horse. Every horse is different physically, mentally and has different habits. Even if you don’t lope your horse at a show, lope it at home to get to know what your horse needs, so you can fully explain this to others. This takes time but will pay off tremendously. The better you know your horse, the better you will show.
  • Know loping etiquette. Everyone lopes in the same direction. The direction changes each herd change. Those going faster remain on the outer edge of the circle, walkers are on the inside.
  • Have tidy attire (especially if you are loping for someone else) and no hoodies is important.
  • Don’t move straight into a trot/lope. Miranda says this teaches them a bad habit. Walk your horse first and build the momentum.
  • Older, show-experienced horses generally take less time to lope (unless they are more high-strung) than younger horses.
  • Be consistent in everything you do. For example, put your horse’s boots on at the same time at every show. Miranda says she likes to put them on before she starts loping so it’s one less thing to think about (some people like to do it just before the horse crosses the line). The important thing is not so much when, but keeping it the same every time.
  • Don’t be picky with your horse, it’s not a time to train or get into a fight and make them mad before competing.
  • Trotting will often tire your horse faster than loping.
  • Understand your leads and be on the correct lead according to the direction you are moving.
  • Watch for the signs that your horse is ready. Are they “between your feet” (responsive), are they throwing their head (still fresh), are they soft in the face, how heavy are they breathing (good to have their noses blowing a little), how much are they sweating?
  • Remember, it’s better to have your horse a little over-tired than a little under-worked when showing.
  • Make sure you walk your horse to cool down after showing. A rule of thumb: the longer they loped, the longer the cool down.

Miranda, who works for Clint Allen, warms up one of the show horses.

To watch Miranda’s video series on loping click HERE (if you’re not logged in you’ll need to do that HERE or join up as a member HERE).


Winning The Mind Game

May 31st, 2017 by Simone Cobb

When people participate or watch sports many people make the statement, ‘mind over matter’ or ‘it’s all about your mental game,’ but how many athletes train their brain to prepare for a competition?

“When you get to those really elite levels [of sports], you have athletes telling you it’s 96-97-98 percent mental,” said mental skills coach Tonya Johnston. “[People need to] understand that your mental skills are absolutely apart of the package as far as seeing yourself as an athlete.”

Johnston has her Masters in sports psychology and specializes in working with equestrian athletes, traveling across the holding clinics and working with equestrian sports teams such as Stanford, Smith and USC. Johnston emphasizes in her clinics and book “Inside your Ride,” that taking time to work on your mental game is just as important as working on the physical aspect. country

“When you spend 10, 12, 15 hours a week on physical and zero hours on mental skills, that could be where nerves and stress come from,” Johnston said. “Because I believe it’s much more mental activity, my competing is much more mental but all of my practice is in the physical realm.”

Johnston states that when your physical game is to a certain level, when it comes to competition day it is about making good choices mentally while in the moment.

“[When] the physical is dialed in, they know how to get the most out of themselves, they know how to connect with their horse and communicate with their horse and they understand that on any given day it’s about being present,” Johnston said.

One of the best pieces of advice Johnston mentioned was focusing on the positive.

Many people focus on bad days [and ask] what did I do? What happened? Why didn’t I ride well?” Johnston said. “I look first and foremost at good days-what are you already doing naturally and help that become part of [your] routine.”

Some other ways Johnston recommended to become more consistent and improve your mental game in the arena is by:

  • Visualizing
  • Tracking goals
  • Making sure your energy is in a good place
  • Making sure you’ve got a routine in place

Lastly Johnston notes that it’s just as important for you to have a routine as much as your “horse before competing, such as stretching, loosening up and having a plan for when you’re in a hotel.

“When you have an amazing run, think back to how did you prepare yourself, where was your focus, what were you saying to yourself, what were you doing before you got on your horse,” Johnston said.

To hear more tips from Tonya Johnston, listen to the full interview at: https://chtolive.com/podcasts/  (Gold and Platinum members get full access to podcasts, Silver members get access for seven days when new podcasts are uploaded.)


Inside the Judges Stand: Episode 3 HERDWORK

January 27th, 2017 by Bonnie Harmon

Have you ever wondered why you or someone you watched didn’t score higher when it looked like they really held a tough cow that was hard to cut? Herdwork is a key element that can make or break your score. Watch as Russell McCord breaks down the judging rule on herdwork, what it means to cut in the middle of the pen, and why making a cut on the edges can hurt your score.


Inside the Judges Stand: Episode 5 THE DEEP CUT

January 26th, 2017 by Bonnie Harmon

So what really qualifies a deep cut in your run? Do I have to bring over half the herd out? When do I have to make a deep cut? What if I am running out of time? Russell McCord will take you through the situations that satisfy the deep cut rule and show examples of what NOT to do.


Inside the Judges Stand: Rule 13 HOT QUIT

January 26th, 2017 by Bonnie Harmon

Need clarification on what judges are looking for in a clean quit on your cow? Check out this video on the new rules discussing the difference in a clean quit vs. a hot quit! The hot quit is one of the biggest challenges for new cutters to overcome. Not because it is a hard rule, but because your adrenaline is pumping and a lot is racing through your mind during your run. Watch the video to help understand how to stay out of a hot quit situation.


Can’t Remember Those Cows? – Tips for Improving Your Memory!

October 31st, 2016 by Simone Cobb

Cows look all the same yeh? I mean seriously how does one black cow look different to the next, especially when they are the same size, sex and state of health? And then how the hell do you remember 30 of them and on top of that you have to keep track of which ones have been worked or not? Arrrgh!!!! Yes cutting is certainly a mind game!

You might have a great horse, you might be a great at riding a cutting horse and even confident making cuts, but do you go into the arena knowing which cows you are going to cut?

Do you leave watching cows up to your trainer, or your herd-help? Or do you just hope that the right cow offers itself up in the herd?

Until you take full responsibility for the cows you pick, then you are really just competing on a wing and prayer. The time always comes when you have to step up and own the whole process of showing if you want to progress in the sport.

If you don’t know what makes a good cow to cut, that’s ok. The first step in the process is just to start observing them. It’s amazing how much you can learn by watching and asking questions.

If you don’t know how to differentiate the cows in a herd, especially when you have a bunch of black angus, check out our video with Gabe Reynolds and Cullen Chartier in Video Categories under Showing, then go to Herd Work , who give excellent explanations on how to do exactly that.

For many, the biggest challenge is memorizing the herd. It’s a skill the best competitors have certainly mastered. There are many things you can do to help you remember. Some are lifestyle, long-term habits you can form (which have many other benefits) and others are tips you can apply straight away.

Write it down

One of the simplest things you can do immediately is to write down every cow in the herd with a description. Writing something down instantly helps you to recall it. To make it even more effective, draw a picture of each cow and exaggerate their main descriptive feature/s. You don’t have to be an artist, this is purely for your recall. Another trick is to give each cow a crazy, unusual name about one its features that will help you remember it.

Let’s get to the lifestyle tips that will improve your memory. (Ok get the groaning and eye-rolling over with – but yes it does requires some effort!)

7 Lifestyle-Based Ways to Improve Your Memory
  • Eat Right. The foods you eat – and don’t eat – play a crucial role in your memory. (That means cutting back on those burgers and baked potatoes at the Coliseum and maybe throw in a salad not drowned in ranch. Gluten is also widely linked to brain fog.)
  • Exercise. …(Ok you’re good here – loping for hours definitely counts)
  • Stop Multitasking. …(That means getting off that iphone while you watch those cows!)
  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep. …(That means putting down the phone and going to sleep!)
  • Play Brain Games. …(more on this below)
  • Master a New Skill. …(Insert fun here! How about taking up whittling or playing the spoons?)
  • Try Mnemonic Devices. (that’s a fancy word for memory tools – more on that below)

Brain Games

Invest at least 20 minutes a day playing various brain games, but no more than five to seven minutes on a specific task. When you spend longer amounts of time on one task, the benefits weaken (according to studies). A great online source for boosting your memory is Luminosity.com. Another is BrainHQ.com, both sites have been developed by scientists and offer some games for free.

Mnemonic Devices

Don’t be put off by the high-tech sound of these tools. Essentially, they are handy tricks and techniques you can use to help organize information to make recalling it much easier. Examples are:

  • Acronyms (such as PUG for “pick up grapes”)
  • Visualizations (such as imagining a tooth to remember your dentist’s appointment)
  • Rhymes (if you need to remember a name, for instance, think “Shirley’s hair is curly)
  • Chunking, which is breaking up information into smaller “chunks” (such as organizing numbers into the format of a phone number)

Mental Mapping

This is probably one of the best techniques for cutting. It’s a method used by two-time USA Memory Champion, Ron White. Click HERE to read a blog post he wrote about using a system of mental maps. You can easily apply this to memorizing cows. In fact you will be amazed at the amount of knowledge you will be able to store.

Vitamin D

Make sure you get some sun. Vitamin D helps the part of the brain that forms new memories. Research has shown up to 85% of the American public may be Vitamin D deficient. In older adults, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit.

But be like Goldilocks, not too much sun and not too little, just the right amount. Of course this means getting sun exposure without wearing sunblock. It varies between skin type, time of day and the season, but an average of 15 minutes a day of sun exposure is very good for the brain and the body to ensure you get enough vitamin D. Just use your common sense and the second you start to feel uncomfortable in the sun, then cover up.

What do you do to help remember those cows? Do you have any tips or a system for keeping track of the herd? Enter your comments below!


  • Upcoming Events

    Aug 07

    Tarin Rice Cutting Horse Clinic

    August 7 - August 8