Cool and overcast skies were the setting for Saturday’s “cutting” clinic as Ryan Gallentine, a National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) professional, took participants through the process of the sport of cutting at his sprawling home in rural Belle Plaine. Gallentine and his wife, Sam, have hosted several of these clinics at their home this year.
They train, teach, show, and sell horses at their home, and they host these types of clinics for those who are interested in the sport and want to learn more, taking riders through the entire process of cutting.
Cutting is a Western-style equestrian sport that showcases a rider and horse working together to “cut out” a cow from its herd. If the cutting is done successfully, the horse will have singled out a cow and prevented it from returning to the herd. Cutting can be done competitively in competitions and shows, as well as noncompetitively.
The cattle will wildly juke, bob and weave to escape from the horse trying to separate it from the others. The rider will have to direct the horse as it attempts to match the cow’s lightning quick movements and block its escape route back to the herd. To be successful, the horse and the rider must be in sync.
All abilities were welcome at the clinic as a range of participants came out Saturday, Sept. 12, representing all types of skill levels. Beginners and more experienced riders took turns cutting as Gallentine, who watched atop his horse patiently, offered advice and encouragement to the riders while showing them the ropes of the sport.
“For some people who came, they were just starting, having never worked a cow before, and then some people who were there had been showing at a high level, at premiere events and stuff like that. So it was a really fun weekend as far as having the different levels of riders,” Gallentine said.
Gallentine really started getting into the sport when he was 14. He first began learning underneath a trainer who had moved into his family home. He then began moving around the country a little bit, first to Texas and then to Missouri to work with and learn from other trainers.
The process of training and getting a cutting horse ready is rigorous and time consuming. A horse must first be identified as having the right aptitude for cutting before training can begin. If deemed able to cut, the horse and trainer begin the arduous process. Throughout the training process, horses begin to separate themselves by their skill at cutting. The best ones are shown by pros like Gallentine, while others who are still good at cutting but not elite could still be shown by non-pros.
“They still have to be good at it, but there are just different degrees to how talented they have to be,” Gallentine said.
Training a cutting horse for competition takes somewhere around a year and a half of intense training before the horse is ready to compete.
“We’ve had them for a year and a half, almost two years, before we go show them,” Gallentine said about his horses. The learning curve at these competitions is also steep.
The show season for cutting is in full swing now, meaning many cutters are out traveling to competitions and such. This means fewer clinics as many people are gone, out competing at these shows.
“Usually in the winter, we get a lot more people who want to come do these things. This is actually kind of the downturn right now and then it’s going to start swinging up in December again,” Gallentine said. Beginning in December, he thinks, “We’ll probably have one a month.”
Gallentine sees himself continuing to host these clinics in the future, as he has found he enjoys the teaching aspect of the sport.
“I enjoy teaching to help further their knowledge in the sport; I enjoy that part. I enjoy watching people get better as the years go on or as the months go on, whatever it is. I enjoy that part quite a bit.”