Newcomers to the Longhorn, Cutting Horses
May 6 and 7 saw the elite of the rodeo world appear at the Texas Longhorn in the outdoor arena. The American South Louisiana Cutting Horse Association scheduled its first competition here. The ASLCHA is one of 11 affiliates of the American Cutting Horse Association.
“I had been passing by this arena on my way to compete all over Texas, and one day I decided to stop by and check out the arena and see if it would suit our needs,” said Bob Bouget.
Bouget is the president of the ASLCHA and a director of the ACHA.
Texas Longhorn Rodeo Director Coleman Peveto was more than happy to meet with Bouget. Peveto is always on the lookout for new rodeo events to bring to the Longhorn rodeo program and this cutting event would be the first ACHA sanctioned competition held in the region. The closest ACHA sanctioned event to the Longhorn is in Lufkin, Texas. Other sanctioned events are held from East Texas to the Hill Country and South Texas.
Peveto gave Bouget a complete tour of the Longhorn facilities. There were more than ample stalls, a good supply of shavings for the stalls, room to park trailers and trucks of any size, an on-site motel and restaurant, and complete truck stop services.
Bouget is an 11 time world champion of the ACHA and has the ability to judge anything that deals with the world of horses. Bouget started as a jockey and had a successful career. He was so successful that when Evangeline Downs opened he was one of the original jockeys brought in to ride. “Things went OK, for a while, but Bob always had trouble keeping his weight down, He started eating too much rice and gravy and finally got too big to ride,” said Gayle Bouget, Bob’s wife.
After his racing days, Bouget began to roping and after several years started riding, breeding, and training cutting horses. Cutting horses and their riders and owners are the elite of the horse world. The horse and rider have to be in tune. The rider goes into the herd and picks the animal. After he has let the horse know which animal to keep away from the herd, the horse takes over and the rider has only to sit aboard and let the horse “have its head.”
The horses at the Longhorn cutting event ranged in price from $50,000 to$300,000. The training of a horse runs into several thousands of dollars by the time the horse is ready to compete on the higher levels of the sport. The rider also has to be trained and gain experience in cutting.
It is important for the rider to keep the reins as slack as possible to let the judge know that the horse is working on its own with a minimum of input from the rider. More than any other event in the rodeo world this is a graceful ballet of man and horse.
Cutting horses are the thoroughbreds of the rodeo world. They are graceful and have the ability to move their forelegs at an incredibly fast rate. The horse keeps eye contact with the animal it is keeping separate from the herd. It almost appears that the top horses can read the mind of the steer or cow it is working.
Cattle are herd animals and the instinct is to remain part of the herd. After the horse and rider separate the animal from the herd, the animal uses any move it can make to outflank the horse and get back to its mates in the herd. As the animal moves back and forth and tries to reverse its moves to outwit the horse, the horse has to match those moves and outwit the animal.
Most rodeo events are considered more of a spectator sport than cutting. Cutting, as are the other rodeo events with the exception of bull riding, is an event of a working ranch. A cow or steer would need to be cut out of the herd to be doctored or branded or for some other reason. The horses that could master the job were bred to produce offspring that could perform like the parents. On some ranches the training of roping and cutting horses was left to the wife. The cowboy was so busy with the day to day working chores on the ranch that he did not have time to train horses. The wives could sandwich training in between cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids.
Training cutting horses is now done on ranches like the Bob Bouget Training Stables in Branch, La. The horses are brought to the training stable and left until they are ready to go to the cutting arena. The owner retrieves the horse and spends time getting used to the horse and the horse to him and then off they go on the competitive circuit.
“I doubt that I will ever try for the World Title again,” Bouget said. “I have won several (11) and it is a tough thing to do. You have to go to every event you can possibly go to and earn as many points as you can. At the end of the year, the one with the most points is the world champ.”
Peveto and Bouget are working to make the Longhorn arena a stop on the “world tour.” The initial event brought in 82 horses for the two day event. There are 15 ACHA categories that can be included in an event. There were about ten events in the Longhorn cutting, and prize money of several thousand dollars to be won.
Following the ACHA circuit can take deep pockets if you have several horses. One rig was the size of an 18 wheeler. The tractor was state of the art and the trailer had spaces for eight horses and ample living quarters for the owners.
One owner spent $3133 in entry and stable fees and won $3087. “That’s the first time in a long time I have lost money, said the owner.
Some horses were from as close as Lafayette and some from as far as Lexington, Texas. The next event for this group will be in Lufkin.
If you appreciate seeing highly trained horses performing to the best of their ability with little input from the human, cutting is the sport for you. The audience participation can best be compared to a tennis match. The attention is rapt, but the noise level is low. Occasionally the horse will make a series of moves that draws applause and when that happens you know that you have been in the presence of greatness.
“I would like to thank Coleman Peveto, Ray Cotton and the rest of the staff at the Longhorn for giving us a great place to hold our cutting. The facilities are good and the staff was very accommodating. You can bet we will be back,” said Bouget.