Friday, I told everyone I was going to take pictures at a cutting horse event and post them here. I said “I have my camera ready,” if I remember correctly. Well, I lied.
Although MSB and I are moving closer to getting a digital camera, the one I took to the event was a fast-speed disposable. My initial plan was to take it to Walgreens, laden with perfect shots of horses in action, and have a disc made so I could upload the pics here. It was a great idea, until I realized how far from the action I’d be sitting (not to mention that the camera range was fourteen feet, and this disposable didn’t come complete with a zoom lens).
Next best thing was my Blackberry camera. At least that way I didn’t have to pay to develop a bunch o’ bad shots. That camera does have a zoom lens, although it doesn’t zoom very well or very close to the subject. It’s shutter speed stinks–if digital cameras have a shutter speed. (Anyone know?) So the shots I got are rough. Functional, but rough.
Regardless of the picture quality, the morning was fantastic. My first contact was a horse trainer, and after picking his brain for about twenty minutes, I was introduced to the grandparents of the sport in the Brazos Valley–Olan and Peggy Hightower. Olan was competing, and though I got to talk with him for a short while, I spent the bulk of the competition under Peggy’s wing. Peggy and Olan have been in the business for over fifty years, and the first thing I learned from them is that the “young ‘uns don’t do it right.”
Basically, the “new” way of training the horses to cut out a calf from the herd is through repetition. Makes sense to a certain extent, but if the horse is never expected to use his head while working, his movements become mechanical. If Olan and Peggy had their way, every cutting horse would first be a working ranch horse. That would eliminate the arena setting and require the horse to figure out what he’s supposed to do. A bit of teaching and repetition are required, but according to the Hightowers, the horse keeps his head in the game longer and pays closer attention to the movements of the calf.
A horse that’s trained exclusively for cutting goes through daily repetitions, then is released into the pasture. A working cattle horse doesn’t have that luxury–he works, and because of that, he’s generally healthier and smarter than trainees.
What they said made sense, and it gave me an idea for the conflict in Southern Challenge. I am nowhere near finished with my research, nowhere near comfortable enough with the subject to write any further than I have in the manuscript. But with every little tidbit I glean, the story develops and becomes sharper. Which is more than I can say for my pictures.