The air was full of mooing, silly horse names and friendly advice at Hardy Murphy Coliseum this weekend during the World Cutting Horse Association’s cutting competition.
Cutting is a fairly unique equestrian competition in which horses and riders show off their ability to manage cattle. Misty Enger, the World Cutting Horse Association show secretary, said her organization makes it a point to keep competitions friendly and welcoming to all skill levels.
“It’s all walks of life,” Enger said. “You have people who do this professionally, you have people that work a real job and then come do this just to play, you have people that have been cutting for 50-plus years and you have some that this is their very first show.”
In cutting, riders are only allowed to direct horses to a certain extent, which means that horses need to be extremely well-trained, talented and interested in the job.
Lauren Whitmire came to Hardy Murphy to compete in the non-pro division with her horse, Autumn. Now 23, Whitmire has been competing in cutting since she was 9 years old.
“My stepfather was big into it,” Whitmire said. “When I was that young, I had a big support group, which was really nice. I had a lot of friends my age that I’ve grown up with in this industry.”
She said the event is laid-back and feels more like a family gathering than a high-stakes competition.
“Horses will teach you more than most humans will,” Whitmire said.
Hope and Faith Miller, who are 9 and 16 respectively, are sisters who’ve been competing for the last two years. Their horses, named Shorty and Regan, are both about 2 years old.
“We also rodeo, and when we have an off weekend we try to do these,” Faith said.
Rodeo, Faith said, is a lot more fast-paced and demanding in a different way, but cutting competitions are more skill-focused and put emphasis on technique over timing.
“Rodeo is a lot more intense,” Hope said. “Not as many people are helping you.”
Leon Harrel has been cutting professionally since the mid-60s, and he’s been coming to Hardy Murphy for competitions for about 20 years. On Saturday, he and his horse One Time Pepto competed in the aged events, which are for horses that are four, five and six years old.
“I’ve been in the horse business professionally since ’63,” Harrel said. “I’ve been all over the world cutting, and this is just a great place to come.”
He said the arena itself is a personal favorite, and he considers many of the competitors to be friends.
“This is a really good family sport,” Harrel said. “They’ve always had classes for the youth, they used to have classes just for the ladies, so they’ve tried to make it family friendly.”
He said that the addition of novice and amateur divisions brought in people who were new to the sport.
“Now, there’s a way to get in without competing against people who’ve been doing it forever,” Harrel said.
Uwe Roeschman was among the more seasoned competitors on Saturday. Originally from northern Germany, where he operated the largest non-professional barn in Europe, he said he moved to the US about 17 years ago. He’s been competing for 30 years. He said developing the skills to compete in cutting takes two or three years.
“You’ve always got a different cow,” he said. “It depends on how often you do it. Only once a week won’t cut it. It’s like anything else. You have to do it daily.”