If you’re not familiar with cutting horses, you may be wondering what a turn-back man is. Now, I’m no cutting expert, but I am the queen of “armchair horsemanship”. I cannot count the hours I’ve spent listening to Spence talk about training horses, watching Spence training horses, watching instructional videos about training horses, watching cuttings on TV, watching actual cuttings, looking at Pedigrees, etc., etc., etc. If I had spent this much time riding a horse, I would be really good by now, but unfortunately, I’m usually just trying to keep Chase from getting trampled.
In cutting, the point is to “cut” a cow out of the herd and then keep it out in front of the herd without it sneaking back in. The cow always wants to get back to the herd, so it’s kind of like a dance between the horse and the cow, dodging back and forth, the cow trying to get past the horse and the horse trying to keep it from doing just that. Once the rider cuts the cow out of the herd, he is then supposed to drop his reins and let the trained horse do all of the work. The whole thing (if it’s in a competition) lasts 2 1/2 minutes and the rider usually cuts three different cows.
The rider is supposed to keep the cow in the middle of the arena as opposed to out on the sides. This is where the turn-back comes in. Also, the cow needs to keep moving so that the horse gets more “working time” rather than just standing there glaring at each other…this is also where the turn-back can come in handy.
You have your turn-back men (or women:) stationed on the outside of the herd so that if your cow strays to far to the outside, they can turn them back to you. They can also turn back any cows that may wander out of the herd while you are cutting your chosen cow. Although I think that if this happens in a contest, you get penalized. The main thing Spence uses a turn back for when he is training his horses is to keep the cow moving. Sometimes a cow will become tired or bored :0 and will just stop and stand there. This is not a good thing when you are trying to train your horse. This can happen fairly often when you have used the same cows to practice on a lot…they must figure out at some point that there is not point in running and dodging and dancing when you can just stand. So you need someone to go over to the cow and give it a little nudge to get going again (because the horse that is cutting is not supposed to move toward the cow). Hayes has become just that man for Spence.
Here is Spence with a cow that is moving so that he is able to practice his horse.
Here is Hayes, patiently waiting to help out. It was hot this day.
Alright, show time! This cow has turned away from Spence and doesn’t want to dance anymore. Hayes starts to move in for the “nudge”.
And it worked. Spence and the cow are off again in the “battle to the herd”.
You couldn’t ask for a more handsome turn-back man! (he’s even turning back for a picture :) haha