Ask an Expert

Advanced Horse, Novice Rider

March 22, 2010

Cutting expert Al Dunning offers advice for handling a powerful cutting horse.


I’ve recently purchased a much more advanced cutting horse than the one I was riding to teach me. This horse is much faster through his turns. I’m not having trouble stopping or turning; it’s when the horse makes multiple moves with the cow and then accelerates much faster than what I’m prepared for and slides me back out of the saddle before I can react. Should I be pulling on the horn? Please help.

Thanks, Dave


Hi, Dave,

Your problem is not uncommon in riders who step up to a more powerful cutter with greater dynamics.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Watch the cow intently! Never take your focus off the cow.
  2. Sit forward in your saddle with your stirrups fairly short.
  3. Ride with your feet directly under your hips, rather than forward.
  4. Never pull on the horn. Only push against it with the heel of your hand.
  5. Stay in a relaxed, rounded-back position. Stay low to your horse.
  6. Keep your chin over the horn of your saddle.

These tips will help you ride your horse much better. The No. 1 concept is to study the cow at all times.

By studying your cow, you will avoid being surprised by your horse’s power moves or acceleration. When your horse reacts to the cow, you see it, feel it and ride “with” your horse.

Happy cutting,

AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning

Al Dunning is a contributor to AQHA’s Borrow A Trainer report, a must-have resource for any horseman’s library. Learn more!