Writing on the Range

It’s Under Control

Cory Pounds trains cutting horses

Being down with COVID-19 gave me a chance to contemplate the virus, cutting and life are all full of risks.

So, I got the COVID. For three or four days I was laid up—not feeling too bad, praise God—but having no energy. My infirmity happened to coincide with the first few rounds of the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. With nothing good on television, I tucked in to three days of cutting. I loved it. Seeing these 3-year-olds move and work a cow left me astonished.

However, it’s not all flashy turns and hard stops. As I’ve written before, one of the most beautiful things about cutting is the lack of control the rider has once he drops his hand. And sometimes in his freedom, a horse’s shortcomings are exposed. If a horse—for whatever reason—decides to quit working a cow, there’s nothing the rider can do about it. He or she is out on a limb trusting a horse’s instinct, cow sense and training. It’s a risky spot.

Cory Cushing cutting a cow
When a rider drops his hand on cutting horse it offers a sense of freedom, but it also can be a risky situation like anything in life.
Photo by Ross Hecox

You know where else is a risky spot? All of life. Suffering from COVID-19 gave me an opportunity to think about the meaning of the disease and the human race’s varied response to it. Everyone has their own take on this pandemic. Here’s mine.

First, in these pre-vaccine times, I don’t see that we humans have any control over this thing. When it first broke, no one was wearing masks or social distancing. Now, while there’s not the compliance some of our elected and non-elected officials would like, society is wearing masks and social distancing at a much higher rate—yet the infectious rate is higher than before. I have no doubt that masks, social distancing and diligent hygiene are wise practices to help slow the spread, but do we really think these measures are controlling the virus?

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that living this life is a bit like showing a cutting horse. Trainers spend years helping their horses learn, instructing them, and building their confidence. In life, we do all we can to live properly, work hard, and love our family. But there are moments when the whole thing slips from our control. A loved one is diagnosed with cancer, an accident takes the life of a young friend full of potential, or a global pandemic ensues. In our reaction we show what we really believe. When life feels out of control, do we become anxious, blame others, and become embittered and frustrated?

When our horse freezes up and doesn’t turn with the cow, do we jerk and spur in an effort to make sure everyone in the arena knows it’s the horse’s fault? Do we leave dejected and never swing our leg back over the horse?

Or do we patiently ride out of the arena and work on the problem in the practice pen? For anyone who’s trained or shown a horse, it isn’t hard to know what the right thing to do is. (Sometimes doing it is another problem, I’ll admit.)

But in life, the stakes are a bit higher. How do we react when COVID turns our lives upside down? Where do we look when it’s all spinning out of control? There’s a story of one of the biggest ranchers in history who had it all and lost it in one fell swoop—his herds, his ranch hands, his land and his family. His world spun completely out of control, yet he had the perspective to understand it was never really in his control in the first place.

If you catch the COVID and have some time to spare, or if you just need a dose of perspective, check out his story. His name was Job. I don’t know if he showed cutting horses, but he would have handled it perfect if one went cold on him out on the end during the open finals of the futurity at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

1 thought on “It’s Under Control”

  1. what good comments – we aren’t judged by what happens to us, but how we handle it…… an attitude of gratitude, no matter the situation always helps in some way, seldom what we expect.


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