Brandis Langston: What Makes a Good Cutting Horse?
BioStar sat down with our sponsored Western rider Brandis Langston to find out what he looks for in a cutting horse.
When keeping an eye out for a cutting horse prospect, what’s the main thing you’re looking for?
“Honestly, I should probably say conformation, but that wouldn’t be true for me. Bloodlines are the number one thing we look at because there are plenty of great horses that aren’t necessarily built ‘correctly,’ but they have great bloodlines and they have the heart to go on and be great horses. For me, the bloodlines would definitely be the first thing. Breaking that down even further, we look more at the bottom side, the damlines, than we do the sire side. That is the most important thing for me that they have a well-proven mother. The mares just seem to consistently have the most influence on the offspring. Most of the famous horses in cutting have had famous mares. They may have had mediocre sires, but they almost always have famous mothers. Even our most notable sires have influential mothers, so we are really focused on the bottom side. Not only are we looking at the mothers as performers, but we are looking at them as producers so we are taking a close look at their other offspring as well.”
What other factors weigh into your decision on whether a young horse is a good candidate for cutting or not?
“I will always look at their eyes to see if they have a kind eye. Even the wild ones, I will kind of look deep into their souls. I also often like to see the horse turned out in a round pen and watch them move a bit. For cutting the trot is pretty huge since we trot more than we lope. We will also look at how they go into the ground if you step in front of them and how they use themselves when they turn around. As long as the horse looks balanced and doesn’t stand out as looking odd. We are looking for something that floats more in the trot and has a balanced lope, something that will have some presence in the show pen and will stand out!”
Are there specific bloodlines that you find yourself going back to time and time again?
“I tend to gravitate towards a stallion named Dual Rey. His offspring are a little hotter and a little harder to train, but they have a lot of charisma on a cow. High Brow Cat is the most famous bloodline in cutting, so everything basically goes back to him.”
Are there specific personality characteristics that you find help a horse excel in a cutting career?
“Most of the time in cutting we say that the more unique horses, the ones that are a little different in personality and are maybe a little spookier, tend to be the better cutting horses. The weird kind of horses just tend to be better performers. The quiet ones who are easy to get along with serve a purpose, but they are usually not the top performers. We like the quirky ones honestly. They just tend to be better across the board!”
Do you prefer to get youngstock and train them up yourself?
“I prefer it that way, yes. I know a lot of trainers who start their horses young as long yearlings or two year olds, but I tend to get them in their two year old year between January and as late as June. We start our horses earlier than some other disciplines, but we just like to get them going fairly easily and not push them. Just take some baby steps along the way. When we expose them to cattle really just depends. I have gotten the horses really broke and then expose them to cows and then other times I have them pretty green and barely going around and I will go and point them at a cow. They don’t have to hold the cow or anything, of course, but it gives me the chance to expose them to them. The cowy nature is pretty instinctual in them which is why we expose them early on. They will show some type of expression early on, it is just innate and in them. They don’t even know why they are doing it, it is just bred into them, so they will show you if they have any interest or not.”
If you find that a horse maybe isn’t loving a career as a cutting horse, what other disciplines do you find those horses tend to transition over to?
“We have a lot of horses who go on to be ropers or barrel racing horses. The goal of my program is to just get these young horses really broke so that no matter what discipline they go into, they are going in broke with the chance to be successful in that program. There has been more of a shift here recently in barrel racing where people are looking for more broke horses, so we find they are going to the cutters and the reiners to look at horses started in those disciplines so they can take the horse on to barrel race on them and get away a bit from the stigma of the wild barrel horse.”
How important is the nutrition aspect of keeping a cutting horse fit and ready to compete?
“I mainly experiment with each horse and pay attention to how they are reacting and feeling on their diet. It is constant as we try to find something that works for each horse and when we find the right thing, we stick with it for that horse. Nutrition is so important because these horses are exerting so much energy. You have to keep them fueled and replenished. Establishing a proper feeding and supplementation program is not only a major part of my program, but any cutting trainers.”
Can you talk about your show this past weekend? How was Winston at the show? We know he can get a bit anxious!
“All of the horses were great this past weekend. I had an extremely good show. Actually our last few weekends out have been amazing. Winston can be pretty wild, so anything that can help keep him dialed in and focused like the BioStar products are great. We are leading in a couple of clubs for the saddle awards right now. He has been on fire!”