Cutting Horse Ranches in Parker County, Texas
It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall. Mexican Proverb
Construction is about to begin on a home designed by Texas architect, Stephen B. Chambers, for a Cutting Horse Ranch in Parker County, near Weatherford, Texas. Integral to the design of the custom ranch home are three antique timber frame buildings: two log homes and Revolutionary War-era timber frame barn. The exterior echoes Texas stone ranch homes of the late 1800s. For photos of the ‘barn raising’ and progress on the integration of the historic structures into the new construction, please go to this link.
Weatherford Texas is known as The Cutting Horse Capital of the World. According to Chubby Turner, Cutting Horse Hall of Fame rider and renown cutting horse trainer, “the Cross Timbers belt that runs through Parker County is the real draw.
The sandy loam soil provides the perfect surface for the hooves of cutting horses.” It’s also accessible to the big events held in Fort Worth, Abilene, and Houston. But what is this sport of cutting and why is it increasingly attracting so many people from out of the state and country (70%) to settle in Parker County? Its allure is rooted in a universal fascination with the American cowboy, his craft , and the Old West.
America’s first cowboys were from Mexico. Beginning in the 1500s, the Spanish who brought the first horses to the Americas used Mexican cowboys (vaqueros) to drive and tend livestock between Mexico and what is now Texas and New Mexico. During the early 1800s, the number of English-speaking settlers in the area increased. American settlers adapted the clothing styles, vocabulary, and the skills used by the vaqueros to drive cattle. Early cowboys lived in a constant struggle for self-preservation, but found excitement in the danger and thrill of opening up the West and working and driving vast herds of cattle. There were range wars between cattlemen and sheep herders and conflicts between ranchers and homesteaders as well as danger posed by weather and cattle, which tested the mettle of these heroic figures of the West.
Throughout the 1800s cowboys came from a variety of backgrounds: European immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants who had already settled the Midwest and South. Cowboys pushed westward to take advantage of land grants. By the 1880s, the expansion of the cattle industry resulted in a need for additional open range. Many ranchers expanded into the northwest, where there were still large tracts of unsettled grassland. By the 1900s, one in three American cowboys were of Mexican heritage.
Large numbers of cattle lived in a semi-feral state on the open range and were left to graze, untended, for much of the year. Ranchers formed associations and grazed their cattle together. In order to determine ownership of individual animals, they were marked with distinctive brands while the cattle were still young. The highest level of skill was required by the cowboys and their horses to sort out young calves for branding. The rider and the horse needed to follow the movements of cattle and be capable of stopping and turning faster than others. This most basic and necessary skill of horse and rider working together has come to form today’s sport of cutting.
In the process of allowing a horse to do his instinctive job with the cowboy, a very close bond developed between the rider and the horse. By the 1920s, it became apparent that this every day cowboy craft would become an exciting spectator sport. Cutting performances link the work of the Old West, the relationship that men and animals form in a common endeavor, and the joy of watching it happen.
The cutting horse was the elite member of a remuda of horses. The word remuda, the herd of horses from which ranch hands selected their mounts, is the Spanish derivation, for “change of horses” and was commonly used in the American West. The cutting horse was the one whose ears pricked toward a calf and followed it with his eyes.
It was an agile athlete with intelligence, and the instincts for working with cattle. They knew instinctively not to crowd the animal, yet be wary of every move. He made the difficult job of separating a single animal from an open range herd easier and quicker.
The three antique timber frame structures, referenced above, will be exposed and create the main interior living spaces. They were provided by Heritage Barns of Waco, Texas. Look for photographs in the future of the completed ranch in the Portfolio section of this website under Custom Ranch Homes.
In the gallery, below, are two photos and a sketch of the Revolutionary War-era barn found in Schenectady County, New York (reprinted with permission from Heritage Restorations). It is one of the three antique structures integrated into the design of the new Parker County Cutting Horse ranch home by Stephen B. Chambers Architects.