JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Riding through the Kirk Fordice Equine Center Monday morning, Gail Sanders picks one cow from the herd, then lets her cutting horse take control.
"Gosh, just the feel of a cutting horse once you have that horse move underneath you on that cow, you're hooked."
Since learning to ride cutting horses at age 40, it's become Sanders favorite hobby. And she hopes it can help her win big during the National Cutting Horse Associations Eastern National Championships at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds.
The goal is to use your horse to separate one cow from a herd.
"Look for the horse working the cow, and how he gets down low and maneuvers and how he is trained to control the cow in the middle of the pin," said Sanders.
According to experts, it's a hard sport to master, because the horse is in control most of the time a competitor is in the arena.
"It's kind of like playing chess. It's something new every time you go down there," said Chubby Turner, president of the NCHA.
And even in a tough economy, this year's show has over a thousand competitors, a record-breaking number.
"During the down times in the economy, it seems like we always do okay. I think it's because people want to get away and get their mind off the economy being so bad, and this is something that, as soon as you get on this horse, it's all you think about," said Turner.
And a $100,000 increase on the purse doesn't hurt either. It's almost double last year's purse, giving riders an extra incentive to compete.
Still, Sanders said the biggest incentive is intangible.
"I fell in love with it. I've lived and breathed it for a year," said Sanders.
The 13-day event has an estimated economic impact of over $7.6 million for the city of Jackson.
It runs through March 20th at the Kirk Fordice Equine Center. Competition begins daily at 8 AM. It is free and open to the public.
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