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Southern Legend’s Horses Are A Cut Above

By Susie Sims

What’s one of the fastest growing areas in the equestrian world? Cutting horses are catching on at lightning speed. The sport is catching on so quickly, in fact, that Ken Dyson has built a business around it.

"We moved in our first horses on June 1," said Dyson. "We had our first show in July and 100 rides showed up."

Dyson, who moved to the Aliceville area from Dothan, is the owner of Southern Legend Outfitters, a full-service hunting lodge and outfitter.

"We began this cutting horse program as a way to subsidize and enhance our outfitters," said Dyson. "The program quickly demanded a lot of attention."

(Left to right) Aliceville Farm Supply Assistant Manager Glenn Lee, owner Ken Dyson and trainer Greg Clark in the stable at Southern Legend Ranch.

Dyson’s arena, near Aliceville, is home to the West Alabama Cutting Horse Association, one of only three Associations in the state. The 80- by 200-foot arena sits on the Southern Legend Ranch in Pickens County.

The Association hosts shows on the first Saturday of each month from February to November. The shows are growing in popularity, said Dyson, noting that many people come to see what the sport is all about.

Trainer Greg Clark and one of the studs available at Southern Legend Ranch.

"People come and get interested in the sport," Dyson said. "They ask how they can get involved and we help them out."

The sport is unique in that horse owners aren’t necessarily the riders in the competitions. Dyson noted that cutting horse trainers do a good bit of the riding. The trainers will ride several different horses during a competition, which is divided into classes based on the age of the horse.

Horses become more valuable the more money they earn at competitions.

Riders also accumulate earnings. Riders who have earned more winnings become highly desirable as trainers.

Dyson’s ranch has a full-time trainer, Greg Clark. Clark trains horses for the ranch and rides them in the Association’s shows. His wife, Linda, is his right-hand-man, so to speak.

Full Service Cutting Horse Ranch

The ranch offers a stud service for interested horse owners.

"We have six studs at the present time," said Dyson. "They are real competitors."

In addition to the stud service the ranch also assists in brokering sales for its customers.

Of course, the main service is the training provided by Clark.

"We will board and train a horse to compete," said Dyson. "You can usually tell within 90 days if a horse has the potential to be a good cutting horse."

The ranch does not board horses other than those being trained.

Training for most cutting horses begins by about age 2. Most horses need at least one year of training to compete.

Owner Ken Dyson (standing) and trainer Greg Clark.

"The horse must have knowledge to cut cattle," said Dyson. "Some horses catch on quicker than others."

Trainer Greg Clark is along for ride on this cut as he has dropped the reins on his horse, demonstrating the animal’s capabilities as a cutting horse.

Dyson noted that some horses don’t have the demeanor needed to be a cutting horse, noting that some horses are too skittish around cattle or when they are in the arena.


To aid in training the cutting horses, Dyson preconditions calves for sale.

He keeps 350 to 380 head for 30 to 40 days. These calves are leased by the day to the Cutting Horse Association for use in practice.

Many of the local association members will train their horses on the weekends using Dyson’s calves.

Dyson noted that this system works well in that there is always a supply of fresh calves for the horses to train with.

Basics of Competition

In order to compete the rider must be able to quickly "tell" the horse which calf to cut from the herd. This must be done with as little body movement by the rider as possible.

The rider has two- and one-half minutes to cut two calves from the herd. The rider can cut up to three calves if desired. One of these cuts must come from deep in the herd.

A view of Southern Living Ranch. The arena and stable are in the background and to the right. The house on the left is the outfitters lodge.

The rider must evaluate the cattle and nudge the horse in that direction. Much of the rest of the process is up to the horse. Trainer Clark demonstrated this fact by removing the bit and reins from his horse and letting it do all the work with nothing but foot signals from Clark.

Clark noted that beginner horses were not capable of this but that well-trained, experienced horses should be able to cut the calves on their own.

The horse Clark used for the demonstration is owned by Dyson and is the five- and six-year champion for the local Association.

Persons interested in more rules of competition can visit the National Cutting Horse Association’s website at www.nchacutting.com.


In addition to the ranch, Dyson also operates a full-service outfitters. Southern Legend Outfitters is the home of The Roost Hunting Preserve and Lake Dancy.

The game preserve encompasses 6,500 acres along the Alabama and Mississippi border. Lake Dancy covers 177 acres and is stocked with northern and Florida Bass.

The 6,000-square-foot hunting lodge can accommodate up to 12 guests and is available by reservation.

Faithful Co-op Customer

Dyson believes in buying local so he does about 90 percent of his business with the Aliceville Farm Supply. He depends on the Co-op for feed, minerals, stall equipment, pine and cedar shavings, feeders, water buckets, as well as fencing materials.

Assistant Manager Glenn Lee noted that Dyson is one of the local store’s largest customers.

Contact Information

Persons interested in either the ranch or the outfitters may contact Dyson at (205) 373-3147. Clark may be reached by calling (205) 246-6953. The websites are www.theroost.com and www.southernlegendranch.com. The ranch website has information about the studs that are available at the ranch.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006