The History of Cutting

Cutting has been around a long time…since the early 1800’s. Cattle drives and working ranches made cutting a necessity!

The need to cut cattle to isolate them from the rest of the herd was a requirement in order to treat any medical conditions they might have had, or for branding purposes. It was discovered, by using a specially trained horse, this task could be accomplished very efficiently, thus introducing the ‘cutting horse’ and the art of cutting.

Cowboys would get together in the mid 1880’s to see who had the best cutting horse. This gained popularity, and by the 1900’s was becoming a sport of it’s own!

As the sport grew in popularity, rodeos and cowboy gatherings started to feature the event of cutting. With this, the necessity of some rules and guidelines for cutting had to come into play. In 1946 the National Cutting Horse Association was formed. Later the Canadian Cutting Horse Association was formed.

Today cutting is an exciting sport with many competitors throughout our nation.

Competitors have 2.30 minutes to cut as many cattle from the herd that they can, normally there is time to cut 2 or 3 cows. The rider brings the horse into to herd and begins the process of selection. Once the cow is selected and the cut is made, the rider will loosen the reins on the horse, grab hold of the saddle horn and allow his horse to take control of the cow. The horse’s job is to prevent the cow from returning to the herd. Many hours of training are involved and a good cutting horse knows exactly what his job is.

Once the cow becomes inactive or disinterested in returning to the herd, the rider is able to ‘quit the cow’ by lifting his reins as a signal, only after the cow is visibly stopped with no leg movement or is turned in the opposite direction and is moving away from the cutter. The cow is then released to return to the herd, and the rider then goes back into the herd, selects another cow, cuts it from the herd and begins the process again.

Showing and Judging the Cutting Horse

The following questions and answers are included in the Rule Book as an aid to a clearer understanding of the Rules for Judging Cutting Horses.

The opinions expressed are based on surveys and judging clinics conducted by the NCHA, and have the endorsement of the CCHA Executive Committee.

1. What is the desired number of cattle to work?
The preferred number of cattle to cut in the two and one-half minute time limit is two or three head. If a person can do as much and show sustained control on two head as another can do on three, the person working the two head should have the higher score because he/she has not spent as much time in the herd.

2. Approaching the Herd.
A horse should never be set down hard approaching the herd. Walking or trotting to the herd is acceptable provided the horse is taken up very easily before getting close enough to disturb the cattle. The horse should display no hesitation, weaving or reluctance to approach and enter the herd.

3. Entering and working the herd.
The true cutting horse enters the herd with ease, concentrating on the job to be done. Not looking over the back fence or biting. Alert, but quiet, making no unnecessary movements that might disturb the cattle.

Here are some specific points on herd work:
Q. How far should a horse go into the herd to cut a cow?
A. He should go deep enough to show his ability to one out.

Q. Is it all right to enter the middle of the herd on either side and go to the middle or back side to get one out?
A. Yes.

Q. Is it all right to go behind the herd and bring out the one wanted?
A. Yes.

4. When should a horse be turned loose?
A rider entering the herd may have a light-rein contact with his horse, and maintain this contact while he is in the herd and while he is in the process of cutting the animal free from the remaining cattle. When the animal has been cut, he should let his horse alone, and the horse should be given enough slack so that it is obvious to the judge that the horse was on his own.

5. Bringing the cow from the herd.
The cutting horse should stay a reasonable distance from the cow if possible, showing a great deal of expression but no illness toward the animal being cut. He should be on his toes making counter movements to the cow regardless of the distance separating them. The horse should not rush or push cattle excessively in bringing one from the herd unless the cow turns around and tries to get back at the edge of the herd. The horse should bring the cow a sufficient distance from the herd toward the centre of the arena, so the herd will not be disturbed while working and setting the cow up.

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