Cutting 101

So for some of you, I have a feeling you don’t know the type of horses I show.  They are a very specialized type… not breed (Paint, Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, etc), showing type (as in reining, cutting, western pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle, etc).  My parents have been involved with cutting horses since I was 5 years old.  Before that my mom showed Arabian horses in Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Halter, etc.  Where we lived when I was 5, there was an arena right around the corner.  One afternoon my mom was killing time and went by to see if anything was going on.  They were having a cutting horse practice and some guy asked my mom to ride a horse for him, not knowing if she even knew how to ride a horse.  She was sold.  She loved it so much she came home that night, told my dad her horse was for sale and they got into the cutting horse business.

So far all of our Cutting horses we own are registered American Quarter Horses, which generally is the case, but not always.

So anyway I thought I’d try to give you a cutting lesson and explain what happens through the use of pictures… Sit back and enjoy 🙂

First things first, you have to hook up your truck to your trailer

And load the horses up so they are ready to go.  Now ours enjoy a little munchy for the road, it keeps them from being so crabby and stomping around in the trailer while going down the road.

So once you get to the show you are headed to (this one was about 2 hrs from our house) you unload your horse, saddle them up, and go to “warm them up”.  This is like with any sports you play, you want to warm your muscles up so you don’t cause injury.  Also, in this case, if it is chilly out, you take the “freshness” out of them.  (Freshness = the extreme excitement, or the feather up their tail… LOL)

This particular day I wore a sweatshirt just to take the chill off but it wasn’t cold so it didn’t take much to get the horses to calm down.

So once you’ve done all the prep work then you sign up for your class (although sometimes you do that before warming them up… just whichever as long as you get signed up)

For every horse that signs up for the particular class that is getting ready to start, they place 2 1/2 cows in.  Now I’ll bet you are asking how you place a half a cow in… well for every 2 people there are 5 head of cattle added to the herd.  It also takes at least 3 people to make a class.  If you wind up with an odd number of entrants therefore an odd number of cattle (that half a cow) they round up.

Next before the class starts, the first person asks for a “turnback” to settle the cattle.  These cattle (unless announced otherwise) are fresh, meaning they’ve never been worked by a horse.    The turnback goes in and walks through them, runs back and forth through them, etc trying to get them to settle into the herd and not be skiddish for when the riders are running back and forth in front of them.

While the turnback is settling the cattle, usually the people who are going to show in that particular class are doing 1 of 2 things.  Continuing getting their horse ready or else they are sitting there watching the turnback and how the cattle react to the horse.  The cows who are skiddish, you usually try to avoid because they aren’t always the best to work…

You also have a judge.  He has a judges card.  Our particular judge was sitting on horse back but usually they sit up on a truck bed, or in a judges box or something up a little higher so they don’t get an obstructed view.  He has a judging card which is where he makes his notes so he can decide what you score.  The scores range from a 60- the highest I’ve seen is a 78.  You have to be AWESOME x10 to get a 78…  The average score is a 70.  You can also get a 0 if you walk out before the timer is done.  You have 2 1/2 minutes to work 2 cattle.  That doesn’t seem like much when you just read it, but trust me, it’s intense!
When you walk into the herd, most judges have  you set at a 70, then you work up or down from there.

So the rider walks down very slowly and smooth into the herd of cattle and pushes them out.  You want to be left with one cow out in front of you and the rest of the herd to group up behind you.

This gray horse you see in this picture, is a “Turnback.”  You have 2 turnback helpers who are between you and the judge.  These guys help turn your cattle around.  Then you have 2 herd holders.  Those guys stand down by the herd and try to keep them from “squeezing” (coming) out on you.

Then you put your hand down and only cue the horse with your feet.  Every time while you are actually working the cow that you pick your hand up is 1 point off your total score, unless you are legally tagging off.

There are a couple of Legal tag offs.  One is if the cow turns away from you (turns his tail to you).  You can pick up your rein hand and place your horn hand down on the horses neck.  That is a legal tag off and you go back in to get another cow (unless the timer has buzzed signaling time is over)

The other “Legal” tagoff is if the cow is standing dead still (as are you).  You can pick your rein hand up and place your horn hand down on the horses neck. 

If you don’t tag off legally, then you are known for a “hot quit” which results in a 3 point penalty.  An illegal tag off is if you pick up your hand to tag off while the cow is moving or turns head toward you.

If you “lose a cow” which means that the cow goes under your horses neck without you legally tagging off, you deduct 5 points from your total score.

The joke is you rush rush rush to get to a show and get ready and then you sit around and wait for your turn…

Another penalty is if you have a back-fence.  There usually is a “marker”, in our case purple hankies, down on the fence very close to where the cattle stand.  There is one on either side.  If you and your horse go to the inside of those markers, that is a Backfence which results in a 3 point penalty.

Other typical penalties: If you have 2 hands on the reins at any time, that results in a 2 point penalty every time you do it.

If you go to training on your horse (way to many penalties) a judge can “Whistle” you out which will result in a 0 score.  And they actually have a whistle for that purpose if they feel the need.

Whether you score a 0 or you score the winning score of the class you pay the same entry fee (whatever it is for that class).  In American Quarter Horse Shows you are competing for Points.  So many points qualifies you for the World show.  The Adult World show is held in Oklahoma City, OK and the Youth World show has been moved to Tulsa, OK.

If you are competing in National Cutting Horse Association shows you are competing for money.  Different placings get you different monetary winnings.

Once you have finished showing for the day, you unsaddle your horses, load them back up in the trailer and head for the Ranch-o-Grandy.

I hope I have taught you anything and everything you’d ever like to know about showing cutting horses.  Yes this was just an over view and some of the major point penalties.  If I didn’t answer a question, lemme know and I’ll try 🙂

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0 thoughts on “Cutting 101

  1. I have to admit I know nothing about cuttin', but it sounds fun! Sort of complicated to figure out, but I'm sure it's one of those things that if you do it it makes more sense! Are you showing this season?

  2. I didn't understand 1/2 of that and it sounds like a lot of work but I will say, it really does look like a LOT of fun!

  3. I always love to watch cutting but no one was ever able to explain the rules to me–until now! Thanks so much for writing it all out. I know I'll enjoy watching it even MORE now! 🙂

    Do you tend to compete at World every year?

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