The equestrian sport of ‘cutting’ emerged from the open ranges of the American West. Ranchers hired cowboys to work their cattle herds, and the job included separating from a herd (‘cutting’ from the herd) cows that were in need of branding or veterinary care or that had wandered and become mingled in a herd of neighboring ranches. The cowboys used their best ‘cow smart’ horses for the task, a western cross-breed descendant from the horses brought to North America by Conquistadors with an instinctive ability to anticipate a cow’s movement.
In 1898, the first cutting horse competition was held in Haskell, Texas, and it’s become an international sport with sanctioned professional, amateur and open events offering prize money and awards. In competition, a horse and rider work as a team to demonstrate the horse’s skills during a 2½ minute performance, called a “run”. The horse/rider contestant must make at least two cuts of cows from the herd during a run, one from deep inside the herd while others can be peeled from the edges. After the selected cow has been separated from the herd, it’s up to the horse to defend and hold the cow, except that a rider may use leg cues to prevent the cow from returning to the herd. Judges score a run on a scale from 60 to 80, with 70 being an average score. Cutting horse competition is primarily governed by the rules and regulations established by the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), founded in 1948. ‘Limited Age Events (LAE)’ are restricted to young horses in a specific age group. A ‘futurity’ is for late 3-year or early 4-year old horses; a ‘derby’ is for mid to late 4-year olds; and a ‘classic’, or classic/challenge, is for 5 and 6-year old horses. (See Spectator’s Guide→ HERE and 2017 NCHA Rule Book Here)
National Cutting Horse Association
Wikipedia: Cutting (sport)
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