Millarville, Alberta
Some Points on 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.

  4. 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 cut 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. When is a cow set up (in working position)?
    The cow should be in the middle of the arena or as near this point as possible with the horse making movements to counteract movements of the cow. This does not mean that the horse should be moving while the cow is standing still. When the cow moves, the horse should make faster moves so that he will hold the cow, not only from returning to the herd, but also from going from side to side (wall to wall), without excessive help from his turn-back men. When the turn-back men are heading the cow and not the working horse, he should be marked down and receive a lower score.

  8. When is a horse out of position?
    A horse is out of position when he has gone past an animal further than necessary to force the animal to turn. One must take into consideration the speed the animal and horse are traveling; one must also take into consideration whether the animal being worked is a rank cow or one that is merely running, or a slow-moving , easy to hold animal. If the animal is running at a fast rate of speed, it is almost impossible to turn this animal without going by its head at least as much as a third or half a length. But, if an animal is working slow, then the horse should be able to turn this animal without going by more than a neck. It would also be taken into consideration the distance the cow has traveled before it is turned. If a cow only goes a short distance, a horse should be able to work head to head with this animal. But, if a cow makes a long run, then it is almost impossible for a horse to turn head to head with an animal making such a run. The general working position of a horse should be such that he can counter any move in and direction so as to prevent the animal from returning to the herd.

  9. Picking up cattle.
    After a horse has cut a head of stock and moved it to working position, and one or more cattle come from the herd through no fault of the horse working, and he quits the stock he is working in good shape, there should be no penalty. However, if the horse will not drive his stock to a working position and gets in trouble with stock moving out, then he should be penalized.

  10. What is a satisfactory way of quitting a cow?
    A contestant may quit an animal without penalty when it is obviously stopped, obviously turned away, or obviously behind the turn-back horses and the turn-back horses are behind the time line. A penalty of three points must be charged if the animal is quit under any other circumstances.

  11. The duty of the herd-holders.
    A herd holder's duty is to assist the cutter in containing the herd and group of cattle the cutter is trying to cut from. This gives the cutter ample opportunity to demonstrate to the judges his ability to work the herd, drive a cow, and set a cow up in the middle of the pen. These conditions allow a judge to give credit to the cutter under Rules 1A, Two (2) and Four (4). After assisting the cutter in making a cut, the herd-holder should move to a position toward the arena wall that will enable him/her to contain the herd, but not distract from the run. Any excessive noise or action by the herd-holder is prohibited. Although there is no specific penalty for this action, it does hinder the cutter's horse from showing his full potential.

* Extracted from the Canadian Cutting Horse Association Rule Book 16th Edition.