Cutting is a Western competition in which the contestant selects a cow from a herd and moves it away from the others. The contestant turns his horse to face the cow and drops the reins. Then the horse must keep the cow from returning to the herd.
The horse is given 90 seconds to work two cows.

Besides the contestant, there are two riders to hold the herd and two turnback riders who make sure the cow wants to go back to the herd.

What horse do I need?

Cutting horses are usually Quarter Horses, Paints, or Appaloosas. A model like Smart Little Lena or Breyer Spirit of the West will work.

Spirit of the West

My pinterest board with photos of model horses, clothing and cutting horses.

What should the rider be doing?

Nothing! The rider just tries to stay on the horse while it does the work.

The rider will be penalized for using the reins (one point). If the horse is wearing a hackamore or snaffle, the rider can hold the reins in both hands. There is a 3 point penalty for holding curb reins with both hands.

Toes or feet on the horse's shoulder are considered as cues (1 point penalty). Make sure the rider's legs are behind the shoulder.

What should the horse be doing?

The horse should be low to the ground so it can move fast, facing the cow, and making eye contact with the cow ( no eye contact = 1 point penalty).

What does the rider wear?

The usual Western clothing. Chaps and spurs are allowed. Sweaters may be worn over a long sleeved western shirt. Only youth may wear helmets, adults must wear cowboy hats.

What does the horse wear?

cutting saddle, a curb bridle or hackamore, a breastcollar. Hackamores may not have any metal parts or braided rawhide balls on the noseband. Bridles cannot have nosebands.

Tiedowns, bats and quirts are not allowed.

Curb chains and curb straps must be attached to the bit by nylon string, nylon straps, or leather straps. Decorative knots or tassels are not allowed on the curb strap or chain.

Cutting is all about the details

Our State Fair Cutting competitions are standing room only, but very few of the spectators understand what they are watching.

A good cutting horse will be the center of attention. If you notice the turnback men, the herd acting up or the kid eating a hot dog sitting in front of you - then the horse isn't doing his job.

There will be a cow, of course. But the cow is almost a shadow of the horse.

As the cow moves, the horse should counter it.

A great horse will appear to be reading the cows mind, the horse might even start to move a fraction of a second early. The horse should show mastery over the cow, an attitude that says "No way are you getting past me!"

So when you are setting up a cutting entry try to show power. Line the horse up so it can see the cow, move the horse into the cow's personal space.

Oh yes, the horse has a rider. (After all who drove the horse to the event?). But during the event, the rider usually commands as much attention as the saddle.

With the exception of the rider going for style points or taking a dare from the announcer. I have seen riders hold their hat over their head during the event or ride with both arms out to the side (but only for a few seconds).

Support MakeHOrseStuff when you shop at Amazon

Click an orange Amazon button on our site before you shop (and Amazon will send us a few cents to help run this site).

Thank You!

A Board For Every Horse Event!

And our special "Model Horse Goals" board