Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Am I Watching Now! Cutting Horses Over My Head

I've always wanted to watch cutting but have never gotten the opportunity. Many of the shows I attend don't have cutting available. The Region 5 All Arabian Horse Championships dropped those classes years ago when I was first getting started. There just don't seem to be enough Arabian horses participating in that division around here, at least that want to show breed shows.

Now that the rain is back and it's too wet for working horses outside, I headed back to my computer to see what's on the US National All Arabian Horse Show schedule and what do I see but cutting. The only problem is I know nothing about this sport. For once I am lost as to what the judges are looking for.

I looked up the Arabian Cutting Horse Association and got the criteria for the class. However, it was easy to see, just like all other disciplines, the finer points are not spelled out so boy do I have questions and I'm sure hoping some of my blogging friends have answers so I'll know what I'm looking at.

Is this sport scored like reining where you start at 70 and then plus or minus maneuvers?

If "performance is evaluated on the way the horse approaches and enters the herd" what is the ideal for that? Is there proper posture for the horse? Or does smooth and efficient apply?

Is it better to take out the closest cow? Or do you go into the thick of the herd to show skill? Do you score more for working more cows?

Are there specific moves you must do with the cow like they do in Working Cow Horse classes or do you just prove you have control?

When time is called and a cow has just been cut, why do the riders go ahead and work the cow a bit?

What is the job of those other riders?

Is there anything else I should know in watching this class?

Anyone who has answers, I'm all ears. I watched the section cuts today but there will be finals tomorrow so I'm going to get more chance to study this fun looking sport.

Tonight's agenda is the first cuts of the reined cow horse classes. I've seen those once before and I know a little bit about working cow so I won't be totally lost. I sure am enjoying this nationals feed and watching the working western...........


  1. Here's my limited knowledge on the sport. I'll answer whatever questions I know for sure. Hopefully some people have better answers too. :D

    -What is the job of those other riders?
    The other riders keep the cow in a close enough proximity so that the rider being judge can properly work the cow. If they were not there the cow could simply run to the far end of the pen and defeat the purpose of the cut. They help keep the herd close together.

    Is it better to take out the closest cow? Or do you go into the thick of the herd to show skill? Do you score more for working more cows?
    -It's actually better to take a cow you feel will properly show the handling of your horse. Sometimes that may be a close on or a far in the herd cow. A lot of times riders with skill are looking for a heifer (more flighty and will move more than a steer), a brahma cross, or a black cattle cross, but not a charolais cross (the light tan/cream colored calves, those ones are simply stubborn and just plain mean), some of the black cattle - the angus crosses are really slow/lazy and don't really show you're performance off as highly. Sometimes they are just looking for a quick cow to cut. My father is a cattleman so I know slightly more about the cattle then the actual cutting sport. :D

    Is there anything else I should know in watching this class?
    -I know expression has become a big deal lately in the sport. Back when cutting was just starting the horses that would pin their ears back and really maneuver those calves around were the winners. Now it is much easier to win with a horse that shows more curiosity than anger at the cows and has his ears perked up and looks "happy". I've heard it said that now instead of a horse that just wants to maneuver the calves, a horse that is almost slightly on the fearful side is easier to obtain the expression. Just food for thought.

    Hope that helps, I'm not really sure about the scoring system but I have some unique insight into the sport that may help. :D

    Enjoy watching the classes, they sure are fun!

  2. I dont know all the rules, but the NCHA has a rule book that would probly help a lot, Im not sure if the rules for Arabs are differnt though, but maybe worth a try.

  3. I love watching the cow classes. I guess that's why I chose a working cow horse as Yalla's daddy. He's been Reserve National Champion three times now.
    Amy, thanks for the information. I've also wondered how/why they choose a particular cow.

  4. It's been quite awhile since I have cut, so I cannot really speak for the changes in expression that Amy referred too. Stands to reason though, since I have noticed the changes she referred too.

    It has always been preferred for the cutting horse to 'fall away' from the cow vs. pushing forward as they worked. Points are deducted when horses creep forward. If the cow falls back, of course the horse is expected to move forward, but ideally, it's supposed to look like the horse is almost 'inviting' the cow to come toward them to get back to the herd.

    Going deep into the herd, at least once, as long as it was done well-with quiet, fluid motion that did not cause cattle to scatter, merely part like water-does earn points. But...this is really where the rider's cattle 'sense' comes into play. If the herd is flighty and scatter, riding deep can hurt you. If the cattle are dead and don't want to move, that can hurt you. You have to make it perfectly clear which cow you have selected and hold the horse to that cow as well, cause if the judge thinks you locked on one cow (and you had actually locked on another) they can zero you for losing a cow or drastically reduce your score for making a sloppy selection.

    The riders keep riding after the buzzer, mostly so the horses do not start anticipating the buzzer and automatically stopping when they hear it. The riders are allowed to keep working until they reach a spot where they would normally ask a horse to stop working.

  5. Amy, It makes sense they'd want to find the best cow and it makes sense that pushing them for a response would help do that. I think I'm still lost on expression but I suppose that will come with time.

    Crystal, thanks for the link. I will check that out. Having the rule would certainly help.

    fv, I remember that !Yalla's sire was a working horse. Do you plan to do working western with her when she'd ready?

    BECG, falling away makes sense. I hadn't noticed that before but now will watch for it.

    I did notice that some riders went deep into the herd and others did not but hadn't really seen the corollation between that and scoring. That will give me something more to watch for.

    It's much more fun to watch having an idea what I should be seeing. Thanks all!

  6. Another important point in cutting is how you quit a cow. Stopping at the wrong time is refered to as a "hot quit" and gets penalized. This alone can be a real challenge in timing.

    I tried cutting once with a reined cow horse and let me tell you, it was serious fun!

  7. one of my friends/trainers competes in this... now that's a lesson in focus, balance and discovery.!!

    but methinks that's the journey whichever equine one we've chosen
    happy trails