Cutting to the Chase

Sort out the finer points of an essential ranch skill turned sport.
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Sort out the finer points of an essential ranch skill turned sport.
Paul Hansma, NCHA Cutting Hall of Fame member

If you have a yen to fork a fast cutting horse, peel a baldie out of a herd, assume a classic cutter’s slump, and ride with confidence, grace, and style, then cutting is the sport for you. This is both good and bad news.

The good news is that your first time on a cutting horse will be the most exciting ride of your life. When a cutting horse locks eyes with a cow and drops to a crouch, you won’t believe that a horse can do all that it does on its own. Chances are your first few rides won’t be described by even the most generous onlooker as graceful or stylish, but the plus is that you’ll have both excitement and room for improvement.

The bad news? Cutting is an addictive sport.

Addictive, yes, and we have to admit it is pricier than most other equine sports. But for an adrenaline fix, it is hard to beat.

What is cutting, exactly? In the days when stockmen worked open range, cattle from different outfits often intermingled and grazed together. In the spring and fall, the ranchers would join in a roundup to sort out their brands. Cutting horses, those with a natural intuition for working cattle, made the job much easier.

Cutting became an official sport in 1919 when it was added as a competitive event in a Fort Worth rodeo. The National Cutting Horse Association was founded in 1946, and today has member groups across the nation. In some parts of the United States, there is an American Cutting Horse Association in addition to the NCHA. Both organizations are making exceptional efforts to include novice classes in their shows.

How can I get started? Contact the NCHA and ask for a “leg up.” They have a booklet listing trainers across the nation as well as newsletters and a magazine called The Cutting Horse Chatter. A good trainer can help find a horse to suit any ability level, but here’s a hint: Ideal horses for beginners are older ones that already know the rules—they’re a little more forgiving.

NCHA also has information as to where local shows (called “weekend cuttings”) are held. Weekend cuttings offer a class for newcomers that are the only class in which adults can show on a borrowed horse, which is an advisable test before buying a horse of your own.

To Cut to the Chase:

National Cutting Horse Association

Australia

American Cutting Horse Association

Cutting horses and clinics

International cutting information