SubscribeGift a Sub
Enable cache 100
Young Rider

Western Lesson: Cutting Challenge

It’s a challenging dance, but cutting is a fun, fast-paced event that not only excites horse and rider, but also fires up a crowd of spectators.



Dashing from side to side, Sidney Kahla’s gray gelding athletically keeps the black cow from getting back to the herd of cattle behind it. While it looks like 11-year-old Sidney is hanging on to the saddle horn with all her might, a closer look reveals a subtle shift in weight and leg to cue her horse.

The sport of cutting is a timed event in which horse and rider must separate a cow from a herd and keep it separated until the cow either stops moving or turns away. Photo by Montanabw CC BY-SA 4.0



The sport of cutting is a timed event that only lasts for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The horse and rider must separate a cow from a herd and keep it separated until the cow either stops moving or turns away.

The process is repeated least twice, but preferably a rider cuts out three cows. Points are taken off if the rider picks up the reins and guides the horse while working the cow away from the herd, so feet are the only guidance. However, riders can hold the horn for balance.

Getting Started

Sidney started the sport young.

“I remember riding my first cutting horse at 6 years old,” she says. “I started because it was fun and challenging. Now, it’s more challenging to ride it right. You have to sit and push your hand against the saddle horn so you sit deep, and still use your feet without the judge seeing you. And it’s so fun.”

Sidney says that once you know the basics of riding, you can learn to cut on a trained horse. She rides a 12-year-old gelding named Peptos Playgun (“Gunner”).

“You need to have a horse you can really trust,” she says. “My favorite thing about Gunner is that he’s really kind. I trust him a lot.”

Practice Plan

Sidney and Gunner practice several times a week with trainer Adam Cunningham to keep their skills sharp.

“I work cows and also work the flag,” says Sidney. “The flag is like a mechanical cow; it’s a folded up flag on cables. It helps cutters to focus on what the horse is doing and not so much the cow, and it can help if you don’t always have cows [to practice with]. I have to work on using my feet to get Gunner to go into a turn.”

Practice has paid off for Sidney, and she recently won the 2016 Grimes County Youth Ranch Cutting champion title. In 2015, she finished sixth in the American Cutting Horse Association’s youth division year-end results. She has shown competitively for two years, and shows in NCHA, ACHA and Stock Horse of Texas.

Trainer Adam reminds riders that while cutting is a competitive sport, they should remember that the reason they ride is to have fun.

“The biggest thing I can suggest is that parents get a horse that can take care of the kid to help build confidence,” he says.

If you’d like to give cutting a try, grab the horn for a wild ride!

Cutting Classes

Different associations offer cutting classes. Find out more!

American Cutting Horse Association:
achacutting.org

American Paint Horse Association:
apha.com

American Quarter Horse Association:
aqha.com

Arabian Cutting Horse Association:
arabiancutting.com

National Cutting Horse Association:
nchacutting.com

Ranch Cutting at the United States Cutting Horse Association:
unitedstatescutting.com/ranchcutting.html

World Cutting Horse Association:
worldcutter.com


This article about horse cutting originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Further reading:

Box Me In: Learn How to Box a Cow

 

Kate Bradley Byars

Kate Bradley Byars is a writer and photographer living in Texas, and winging her way around the world documenting the western way of life. Kate thrives on telling stories through photos and words.

Recent Posts

2024 Paris Olympics: Olympic Equestrian Trivia and Fun Facts

With one week remaining until the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics, get ready for the Games with these…

3 days ago

ASPCA Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week: Takoda

Welcome to Horse Illustrated’s weekly installment of the Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week, offered in partnership with the…

4 days ago

2024 Paris Olympics: The Paris 2024 Equestrian Venue

The Olympic equestrian competition, as well as the pentathlon, will all take place at the iconic Château de Versailles estate…

5 days ago

2024 Paris Olympics: Latest News

Check out Horse Illustrated's latest updates from the 2024 Paris Olympics on equestrian sports for the three disciplines of dressage,…

5 days ago

2024 Paris Olympics: Q&A with Hallye Griffin, US Equestrian Chef de Mission

A member of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) team since 2011, Hallye Griffin was appointed as the Director of…

6 days ago

2024 Paris Olympics: Equestrian Sports’ Close Ties With Paris

The 33rd modern Olympics being hosted by Paris is fitting since the city will host the Games for a third…

7 days ago