Contestants maneuver horses through an obstacle course while firing two .45 caliber single-action revolvers at balloons set along the course. The speed and agility of both horse and rider are showcased, while also exhibiting the rider’s talent to accurately hit a target while riding at top speed. Specially-prepared blank ammunition is used for this event.
Houston’s NCHA- and AQHA-sanctioned cutting horse competition is always a crowd favorite. In a typical cutting horse contest, a herd of 25 - 30 cattle are held at one end of the arena. Once a horse’s name is called, its rider will guide it into the herd toward the cow which the rider thinks will best challenge the horse’s “cutting” ability.
The horse will then drive that cow out of the herd to the center of the arena, where the cow is met by two “turn-back” riders. These riders drive the cow back toward the cutting horse and the herd beyond and the contest begins.
Each contest is 2.5 minutes long, with the cow wanting to reach the herd and the cutting horse wanting to prevent its return. Judges evaluate how hard the horse has been challenged by the cow, how the horse handled the challenges and what, if any, mistakes were made. The judge scores the horse between 60 and 80 points.
Using a two-judge scoring system, Houston’s cutting competition includes open, non-pro, novice, limited amateur and youth contests.
This event not only highlights donkey and mule competition, but it also features the popular mule pull, donkey snigging and the donkey single hitch obstacle driving contests. Competition also includes the “Ear of the Year” awards for the donkey and mule whose measurable ear spans are the widest.
According to the Spanish historian Diaz del Castillo, who traveled with the Hernando Cortes expedition to the Americas in the 1500s, one of the horses brought along was described as a pinto with white stockings on his forefeet. The other was described as a dark roan horse with white patches. These were the first known recorded descriptions of early Paint Horses in the New World. The interest in these colorful horses grew, and in 1965, the American Paint Horse Association was formed in Fort Worth, Texas.
All horses in the Paint Horse Show must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association. The Paint Horse breed is based on color requirements for registration. Horses are judged on the horses’ ability to display the desired movements through a trail or reining pattern (spinning, going over obstacles and changing gaits) or the riders’ ability to maneuver the horse through a specified jumping over fences, English equitation or Western horsemanship pattern.
Premium prize monies are awarded in many classes, along with prizes for High-Point and Overall Horses and riders in their divisions. Past prizes have included saddles, savings bonds, belt buckles, saddle pads and directors chairs.
The American Quarter Horse established a bold reputation as the greatest cattle roundup and trail driving horse in history and would never be forgotten by early American racing enthusiasts. To ensure the unique qualities of this breed did not perish, a group of American Quarter Horse enthusiasts met in 1940 in Ft. Worth, Texas, to establish what was to become the largest equine breed registry in the world, the American Quarter Horse Association.
Houston draws its share of the 4.4 million total registered Quarter Horses to compete in Halter, where the horse’s body condition, fitness, confirmation and overall health is judged; English, where the desired traits of a Hunter-type horse are judged; and Western, which encompasses the traits desired in a Trail, Cutting, or Western Pleasure-type horse. The Quarter Horse is the desired horse to compete on in associations such as the National Cutting Horse Association and the National Reined Cowhorse Association for its athleticism and intelligence.
Relive the Old West by watching the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ranch Rodeo held in Reliant Arena. This fast-paced, rough-and-tough competition will feature cowboys and cowgirls competing for the fastest times in events that include calf “branding” (using chalk), wild cow milking, bronc riding and pasture doctoring. This forerunner to modern rodeo competitions offers the visitor a look at traditional ranch life close up! This is an opportunity to see “cow work” at its finest.
Team Penning features a team of three riders who cut from the herd and pen three head of cattle with the same identification number — all within a 60-second time period. Before the time begins, all cattle are bunched on the opposite side of the arena. The judge signals that all is ready with the raise of a flag. Once the flag is dropped, contestants are given their cattle penning number as the nose of the first horse crosses the start line. Any incorrectly numbered cattle that cross over the foul line can result in a disqualification.
Ranch Sorting calls for competitors (two riders per team) to move 10 head of cattle from one pen to another in numerical order, beginning with a randomly called number between zero and nine, i.e. if “six” is called, the cattle must be penned starting with animal six, then seven, and so on, with animal number five penned last. If a cow passes into the pen out of numerical sequence, the team is disqualified.
This competition showcases the American Quarter Horse as a working ranch horse while demonstrating the versatility, performance and grace of this beautiful animal. Horses compete in five events: Ranch Trail, Ranch Riding, Ranch Cutting, Working Ranch Horse and Ranch Conformation. The cumulative score in each event decides the World Champion.
The Youth Horse Show is an all breed youth horse show with select classes for Palomino and Quarter Horses. Exhibitors include ages 18 and under. Age divisions include 5 to 9 Walk-Trot, Novice, 13 and under, and 14 to 18. Horses must be registered with a recognized breed association.
Special Awards are given to the High Point horse and rider team in youth and Walk-Trot Youth divisions. All-Around awards are given to horses amassing the most points competing in open halter and at least two open performance classes. Prizes range from savings bonds and belt buckles to saddles and saddle pads.