Houston’s NCHA- and AQHA-sanctioned cutting horse competition is always a
crowd favorite. In a typical cutting horse contest, a herd of 25 to 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
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.