The Sport of Cutting Horses: What You Need to Know!

March 3, 2023
cutting a cow

Cutting with horses is a unique and exciting sport that has been around for many years. Skill, exactitude, and a comprehension of the equine’s innate behaviors are essential for success in this pursuit. If you’re looking to learn more about cutting with horses or take your riding skills up a notch, this article will provide all the information you need – from selecting bloodlines and trainers to gear and tack requirements. Get ready for an in-depth look at everything related to cutting with horses.

Training a Cutting Horse

Training a cutting horse is an exhilarating pursuit, necessitating persistence, devotion and a close rapport between the cowhorse and rider. A cutting horse is trained to separate cattle from the herd in order to work with them individually – keeping them away from the rest of the herd. This type of competition dates back to the 19th century when cowboys needed help herding large groups of cattle on ranches. Today, cutting competitions are both popular and lucrative events at rodeos and other equestrian shows around the world.

Working with both cows and horses in an arena setting until they have mastered basic commands such as stop, go left/right, back up etc., while learning how to read cues from cattle so they can anticipate their next move is essential if you want them cutting like a pro. Young horses are often started with a flag before being shown a cow.  Sometimes buffalo are used, as they stay fresh longer than cows.

Cutting with Horses

When it comes to a time frame for training a cutting horse there’s no set rule; it all depends on how much time you’re willing to invest into teaching your horse and how competitive you want to be. Generally speaking though most trainers will spend anywhere from a minimum of a year for a really smart cowhorse, up two years honing their skills before competing professionally – although some may take longer depending on experience level and cow sense.

Finally, here are some tips for training a cutting horse: First of all, make sure that both yourself and your mount have good cow sense; meaning they know what is expected out of them when faced with cattle situations. Rewarding a good training session by keeping it short and simple will keep your horse eager to go back in the pen.

Training a cutting horse requires dedication, patience, and an understanding of the bloodlines you are looking for in your ideal horse. Selecting the right bloodlines is essential to ensure that you have chosen a horse with the desired characteristics and capabilities needed to excel in this sport.  There’s no point in spending all that time and money getting them trained if they don’t have the inate cow sense needed to compete.

Key Takeaway: As an advanced level professional with a high IQ, training your cutting horse requires patience and dedication to hone the skillset needed for success in competitions. Get creative with exercises, have good cow sense and don’t forget to reward good behavior – it’s all part of getting them cutting like butter.

Selecting the Right Bloodlines for Your Cutting Horse

When it comes to choosing the ideal pedigree for your cutting horse, there are numerous elements to bear in mind. Popular bloodlines for cutting horses, which are usually Quarter Horses, include Doc O’Lena, Peppy San Badger, Little Peppy, Doc’s Hickory, and many more.  Peptoboomsmal and High Brow Cat bloodlines are two of the most popular ones today. These equine bloodlines have been selectively bred to possess traits that make them adept for the cutting horse sport.

Cutting with Horses

When looking at a horse’s pedigree, it is important to look for traits such as cow sense and athleticism. A good cutting horse should be able to work cattle with ease and quickly separate one animal from the herd and keep a single animal away from the rest of the group. They also need a great mind that doesn’t get rattled too easily.

Another thing you want to research when considering bloodlines is how successful previous generations of horses were in competition. Look up past results from shows and competitions in which horses related to your potential new mount participated – this can give you an idea of what kind of performance you can expect out of him or her down the line.

Finally, talk with experienced trainers who specialize in cutting horses; they may know more about particular lines than anyone else.  In fact, if you link up with a trainer you like, they will likely have a few horses that they know are for sale.  This will save you loads of time and trouble.

Choosing the right bloodlines for your cutting horse is an important part of ensuring a successful future in the sport. A good trainer can help you maximize potential, so it’s essential to find one who has experience with cutting horses and understands their needs.

Famous cutting horse Metallic Cat
Famous cutting horse Metallic Cat

Key Takeaway: When selecting the perfect cutting horse, consider bloodlines such as Quarter Horses, Paint Horses and Appaloosas which have been bred for cow sense and athleticism. Research past results from shows and competitions to get an idea of performance you can expect from your new mount, then consult experienced trainers who specialize in cutting horses for extra advice.

Finding the Right Trainer for Your Cutting Horse

When it comes to finding the right trainer for your cutting horse, there are a few qualities that you should look for. A good cutting horse trainer will have experience in both working with cattle and training horses. They should be familiar with the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) rules and regulations, as well as understand how to properly handle cow horses. It is also important that they have an understanding of cow sense, which is the ability to read cows and know what they’re going to do next before they even move.

When interviewing potential trainers, ask them questions about their experience with cutting horses specifically.

  • How long have they been training?
  • What type of results do their students typically get?
  • Have any of their students competed at NCHA events?
  • Are there any particular bloodlines or types of horses that they specialize in working with?
  • What is the trainers NCHA earnings?

Questions can be asked to decide if a trainer has the capability of aiding your horse in achieving its ultimate potential.

The cost of hiring a professional cutting horse trainer varies depending on where you live and how experienced the trainer is. Generally speaking, expect to pay anywhere from $50-$150 per hour for lessons or clinics given by an experienced instructor who has competed at NCHA events themselves or coached others who have done so successfully.

The cost of having your horse live at the trainers, and it should, can vary anywhere from $1000/month to double or triple that.  A lot depends on their location and the money earned by them.

Discovering the perfect instructor for your cutting horse can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort when you find a knowledgeable one. Take some time researching different options before making a decision.  You can’t beat having an experienced trainer on board to help you and your horse win some money.

Cutting horse trainer Paul Hansma and SCR Hydrive Chic

Finding the right trainer for your cutting horse is essential to ensure that you and your horse are successful in competition. Buster Welch was probably the most famous trainer, but sadly, he died in 2022.  Some other good trainers include, Matt Gaines, Paul Hansma, Lloyd Cox, Al  Dunning, just to name a few.  There are many good ones out there. 

I currently have two horses in cutting training. One is with Chet Martin, from Ontario Canada, and the other horse is just going across the border to Michigan to Tyler DeLange.  Since I’m just starting out in cutting, I definitely wanted a couple of good trainers that weren’t too far from home.

Trainer Tyler Delange winning $35,000 NCHA noon-pro Cutting

Here’s an image of Trainer Tyler DeLange winning $35,000 NCHA Non Pro Cutting

Key Takeaway: Finding the right cutting horse trainer is essential to ensure your horse reaches its peak performance. To get the most out of your investment, look for someone with a wealth of experience in both working with cattle and training horses who understands NCHA rules and regulations as well as cow sense. Do some research before hiring – it’s worth it in the long run.

Gear and Tack Needed for Cutting Horses

Cutting horses are a special breed of horse that have been bred and trained to work cattle. The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) is the governing body for cutting competitions, which involve separating a single cow from the herd and keeping it away from the other cows with just the horse’s skill and speed. To compete in these events, riders need specialized gear and tack for their cutting horses.

Cutting riders need to equip themselves with the basics such as hat, boots, gloves, chaps or half-chaps (chinks) and spurs, plus bridles/bits/halters. Additionally they should also have a specialized cutting saddle, which will provide both the best seat and a higher horn to hold.  There is also all the regular horse equipment that you would have for any horse – shipping boots, hay nets…you get the idea.

Jeff Smith Cutting Saddle

Saddles Used in Cutting Competitions: These saddles typically have a low cantle, higher pommel, and a thin, tall horn.  They’re made this way to allow for lots of movement by the rider so the horse can really do its job. The horn is thin and tall to allow the rider to hang on easier, and boy, they’ll want to make sure they have a strong hold on that horn.

Finally, don’t forget about proper nutrition – good quality hay and grain should be provided daily, along with electrolytes before and after each run depending on how hard your horse works and how hot it is outside.

Key Takeaway: Cutting horses require specialized gear and tack to compete in cutting competitions, such as western saddles with deep seats for better control, roping saddles for comfort during long rides or barrel racingendurance style saddles. It’s also important not to forget proper nutrition like good quality hay and grain plus electrolytes before and after each run depending on the conditions.

FAQs in Relation to Cutting With Horses

What is the point of cutting horses?

Cutting horses are a type of equine athlete that is trained to separate cattle from the herd. They use their natural agility, quickness and athletic ability to do this by responding quickly to their rider’s cues. Cutters require agility, speed and precision to stop the bovine from rejoining its herd. The horse needs strength, balance, speed and control while cutting cows out of a group so they can be sorted or roped as needed. Cutters are often used in rodeos and other competitions, making them a valuable asset to any horseman.

What are the rules for cutting horses?

Cutting horses are a type of western riding competition in which riders on horseback attempt to separate a single cow at a time from the herd and keep it away for two and a half minutes.  You must cut two cows in that time frame, and one must be a deep cut from deep in the herd.  Riders must stay within the boundaries set by judges, while also controlling their horse’s movements as they cut out the chosen cow. To be successful, cutting horses need to have quick reflexes, agility, speed and strong hindquarters that allow them to make sharp turns quickly. They should also possess good manners so that they don’t spook or upset other cows in the herd. Proper training and a calm demeanor are essential for cutting horses to excel in the competition.

What is the history of cutting horses?

Cutting horses are a type of western riding horse that were developed in the late 19th century to separate cattle from herds. The sport originated in Texas and was initially used by ranchers who needed help managing their herds, but it has since become an equestrian discipline practiced around the world. Cutting horses use quick reflexes, agility, and maneuverability to isolate one cow from the herd. This requires intense concentration on both rider and horse’s part as they must stay focused during competition and practice sessions. Once the cow is chosen, the rider turns the horse loose to do it’s job.  The horse must be able to anticipate the cow’s movements and react accordingly.


With the right bloodlines, trainer, tack and gear you can be sure to have an amazing experience in this equestrian event. Whether it’s for competition or just for fun cutting with horses will give you memories of excitement that last a lifetime.

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I'm Bo, the owner of Smarter Horse. Helping horses be smarter by educating their people.  To find out more about me, click here

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