There is a lot of lingo and terminology dedicated to the world of western horse shows. We’ve broken the show world down into smaller sub-categories to cover it in finer detail. Here is a list of common terminology used in the world of cutting.
If cutting isn’t your thing, be sure to check out more horse terminology.
Basics | English Show | Dressage A-E | Dressage F-O | Dressage P-W
Adjusted Monitor System
Should there be a discrepancy, the judges will review video footage to determine if the score should be adjusted.
If the adjusted monitor system determines a discrepancy, the adjusted score is reviewed and posted.
The fence directly behind the cow, the working cow must not touch the back fence.
The area immediately around the cow. Positioning a horse near the edge of a cow’s bubble can control their speed and direction.
Bump the Bit
When a rider pulls back just enough on one or both reins so that the horse feels the contact and can react.
When a horse is balanced and gathered for quick response to where the cow moves.
When a cow is obviously cut from the herd, the horse must commit to working that cow.
Should there be a discrepency between the judge’s scorecard and the score posted electronically the scores are checked for accuracy. The judge’s score is the true score and will be reflected electronically.
Used in training of cutting horses, this is a two-hand grip on the reins.
When working a cow, the riders back posture should be relaxed and bent.
Cutting for Shape
When cutting generally riders try to cut a specific cow from the heard. Sometimes this cannot be accomplished, at which point the rider will cut for shape and separate the cow closest to them as the herd returns to the fence.
Cutting horses are prized for their ability to cut individual cows from a heard. They are developed through bloodlines and training and although they are often quarter horses, the skill is not limited to that breed.
A specially built western saddle which is lighter, smaller and with a smaller horn than working saddles.
A deep cut requires going into the middle of the herd or deeper to cut a cow.
The draw is done prior to events to determine each horses position in the working order.
Moving a herd of cattle in a controlled manner.
Horse and rider exercises without using cattle.
A horse that is new to working cows and doesn’t always respond well to their movements.
Cattle herds are changed out after every 10 or 15 cutting competitors for fresh cattle that have not been previously used.
Head a Cow
Maneuvering a horse directly in front of a cow in order to stop it or change its direction.
Two riders who are responsible for keeping the herd grouped while the cutter makes his cut.
When a cutter quits or pulls off a cow for any reason other than it coming to a dead stop in the arena or is obviously turned away from the horse.
Settles discrepancy between judges concerning major penalties by watching runs in question on video.
A action by the horse during or after a turn which causes the horse to move toward the cow it is cutting. This can cause the horse to lose its working advantage.
When a horse gets ahead of the cow being worked. This can cause the horse to lose its working advantage.
Reins must remain slack while a horse is working a cow. Points are deducted from cutters who use their reins to guide their horse during its run.
Loosing a Cow
When a cow gets past the horse and rider and returns to the herd. This results in a 5 point penalty.
A large penalty resulting in a 3 or 5 point fraction.
A smaller penalty resulting in a 1 point infraction.
Loss of working position from overrunning a cow. A miss costs the cutting team 1 point.
Must hold a valid non-pro card, be a member of NCHA, own their own horse and may not be paid for training cutting horses.
An inexperienced class of cutting riders and categorized by how much each horse has earned.
Out of Position
When a horse isn’t fast enough to keep control over the cow and looses its working advantage.
A small number of cattle are separated from the herd in the arena, the rider must select a cow to be cut as the cattle attempt to peel back (or rejoin) to the herd.
Using pressure from the leg closest to the cut cow to move the horse away from it.
Using pressure from the leg next to the herd to move the horse toward the cow that is chosen to be cut.
Reading the Cow
Horse and riders ability to anticipate the movements of the cow.
The 2.5 minute timed competition during which the team enters the arena and cuts anywhere from 1 to 3 cows for a score.
When training a cutting horse periodically the rider must intervene when the horse makes a bad decision. This is not allowed during competition.
Settle or Settled
The process of calming a new group of cattle brought in for cutting competitions.
When a horse is out of position or behind the cow while working it.
Movement of the horse that is solely horizontal, with no forward or backward movement.
Cattle that have become inactive and unresponsive because they have been continually worked.
When the rider continues to work the same cow rather than quitting and cutting a new one.
Cattle that don’t want to separate from the each other.
The cutting team cross the time line as they enter the arena for their run, by crossing it they start the timer.
Pressing for light turns, quick stops and solid positioning while working a cow which improves a horses reaction time.
Used to hold cattle from running to the opposite side of the arena. This is a role that plays a determining factor in how well the working horse does its job.
When the horse remains parallel to the cow with its head next to the cows shoulder. This positioning gives the horse the advantage of being able to stop the cow or turn quickly enough to block a change of direction.
A tie breaker at major events. Working order is determined by the flip of a coin and the horses are given another 2.5 minutes to work. Highest score determines the champion and next is reserve champion, the prize money is split equally between the two regardless of the workoff outcome.
Cutting competitors under 18.
So Many Words
Horses are wordy, even though they can’t speak. We have to know a lot to love them. If cutting isn’t your discipline, be sure to check out terminology from other aspects of the horse world.