The Canadian Cutting Horse is the equivalent of the American Quarter Horse from which it was developed. It is an intelligent horse with an innate talent for working cattle. It stands between 15.2 and 16.1 hh and may be of almost any color.
The cowboy horse of the West is traditionally the Quarter Horse although the breed originated on the Eastern seaboard of the USA. In Canada, farmers use the Cutting Horse.
A cutting horse separates a given animal from a herd or group of cattle, whether in the contest arena or on the ranch and prevents its return with a minimum of disturbance to the rest of the cattle. The cutting horse came from the open-range ranches of yesteryear and was an animal born of necessity. In the early days, ranchers selected a cutting horse only after its ability to handle cattle had been proven. From then on, it was treated with respect and was relieved of other ranch chores. As cowboys from the various ranches got together, they talked about who had the best of this or that, and they invariably discussed the merits of the top cutting horse on each ranch. These discussions led to challenges, and the cutting horse contest was on.
A cutting horse contest is conducted as follows. A herd of usually 15 to 20 cattle is held in one end of an arena by two men called "herd holders." Then, as its name is announced, the cutting horse and the rider move into the herd to begin work. One animal is cut out, or separated, and driven through the herd holders toward the center of arena. Two more riders, known as "turn back men," turn the separated animal back toward the cutting horse and toward the "safety" of the herd. Now the real action begins. While the cutting horse performs, one or more judges evaluate how hard the horse is challenged by the animal, how the horse handles itself in meeting these challenges, and what mistakes are made. The judge scores the horse between 60 and 80 points.3
The rider and the horse are penalized for scattering the herd, attempting to guide the horse with the reins after the calf is separated, quitting a calf, or allowing the calf to escape back to the herd.
The cutting horse in action is a fascinating animal to watch. He works with a loose rein and receives almost no guidance from the rider, yet maintains a constant advantage over the cow, drifting with it, heading it off and pivoting with explosive suddenness to block off a thrust back to the herd.
The cutting horse events are held and ruled by the National Cutting Horse Association. Training the cutting horse means training one of the greatest of all horses.2