Cutting is an equine sport in which each contestant is allowed two and a-half minutes to cut at least two cows from the herd. The rider must bring at least one cow out from deep inside the herd during his run (performance). If he brings out a small group and waits for all but one to peel (go back to the herd), he has “cut for shape.”
His other cuts may be chipped from the edge of the herd. Extra credit is given if the rider drives the cow he wants from deep inside the herd. The contestant is assisted by four riders of his choice. Two are designated as herd holders. They are positioned on either side of the herd to keep the cattle from drifting into the working area. Two riders stay between the cow that is being worked and the judges’ stands. Read entire article These are the turnback riders; they turn the cow back to the contestant, if it tries to escape to the far end of the working area.
When the rider has clearly separated one cow from the herd, he must loosen his grip on the reins and allow the horse to have its head. The cow instinctively tries to return to the herd, but the horse must defend the herd and hold the cow.
Horses receive extra credit for their skill and style and the exertion used to keep the cow under control. The rider may decide when to stop working a cow, but he will be penalized if he quits when a cow is moving toward the horse. This is known as a “hot quit.” The rider also incurs a penalty for picking up his reins before he quits a cow. A horse will be penalized if he loses a cow (the cow returns before the rider quits it.)