The Challenges of Breeding Champion Cutting Horses

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Business

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Cutting is a rodeo sport developed from the techniques and practices used by cowhands to separate cattle from a larger group for individual handling. While once an essential element of ranching and cattle husbandry, it is now a growing sport and a popular event at rodeos around the country. The talents required of cutting horses aren’t breed  specific; although the American Quarter Horse is by far the most common breed, the characteristics that make a champion cutting horse are more a function of good training and handling and a carefully controlled pedigree.

The techniques employed in cutting require the horse to be able to outmaneuver the heifer in close quarters and to operate semi-independently from the rider. Because of this idiosyncratic riding and handling style, the characteristics that contribute to making good cutting horses are many and varied. Champions possess what’s called good ‘cow sense’ (the cutter’s intuitive control of the heifer), good agility, independent decision making ability and — as with most horses — good rider rapport. This emphasis on the horse’s athleticism and intelligence means that a competent breeder and trainer will go further than a breed standard to insure the quality of cutting horses.

This is not to say that lineage is not a crucial element determining the quality of cutting horses. In fact, the opposite is true; the breeder must maintain a strict pedigree to ensure that the horse’s personality and athleticism is emphasized. The talent and dedication, involvement and investment required on behalf of the cutting horse breeder make this kind of work especially difficult and specialized, similar to purebreds in the older tradition of horse racing.

In addition to this, the horse will not have the native ability to handle the heifer — especially as independently as is required in cutting — and must be trained extensively to become a competent competitor. Cutting horses need to be able to balance between operating instinctively to control the heifer and taking orders from its rider. This requires a horse capable of creating a strong bond with its rider — it’s not enough for the horse simply to follow the orders of the rider, but it cannot ever be out of the rider’s control, either.

The fine balance between intelligence and athleticism, obedience and independence, makes the breeding and training of cutting horses a unique challenge, and the selection of a breeder or dealer of cutting horses something that should be undertaken only after a good deal of forethought. While cutting horses are not unique in requiring care, attention, and love from their breeders and trainers, they benefit uniquely from a devoted breeder, and the quality of the cutting horse you buy will reflect the passion and dedication of its breeder.