By Corsi Martin
Explaining the sport of cutting to outsiders can be quite complicated at times. How do you explain poetry in motion when it comes in the form of keeping a single cow from its herd for two and a half minutes? And then there is the constant reassurance that cutting does not, in fact, mean that horses are slaughtered for sport.
Perhaps a small history lesson will suffice the next time someone asks you just what the sport of cutting is all about. It all started with a horse.
Derived from western heritage in its purest form, cutting used to be a true test of a horse’s cow handling abilities. Back when most ranches operated on an open range, herds would tend to meander together and ranchers would have to sort through them in order to separate them again.
Cowboys would have to use their best horses in order to separate individual cows from the herd, and it was the horse’s job to keep the cow separated. Given a good horse, the rider is simply there to look pretty; the rest is autopilot. In any remuda, there were several different horses, all with certain skills and abilities that contributed to the success and smooth operation of the ranch. The cutter was always the exclusive member of the remuda.
The first documented and advertised cutting horse competition dates back to 1898, held in Haskell, Texas, at the Cowboy Reunion. It was said that a whopping 15,000 spectators showed up as a result of the advertising as seen in Dallas and the surrounding areas. All attended by horseback or on a wagon. The stakes were high as the prize money for the winning contestant was $150, not exactly pocket change back in those days. From there, the rest is, quite literally, history.
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