The Cutter's Glossary
Added Money: Money added to the purse in addition to owners’ nomination and entry fees.
Adjusted score: Score which has been reviewed and changed under the rules of the Adjusted Monitor System.
Affiliates: Local cutting horse clubs that produce and host the vast majority of cutting horse events around the country (approximately 1,400 shows annually). There are more than 100 NCHA Affiliates around the world. Affiliate shows are sanctioned by NCHA, indicating the contest will be judged by certified judges according association rules.
Aged event: See Limited Age Event.
Amateur: A contestant with lifetime earnings of less than $50,000 in cutting horse competition. An amateur may not work on a horse training facility, nor can he or she be married to a professional trainer.
Area: NCHA has 25 geographical divisions for competition in the United States and Canada.
Area Work-Offs: The original name for the NCHA National Championships.
Back fence: A designated area of the fence behind the cattle. A horse is penalized 3 points each time the cow being worked stops or turns within 3 feet of the back fence.
Baldie: White-faced cow.
Bit: Mouthpiece used to guide and control a horse.
Blow up: When a horse or cow panics, it blows up. As in, "My horse blew up the first time he saw a cow."
Bridle: Leather headstall attached to the bit and reins. Bright: Alert.
Brindle: Mottled coat color on some cows.
Cattle charge: A payment in addition to nomination or entry fees which covers the cost of cattle.
Chaps: Leather leggings worn over the jeans from hips to boots. They are an aid in protecting the legs from brush on the ranch and in keeping the rider’s seat firmly in the saddle.
Cheat: A horse that looks for an easy way out of working correctly. As in, "If I don’t watch my horse he will try to cheat on the turns."
Collected: A horse that is balanced under the rider so that it can quickly respond to the moves of a cow.
Colt: A young, uncastrated male horse.
Commit: Show intention to work a specific cow by looking at it and stepping towards it.
Corrected score: Score change due to a simple error in calculation.
Cow sense: The horse’s natural instinct for anticipating a cow’s moves.
Cow smart: The ability of a horse to anticipate a cow’s actions. As in, “That horse is so cow smart it knows what a cow is going to do before the cow knows.”
Cut for shape: When a rider selects a cow on the fringe of the herd rather than riding through the herd and driving a cow out.
Cutter’s slump: Posture of cutting horse riders when they are sitting deep in the saddle. The rider sits on his back pockets with his back relaxed and curved slightly forward.
Cutting horse: A horse developed through superior breeding and careful training. Originally prized on ranches for its ability to cut, or separate, individual cows from a herd. Most cutting horses are American Quarter Horses, but members of other breeds are also adept at the sport.
Cutting saddle: A relatively flat-seated saddle. The horn is higher and thinner than other saddle horns thus enabling the rider to push and pull on it as the horse makes sudden, quick moves.
Dam: The female parent of a horse.
Deep cut: According to NCHA rules, the cutter must make at least one deep cut into the herd. Typically, the cutter will ride into the middle of the herd or deeper to qualify for this rule. The opposite of this would be picking a cow from the edge of the herd.
Die in the herd: Going into the herd of cattle for another cow when the buzzer sounds to end the run.
Draw cattle: Term used to describe a horse’s ability to make cows look at them and come towards them. As in, “My horse can really draw a cow.”
Draw: The order in which participants work a specific herd of cattle during an event. Drive: Forcing a group of cattle forward in a controlled and calm manner.
Drop on a cow: Crouching posture of the horse when a cow has been cut and separated and the rider drops his rein hand on the horse’s neck.
Dry work: Basic cutting horse training done without the use of cattle.
Expression: Alertness shown by a horse in front of a cow.
Eye appeal: A horse with lots of expression when working a cow is said to have eye appeal.
Fresh cattle: A group of cattle not previously used for cutting.
Fresh horse: A horse that is full of energy and in need of warmup exercise or additional training.
Gelding: A male horse that has been castrated. Hackamore: A specially designed rope or leather bridle used without a bit.
Haul: Cutters use this term to refer to traveling to world championship shows. As in, "I'm going to haul for the World this year."
Heading a cow: Placing a horse in front of a cow in order to stop the cow or to force it to change direction.
Heifer: Young female cow.
Help: Herd holders and turnback riders. As in, “I couldn’t have done it without my help.”
Herd bound: Refers to a horse which is reluctant to move a cow away from the herd.
Herd holder: One of two riders positioned on each side of the herd to help the cutter make his cut and to keep the herd grouped while the cutter works.
Honor: Refers to a cow which will acknowledge and look at a horse and rider.
Hooked: A horse which has his total attention focused on the cow he is working.
Hot quit: According to NCHA rules, the cutter may quit the cow he is working when that cow is obviously turned away from the horse or when the cow comes to a dead stop in the arena. If the rider quits at any other time, he is penalized 3 points for a hot quit.
Jackpot: Prize money made up from entry fees.
Limited-age events: Events which are restricted to horses between the ages of three and six years old.
Long: A horse is considered “long” when it moves ahead of a cow being worked on a parallel plane. This poor positioning allows the cow to gain the working advantage.
Loose reins: Points are deducted from a cutter’s score if he uses his reins to guide the horse after separating a cow from the herd. Therefore, after the cut, the rider proceeds with loose reins.
Lope: Three-beat gait of the horse, also called a canter. Cutters lope their horses to warm them up for a performance or training session.
Major penalty: A 3- or 5-point infraction.
Mare: A female horse, age four years or older, although many cutters use the term loosely to describe any female horse.
Minor penalty: A one-point infraction.
Miss: A loss of working position. A miss costs the horse and rider one point.
NCHA Classic/Challenge: An event at the NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular which is restricted to 5- and 6-year-old cutting horses.
NCHA Derby: Competition for fouryear- old cutting horses. This event is also part of the Summer Cutting Spectacular.
National Championships (Eastern/ Western): Sister events featuring 11 divisions of competition between leading point earners from each of the National Cutting Horse Association’s Areas and Affiliates.
NCHA Super Stakes: This competition started in 1981 and is restricted to 4-year-old foals of subscribed stallions. This event is held each spring in Fort Worth, Texas.
NCHA Super Stakes Classic: This companion event to the NCHA Super Stakes is restricted to 5- and 6-yearold foals of subscribed stallions. NCHA Weekend: Sponsored by Lucchese, this weekend celebrates grassroots cutters by spotlighting 25 shows held across North America.
NCHA World Championship Futurity: This event for 3-year-old cutting horses which have never been shown in competition offers more prize money than any other NCHA event. It has been the initial proving ground for three-year-old horses since 1962. The 1985 NCHA Futurity was the first cutting in history to offer more than $2 million in prize money.
NCHA World Champions: The World Championship in each of NCHA’s 11 approved classes is based on accumulated winnings in one year of competition.
Nominate: Pay a fee to make a horse eligible for a special event. Nomination fees are part of the purse money.
Non-Pro: Any rider who holds a valid non-pro card with NCHA. A nonpro must own his or her own horse and may not receive remuneration for training cutting horses.
Novice: A horse with limited earnings in weekend show competition.
Numb: Refers to a cow which is not threatened or challenged by a horse and shows little desire to return to the herd.
Open: The highest class of competition because it is open to any horse owned and ridden by any NCHA member; not restricted.
Out of position: When a horse is unable to respond quickly enough to maintain control over the cow it is working.
Peeling: Refers to the action of the rider in cutting one of the last remaining cows, as the cattle flow around the horse to rejoin the herd.
Press off: Using pressure of the leg closest to the cow being cut to move the horse away from the cow.
Press up: Using pressure of the leg next to the herd to move the horse toward the cow being cut.
Push button: Refers to a horse trained to respond to a rider’s signals, not necessarily related to the action.
Quarter Horse: These extremely versatile and athletic horses were bred for “quarter mile” races requiring short bursts of speed. The breed originated from descendants of Barb, Arab and Turk horses brought to North America during Spanish exploration and gained popularity in the Southwest during the 1800s. Stands an average 15 hands (60 inches) and weighs about 1,100 pounds.
Quitting the cow: Refers to the moment when a rider stops working a given cow. The rider may signal a horse to quit by sitting deep in the saddle and lifting up the reins or by gently grasping the back of the horse’s neck.
Rate: A horse rates a cow when it paces its action and timing with the cow. Read cattle: The ability of a horse or rider to anticipate a cow’s actions.
Round pen: A round training arena usually from 100 to 200 feet in diameter. Run: The 2½ minute time allotted a cutting competitor.
Schooling: Training a cutting horse. Allowing the horse to work on its own and intervening when the horse works improperly. This intervention is not allowed during competition.
Settle the cattle: When cattle are changed during competition, fresh incoming cattle must be allowed time to become familiar with the arena and accustomed to a horse moving back and forth in front of them.
Shaping a cow: Separating and moving a cow from the center of the herd to the middle of the arena to begin work.
Shooter: A cow which bolts from the herd for no apparent reason and interferes with a performance.
Short: Refers to a horse’s parallel position in relation to a cow which is moving across an arena. If a horse is short on a cow, it is too far behind to influence her movements.
Sidepass: Horizontal movement of a horse performed without moving forward or backward. Sire: Male parent of a horse.
Skid boots: Protective leg wraps which are attached to a horse’s hind legs below the hocks and cover the fetlocks.
Snaffle bit: A flexible bit with a jointed mouthpiece.
Soft: Describes cattle which have little play and are easily tired and distracted.
Sour cattle: Cattle that are continually worked and become unresponsive to the action of a cutting horse; inactive cattle.
Spur: A device attached to the rider’s boots that assists him in cueing his horse.
Stale cattle: Cattle which have been used too often for cutting and no longer challenge a horse.
Stallion: A male horse. Also called a stud. Stay hooked: A common phrase indicating that the rider is continuing to work the same cow.
Steer: A castrated bull. Stick: Prod with a spur. Sticky cattle: Cattle which bunch closely together and are difficult to separate.
Sweep: The action of a horse when it sits back on its rear end and moves its front end, front legs extended, with a cow.
Time line: Designated line along the arena wall. When a rider crosses the time line, the clock starts for his performance.
Tune: Give a trained horse a short refresher course.
Turnback help: One of two riders positioned in front of the herd. These riders are responsible for driving cattle back toward the herd and the cutting horse while a cut is being made.
Whistle: Judge’s action to stop a performance. Working advantage: Refers to a horse’s position when he is able to control a cow.
Work-off: If there is a tie for first place at any major NCHA event, a tiebreaking competition, known as a work-off, may be held. After a brief period to check on scores, a coin is flipped to determine the working order for the work-off. The horses are again allowed 2½ minutes to work. The highest score in the workoff determines the champion of the event, with the second highest score being the reserve champion. However, prize money is equally split between the horses tied for first place regardless of the outcome of the work-off.
Youth: Competition for any NCHA member 18 years old or younger.