FAQs About NCHA
1. How do I know which class I should be showing in? Is it based on earnings?
Yes, the vast majority of NCHA class distinctions are based on earnings. The best place for you to begin showing will most likely be in the $2,000 Limit Rider class at a weekend show. That class is designed for people who have lifetime NCHA earnings of $2,000 or less and is also the only class adults can show in that allows riders to borrow another member’s horse or the $1,000 Amateur is for members that have less than $1,000 in eligibility earnings and hold an Amateur card.
Other realistic options would be the $15,000 Amateur, the $35,000 Non-Pro or the $50,000 Amateur (See Amateur Rules)— assuming that you have an Amateur and/or Non-Pro card and own the horse. The monetary distinctions in these classes mean that riders have NCHA eligibility earnings of less than $15,000, $35,000 and $50,000, respectively. Of course, the level of competition increases with each step up the earnings ladder.
2. How do I locate a cutting horse trainer who will help me improve?
The best way to get more familiar with the sport is to spend time with a local trainer who is an invaluable source of information. The NCHA provides a free digital trainers directory located on the NCHA website at nchacutting.com/members/trainers. This directory displays all local trainers in your area. These professionals can show and teach you every facet of the sport. They can be your personal coach in the industry. We encourage you to attend local cuttings, meet the trainer's in your area, talk to other competitors, and find the trainer that is the best fit for you!
3. I just bought a horse. Can I show it this weekend?
Yes, but only after you fax NCHA a copy of the completed signed breed transfer report showing buyer, seller, date of sale, and a copy of the original registration papers. The NCHA fax number is 817-244-2015. To be on the safe side, it is always best to call and confirm the transmission with the Show Department. If you fax your papers over the weekend, you should call first thing Monday morning. Keep copies of both until you receive the original papers and take copies of both with you to the show.
4. What is the difference between an Amateur and a Non-Pro?
An Amateur must not:
- have ridden or trained horses for remuneration
- have assisted in training horses or riders for remuneration within the last 10 years
- have been married to or lived with a professional trainer in the last 10 years
- have resided on the premises with a parent, step-parent or foster parent who was, while living there, a professional.
- be directly or indirectly employed by a professional trainer or work at a horse training operation
- have been an apprentice trainer at any time.
- see complete Amateur Rules
In addition to all the requirements previously stated , the following earnings limitations must be met for Amateur eligibility:
(1) members less than 60 years of age: a maximum of $100,000 ($50,000 Limited Age/$50,000 Weekend) in eligibility lifetime NCHA cutting horse earnings; or
(2) members age 60-69: A maximum of $400,000 may be earned between NCHA-approved weekend earnings and NCHA Limited Age Event earnings to remain qualified for Amateur status. Members with less than (i) $400,000 in total earnings; and (ii) with earnings less than $200,000 in either weekend or limited age events at the beginning of the point year will be eligible to compete in one or both of the categories they qualify for. Earnings in excess of $200,000 at the beginning of the point year in either weekend or limited age events will make Amateur card holders ineligible to compete in the category for which they do not qualify. Earnings in excess of $400,000 will make card holders ineligible to compete in Amateur competition; or
(3) For members over age 70: There is no cap on earnings.
According to standing Rule 51.a., A Non-Professional in this Association is a person who has not received direct or indirect remuneration to work in any manner in the following activities on the premises of a cutting horse training operation:
showing, training or assisting in training a cutting horse or cutting horse rider. For purposes of this rule, a cutting horse training operation is any facility where cutting horses are trained. Any person who has trained horses astride in
any equine discipline cattle/cow events for direct or indirect remuneration or is a Hall of Fame equine trainer in any discipline shall be considered a professional by this Association, with the exception of those who have been granted a change
of status. Please review the current exception rules.
A Non-Professional in this Association may not train horses in any equine discipline.
- This Association does not consider that professional cutting horse trainers’ spouses who do not teach cutting horse riders or train cutting horses on cattle receive indirect remuneration.
- Employees on a cutting horse training operation may be considered non-professionals by this Association provided they do not teach cutting horse riders or train cutting horses on cattle.
- Non-Professional or Amateur members may show a family-owned horse, as defined in Standing Rule 51.a.4.
- Premium money won shall not be considered remuneration so long as all winnings are returned to the individual Non-Professional who competed on the horse.
- Any corporation, partnership, ranch, farm or other business entity relating to ownership of cutting horses by an NCHA Non-Professional must be totally owned by the Non-Professional or his immediate family as defined in Rule 51.a.4.
- If a Non-Professional is a trainer in another discipline, they may never be granted Amateur status. Family and children of such individuals must meet existing Amateur exception rules and apply for Amateur status through the Non-Professional/ Amateur review process before being granted an Amateur card.
EXAMPLE: As a Non-Pro what can I do?
In regard to remuneration, as a Non-Pro you may:
- share expenses while hauling, i.e. gas, lodging, food, etc.
- accept a horse from anyone provided there is no pre-arranged agreement to return the horse to its prior owner
- buy a horse based on installment payments, provided a fixed amount is stated and paid. A copy of the written sales agreement must be provided to NCHA and needs to state the name of the horse, the sale price, payment dates and amounts and the date of final payment.
- receive compensation for judging cutting horse contests and other horse show classes
- board horses in your barn and provide cattle for training; however, you may not work the boarder’s horse on cattle in any arena, pen or pasture, or on a cutting device
EXAMPLE: As a Non-Pro what can I not do?
In regard to remuneration, as a Non-Pro you may not:
- receive remuneration (pay) to show, train or assist in training cutting horses or cutting horse riders under any circumstance or in any capacity
- show, train or assist in training a cutting horse in exchange for any goods or services (i.e. feed, rent, cattle use, veterinary bills, transportation for self or horse, etc.)
- transfer a horse to another non-pro for the sole purpose of sharing expenses
- have any portion of your expenses paid by another party, except under the family rule
EXAMPLE: Why should I have a Director sign my application for a Non-Pro card?
To better control Non-Pro rules violations, and to verify facts, it is the feeling of the Association that someone who knows the applicant should endorse Non-Pro applications.
EXAMPLE: What if I don’t know a Director?
In this case, send your application to the NCHA business office stating that you don’t know a Director and they will submit the application for approval.
EXAMPLE: My spouse is a Director. Can he (she) sign for me? Yes .
EXAMPLE: Can a Director from outside my District sign my application?
Yes. Any active Director may sign your application, but it is preferable if the Director is from your District
EXAMPLE: Can the NCHA deny me a card or remove my card?
Yes. However, if you feel that it is unjust, you may appeal the decision pursuant to the provisions of this rule and Rule 38.
EXAMPLE: The NCHA has requested that I give up my Non- Pro card. Can I wait until the end of the year?
No. At the request of the NCHA, you must surrender your card immediately.
EXAMPLES: I just bought a horse, but the breed association has not processed the papers yet. May I show him in the Non-Pro or Amateur?
Yes. A signed transfer is not sufficient; however, if the original papers and complete transfer along with the transfer fee are on file with the breed association or in the possession of the NCHA showing you as the current owner, eligibility for entry will be granted.
I just bought an unregistered horse. May I show in the Non-Pro or Amateur?
No. All unregistered horses must have a verified bill of sale. The sale date on this bill of sale shows the date the horse changed hands, but it is not proof of ownership until verified by the NCHA Show Department...
What is needed to describe an unregistered horse?
The NCHA requires four pictures (one of each side of the horse), showing all markings and a statement from a veterinarian attesting to the horse’s age.
The burden of proof rests with the owner as to ownership.
EXAMPLE: My wife and I have a family corporation. May our horse be registered to the corporation?
Ye s, subject to requirements of Standing Rule 51.a.4.and the corporation must have a membership
EXAMPLE: I am the sole owner of Diamond T Ranch. May I show horses owned by Diamond T Ranch in Non-Pro classes? Yes .
EXAMPLE: Jim, a business associate, and I own a corporation that includes several horses. May we ride them in Non-Pro classes? No .
EXAMPLE: I recently purchased a mare to show in Non-Pro/Amateur competition. Part of the purchase agreement included the former owner receiving the first two foals out of this mare when I breed her. Is this legal under NCHA rules? Yes.
EXAMPLE: May I give or receive a horse?
Yes. A gift must be reported in writing to the NCHA office within 30 days and the gift provided cannot be based on monetary gains such as money earned or any increase in value shared at a later date and the horse may not return to the previous owner for 1 year.
EXAMPLE: May I give or receive a horse with the understanding that I will return it after I have shown it in all of the aged events?
No. If a horse is transferred, sold or gifted back to the previous owner within 1 year, that horse cannot be shown by the previous owner or their immediate family in any NCHA sponsored or approved amateur or non-professional competition for the 6 month period following the transfer back to the previous owner. Any horse three years old or older that returns to the previous owner for any reason must be reported to the NCHA. Failure to do so is cause for disciplinary action, including fines, probation, and/or suspension.
EXAMPLE: May a Non-Pro/Amateur purchase a horse on time—i.e., $20,000 purchase price with $10,000 down payment and the remaining $10,000 paid by monthly payments of $1,000 for ten months?
Yes. A Non-Professional may purchase a horse on time provided a copy of the written sales agreement, signed by both parties, is provided to NCHA and it states the name of the horse, the sales price, date of sale, and terms of payment.
EXAMPLE: I have won less than $2,000; I have a Non-Pro/Amateur card. Can I show any horse, owned by me or not, in the $2,000 Limit Rider Class? Yes .
EXAMPLE: I train Thoroughbred race horses. I do not ride them. I barely ride at all. Cutting looks fun. Can I get a Non-Pro/ Amateur card? Yes .
EXAMPLE: If I receive a permit, may I show more than one horse?
No. Each permit is for a specific horse. On another date you may receive another permit for another horse.
EXAMPLE: Can I get a permit to show a horse in an aged event?
No. These permits are for approved NCHA weekend contests only and do not include aged events.
EXAMPLE: Do I have to pay my own expenses and entry fees while trying this horse?
Yes. There may be no violation of Standing Rule 51 a.1.
EXAMPLE: May I show the permit horse in the Non-Pro or Amateur?
No. The permit horse must be shown in the Open or appropriate Novice Class.
For a complete explanation of Amateur and Non-Pro status, refer to NCHA’s current Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.
5. How do I obtain an Amateur or Non-Pro card?
Before entering any Amateur or Non-Pro class at an NCHA show, you must complete a Non-Pro/Amateur Application
, in addition to your membership, and submit to the NCHA office. Your approval status will be indicated on your membership card.
The normal approval turnaround time for receiving your card once received at NCHA is two weeks. However, if you need immediate approval because you are planning to show right away, call the Membership Department and they will make every effort to get your application approved sooner. Normal business hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday.
If you are planning to show in either an Amateur or Non-Pro class, your NCHA membership card should have “Non-Pro/Amateur” printed on the card. If it does not, contact the Membership Department.
The application can be completed via the online form or submit a printed application from the website, or use the one found in the Cutting Horse Chatter. If you choose to use a hard copy of the application please send completed forms via mail to NCHA Office or faxed to 817-244-2015.
6. Is it against the rules to compete in Non-Pro or Amateur classes without your card?
Yes. Any earnings won in such circumstances will not count toward NCHA lifetime earnings or awards for horse or rider. The money must be returned, you will receive a warning letter reminding you to validate your Amateur or Non-Pro status. If you continue to show without your card, however, you will be fined.
7. Can I complete the Amateur or Non-Pro application at the show where I would like to compete and pay the secretary?
Yes, you may complete the Amateur/Non-Pro application at the show, if a director is available to approve it and it is submitted with the fee to NCHA office with the show results, however, if for some reason you are denied Amateur and/or Non-Pro status by the NCHA office any earnings won in those classes will not count toward the rider or horse.
We highly recommend that you submit your Amateur/Non-Pro application for approval to the NCHA office with payment prior to showing.
8. Does the owner of the horse competing need to be a member?
Yes, the owner of any horse ridden in an NCHA-approved show must be a current member for any points or money won to be counted towards awards and lifetime earnings.
9. Do I have to ride my own horse to show in an NCHA approved event?
There are several NCHA classes in which the horse’s rider does not have to be the owner of the horse (Open, $5,000 Novice, $25,000 Novice, $2,000 Limit Rider, Junior Youth and Senior Youth). Holders of Non-Pro/Amateur cards may compete in the $2,000 Limit Rider on any horse, regardless of ownership, without jeopardizing their Non-Professional status. In all Amateur and Non-Pro classes, you must own the horse you ride, excluding the $1,000 Amateur. The $1,000 Amateur allows an Amateur card holder with less than $1,000 in earnings to ride another member’s horse in the $1,000 Amateur in addition to the $2,000 Limit Rider class.
The $2,000 Limit Rider class is a great way for any member who is new to cutting to gain experience before stepping up against more experienced riders.
10. If I typically compete in the $15,000 Amateur class but decide to show in the $50,000 Amateur one weekend and earn a check, do my earnings count against my $15,000 Amateur status?
NCHA tracks all of your earnings. Money won in a $50,000 Amateur class counts just the same as money won in a $15,000 Amateur class--all towards your total eligibility earnings. You can easily keep up with your earnings by visiting the " Rider Earnings" section.
11. What happens when my earnings reach $15,001? Can I still compete in the $15,000 Amateur class?
You may continue showing in the $15,000 Amateur through the end of the point year, which is 2 Sundays before Thanksgiving for Weekend and the Sunday before Thanksgiving for Limited Age events. The new point year always begins on December 28. The same is true for any class with a monetary limit. (See Standing Rule 6.i in the Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations )
12. Do my children need their own NCHA membership?
Yes, if they want to compete in Youth classes. All youth members who compete in the Junior (13 and under) or Senior (14 through 18) Youth divisions must have their own membership number. The special $25 Youth membership fee also allows them to participate in valuable leadership activities, awards programs, and scholarships.
13. How long does my NCHA membership last?
NCHA Memberships can be purchased for one year. One year of membership begins on January 1 and is valid through December 31 of the same year, whether it is purchased on January 1 or halfway through the year. Membership includes your Amateur/Non-Pro fees, however, you must complete a Non-Pro/Amateur application in addition to the membership applications.
- Full membership with the Cutting Horse Chatter magazine – $140
- Full membership without the Cutting Horse Chatter magazine – $80
- Non-competitor membership (rider does not show or own horses that show) – $65
14. How do I get cutting news and updates online?
You can always access NCHA information at nchacutting.com/news .
15. What is available to NCHA members online?
NCHA’s web site contains a wealth of information that is available at your fingertips, any time of the day or night. At nchacutting.com you can find information about local affiliates, upcoming shows, show results, forms, NCHA Staff, the Cutting Horse Chatter and more.
16. I moved since joining the association. Does NCHA need to know?
Yes. Notify the NCHA Membership Department of your new address as soon as possible. This will help ensure quick delivery of communication and your next Cutting Horse Chatter magazine. For the most up to date communications, be sure to have an active email on file as well.
17. Where do I find information on the youth programs?
The National Youth Cutting Horse Association (NYCHA) manages all youth activities of the NCHA. The goal of the NYCHA is to develop scholarship, leadership, community interest, and participation of youth interested in cutting horses. For more information regarding the youth programs visit nchacutting.com/ncha-youth.
18. Where can I find the New Members Guide?
The New Members Guide is available in PDF downloadable format here.
19. What are the Limited Open and Limited Non-Pro classes?
Offered during NCHA Limited Age Events.
The Limited Open class is restricted to riders whose lifetime earnings in NCHA-approved events are less than $50,000 at the beginning of the year. The Limited Non-Pro riders cannot have more than $200,000 in earnings and compete in the class.
20. Why does NCHA use five judges for the major limited-age events?
Nearly 20 years ago, NCHA instituted the Adjusted Monitor System in order to make a judging fair for each contestant. The system is used at all major limited-age events with five judges and may be used at three-judge shows.
According to the system, the high and low scores are tossed out in a five-judge show, leaving three scores to be tallied. A monitor is assigned to make rulings on major penalty discrepancies and to evaluate the judges’ performance during each go-round.
Four NCHA monitors will spend 270 days verifying scores at approved shows each year. When you consider that an average show day lasts for 9 hours, that accounts for 2,430 hours that will be spent making sure riders are scored fairly.
21. How do I find out where the weekend shows are being held?
There are two easy ways. The first place to find out about weekend events is on the NCHA web site. You can search the comprehensive listings by state, city or month.
In the Cutting Horse Chatter, which members receive every month, turn to the "Coming Events" section. The first page of that section lists show locations and their dates in each state. Details for each event are listed in chronological order in the remainder of the section. Directions, class fees, stall information, judges and secretaries are all listed for each cutting.
22. Last weekend, I saw a cutter with a trophy buckle that said ‘NCHA Achievement Buckle.’ How can I get one of those?
NCHA members are awarded these handsome Achievement Buckles from Gist Silversmiths when they have earned $1,000 in NCHA-approved weekend classes. Limited-age event money does not count toward the Achievement Buckle.
23. What are the NCHA classes?
In the early days of cutting, there was only one class, what would be called the Open today. It took a lot of courage for a greenhorn to go up against the born-in-the-saddle cowhands who dominated the competition. But as the popularity of cutting grew, a new, progressive class structure evolved which gave less experienced riders a chance to compete—and win—against their peers. Eligibility in the restricted classes is based on either a horse’s earnings in weekend show competition or on a rider’s earnings. Here’s a capsule look at NCHA’s class structure. As always, for a complete explanation, refer to the Official Rules and Regulations .
Questions of Classes
***** Horse Classes *****
***** Rider Classes *****
24. What kind of show is this, anyway?
Weekend shows on a weekday? Aged events for young horses? The terminology cutters use can be pretty confusing for a newcomer.
Basically, there are two different types of competition: weekend shows and limited-age events, aka “aged events.”
The limited-age events are for horses of a specific age. In general, futurities are for 3-year-olds, derbies are for 4-year-olds, and classics or maturities are for 5 and 6-year-old horses. Aged events often (but not always) have more added money, as well as higher nomination and entry fees. Typically, contestants go through one or more qualifying rounds before the finals.
“Weekend” shows, on the other hand, have no restrictions on the age of the horse. Indeed, there is nothing to stop a successful aged event horse from heading down the road to take part in the local weekend event.
And no, the so-called weekend shows don’t necessarily have to take place on a weekend, although Friday-Saturday-Sunday competition is by far the most common.
Many weekend shows have begun adding aged event classes to their schedules. But as a rule, weekend shows offer some or all of the classes listed in “Questions of Class” from the previous question. They typically have a more relaxed atmosphere than the aged events, where the amount of money on the line can test a rider’s nerves. That’s not to say the competition is easier at weekend shows. Seasoned, hard-knocking horses that cut their teeth in the aged events are the rule of the day on the weekends.
25. Who judges these shows?
The National Cutting Horse Association’s Judging Department is committed to providing well-trained judges for all NCHA-sanctioned cutting horse contests. Those NCHA members wishing to become judges must complete a rigorous training program and subsequent refresher clinics on the proper interpretation and application of the rules for judging cutting horse events in order to be considered a certified NCHA judge.
Certified judges are rated A, AA, AAA or AAAA, with the latter being the highest category. These ratings depend upon the number of events an individual has judged, evaluations of the individual’s judging performance at judging clinics and scores received on bi-annual tests. However, the real proving ground for any judge is in the contest arena. To apply they must have a minimum of $10,000 NCHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE) to apply.
The protest is a means of evaluating judges on a constant basis. Contestants have the right to protest scores awarded by one or more judges at any NCHA-sanctioned event directly to the NCHA Judging Department. Using video, the contest is reviewed and determination is made concerning the validity of the protest. If the protest proves valid, the judge(s) involved will have the protest added to his or her record. A judge that receives two valid protests within a twelve (12) month period will be lowered one rating for a full 24 months.
The NCHA Judging Department makes the most of today’s technology. Video is used to monitor all NCHA-approved events. The monitors can review a video and a ruling can be made for the judge(s) to review the video one at a time to determine if a mistake was made in the application of a major penalty. The score can then be adjusted to reflect a final, more appropriate score. If a judge misses a major penalty on a non placing run on a protested class and does not score that class a 75 or higher, the judge would receive a valid protest. If the said judge does score the class 75 or higher, the judge would only receive a valid complaint.For more information concerning the rules used to judge NCHA-sanctioned events, consult the NCHA Case Book and the NCHA Official Rules and Regulations or contact the NCHA Judging Department at (817) 244-6188.