How cutting-horse competitions are judged

Both rider and horse affect the score in a cutting competition. The team begins with a base score of 70. Penalty points are subtracted and bonuses are given. Here's what judges look for.

One point is subtracted (each infraction) if:

* The rider uses the reins to guide the horse while it is working a cow.

* The rider makes a noise to direct the cattle.

*The rider uses a toe or foot on the horse's shoulder as a signal.

Three points are subtracted if:

* The rider lifts the reins to stop the horse before the cow has given up.

* The horse and rider scatter the herd while singling out a cow.

* The rider spurs the horse in the shoulder.

* The horse bites, paws, or kicks the cattle.

Five points are subtracted if:

* The horse lets a cow slip back into the herd.

* The horse and rider change to a second cow after starting to work the first.

* The horse and rider fail to separate out a single cow after leaving the herd.

* The horse quits working the cow before the cow gives up.

The judge can halt the competition if there is any mistreatment or abuse of horse or cattle.

Bonus points are added to a team's score

for good work, including:

* Good herd work - not scattering or upsetting the herd while separating out a cow.

* Setting up the cow well before working it.

* 'Eye appeal' - good riding, a still hand on the reins.

* Handling a difficult cow well.

* Keeping the work near the center of the arena.

Scores in cutting-horse competitions range between 60 and 80 points, but a total above 75 points is exceptionally good. Some competitions have only one judge, but larger ones have five judges. The highest and lowest scores for each team are thrown out, and the other three totaled.

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