The Utah Cutting Horse Association sponsored its fall competition at the Legacy Events Center Oct. 26 through Nov. 4.
Riders from Canada, plus Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado joined riders in Utah to showcase the skills of their horses in the competition.
“It’s the most highly trained equine sport there is,” said Kathryn Webb, secretary for the Utah Cutting Horse Association.
One participant from Wyoming called it a ballet for horses.
During a two-and-a-half minute event, the horse and rider must “cut,” or separate, a heifer from a group of young cattle. The rider then puts his hand down and the horse works independently to keep it from returning to the herd.
The sport came from a skill needed in the open range during the era of the old west.
Cattle from different ranches mixed on the range and twice a year ranchers would round them up and sort their brands with the help of highly trained horses.
That effort turned into a competition, first held in 1898. The National Cutting Horse Association standardized rules in 1946 and competitions are now held by 139 U.S. and foreign affiliates, according to material provided by the UCHA.
Those competitions involve more than 17,000 people and the National Cutting Horse Association now has 2,200 approved shows annually. Around $42 million in prize money is awarded each year.
More than 4,000 head of cattle were rented from Deseret Land and Livestock for the Davis County competition, said Webb. Besides stalls existing at the events center, another 160 were brought in for a total of 368, an example of the scope of the event.
People from all walks of life have become involved in the sport, she said.
“We have financial planners, cardiologists, screen writers and neurosurgeons,” she said, “and of course cowboys and cowgirls. We have a big cutting family and we watch out for each other – it’s so amazing.”
Another cutting competition sponsored by the UCHA is planned for next February. More information can be found at utahcha.com.