El Rancho Futurity ~ Sept. 10th-19th


NCHA Cutting Horse Competition @ The Murieta Equestrian Center – The El Rancho Futurity

DATE: September 10-19, 2021
TIME: See website for Events Schedules
LOCATION: The Murieta Equestrian Center
COST: Free to spectators


What is the Cutting Competition?

The rider selects one cow from the herd of 60, separates a cow from the herd and prevents the cow from returning. The cow’s instinct is to return to the herd. Trained Cutting Horses are incredibly intelligent and instinctive athletes. The competition is judged based on difficulty and how well the horse anticipates and reacts. This is the only equine competition where the horse is required to think. 

In the contest arena, the art of the Cutting Horse comes alive in a classic test of intelligence, training, breeding, and skill. In competition, the Cutting Horse and rider must work together as a team in demonstrating their cattle handling skills.

The contest begins as the pair approaches the herd.
The horse and rider have two-and-a-half minutes to complete their work.

Cutting is judged by a panel of NCHA-certified judges. They rate the horse’s performance in points from 60 – 80.

This is a Limited Age Event open only to Cutting Horses of the 3 year old, 4 year old and 5-6 year olds age group.
3 year olds are the youngest horse class for cutting competitions and the stakes are high.

The first Cutting Horse competition was in 1898.
The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) was formed in 1946.
The first NCHA Cutting was in September 1946.

The NCHA Mission Statement*:
“The NCHA promotes and celebrates the cutting horse, whose origin on Western ranches allows us to support ranching and its western heritage. By establishing rules for the conduct of cutting horse shows, NCHA strives to give cutters a level playing field and a progressive class structure, which accommodates everyone from the beginner to the advanced competitor. NCHA draws on the diverse talents and background of its members, and encourages their participation in helping it achieve these goals.”

*SOURCE: The NATIONAL CUTTING HORSE ASSOCIATION, https://nchacutting.com/about-us/introduction

What is Cutting and what are Cutting Horses?

Rural life a couple hundred years ago often involved raising cattle. Today, cattle are still a big part of rural life. But, the environment in the 1800’s was much different than what we see today. It required different skill sets and tools.

Before the invention of barbed wire, cattle lived and grazed on open grasslands and often intermingled across the vast open range. The cattle had far less human interaction than today and breeds were different. The cattle of that time were much less docile than today’s managed herds and FFA State Fair entries. Free ranging cattle were basically wild. And, cows with new calves could be extremely protective.

Managing the mixed herds was a really big job prior to fencing. Cattle owners and ranchers had to develop a way to identify which were their property. They developed their own personal brands and marked their cattle. Each year, new calves had to be located and branded, too. Cattle owners and ranch owners employed Cowboys to live and work with the herds.

The Cowboy’s job was to keep the brand’s cattle safe and healthy, to keep them from being stolen or killed, and as needed to “cut” the herds. Cutting meant a cowboy and his horse had to identify a specifically branded cow and work to separate it out of the herd. It was a big job to convince a wild animal often weighing over 1000 pounds, sometimes with a baby at its side, to separate from hundreds or thousands of others in its protective herd.

The Cowboy career required a variety of skills, knowledge and tools. Horses were one of those tools. It was not uncommon for Cowboys to have more than one horse with them as they tended a herd. Some horses were just better suited to some tasks than others. The more talented horses were highly prized, protected and used for special jobs.

And, some horses showed an extremely special and exceptional ability. When they worked, they pricked their ears and followed the cow with their eyes. They worked somehow thinking and knowing what the task was. Instead of being oblivious or unaffected by the cattle like most horses, they laser-focused on them. This horse worked with, not just for, the Cowboy. They became the elite of the Cowboy’s string. Horses showing this talent began to be selectively bred to become the Cutting Horse.

Today, raising cattle has changed a lot. Open ranges with mixed brands are gone. Using trucks and ATV’s have a lot of advantages. But, many ranchers feel the special abilities of Cutting Horses will continue to have a place on their ranch.

For a great brochure on Cutting Horses Competition and the NCHA, visit: