Cutting, and cutting horses, at a glance

  • Article by: Dennis Anderson
  • August 22, 2013 - 11:31 PM

• Cutting horses are used to “cut’’ individual animals from herds of cattle. In the Old West — and still today, in some parts of cattle country — these horses helped separate cattle for branding, shipping or “doctoring.’’

• From this tradition, the sport of “cutting’’ has evolved, and today, cutting horses are highly specialized equine athletes whose ground-digging stops and quick turns are said to provide rides like no other. A rider (“cutter’’) competes with his or her rein hand on a horse’s neck, guiding the animal only with legs and spurs while attempting to keep a cut cow from returning to its herd. The rider’s other hand is locked firmly onto the saddle horn.

• Until 1967, the Minnesota State Fair hosted one of the nation’s largest and best-paying cuttings, drawing riders and horses from throughout the nation and often filling the “Hippodrome’’ (now Coliseum) to capacity.

• Fair lore recalls that the 80 or so cattle used in the cutting were driven down the Midway. While the livestock entered the Hippodrome, followed by the horsemen, the building’s lights went dark.

• When the lights came on, said Bob McCutcheon of River Falls, Wis., “the crowd went wild.’’ Added Keith Barnett of Brenham, Texas, a World Champion cutting horse rider who won the last cutting held at the Minnesota State Fair, in 1966, “Them people up there clapped and raised Cain. It was quite a deal.’’

• Now cutting is returning to the Fair, with competition beginning at 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the new AgStar Arena.

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