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Cutting vs. Working Cow Horse Events: A Trainer’s Perspective

These two events, while sharing some similarities, have distinct differences. Let’s dive into the world of cutting and working cow horse events to understand what sets them apart and what similarities they have.

Cutting and Working Cow Horse Similarities

Cow Sense: Both events require a horse with a strong “cow sense,” meaning an innate ability to read and react to a cow’s movements.
Rider Skill: Both disciplines demand a high level of skill, precision, and communication between horse and rider.
Training: The training methods for both events focus on agility, responsiveness, and control, although the specific techniques may vary.
Equipment: Similar tack and equipment are used in both events, including specialized saddles designed for close contact and maneuverability.

Differences between Cutting and Working Cow Horse


Cutting: The primary goal in cutting is to separate a cow from the herd and prevent it from returning. In cutting, the horse is expected to take a more defensive position and with minimal facial expression, keep the cow from returning to the herd. The horse takes the lead, and the rider’s role is more passive.
Working Cow Horse: This event consists of two parts: reined work (pattern riding) and cow work (controlling a cow). In working cow horse, the horse takes a more offensive position and is expected to use facial expression to move the cow to perform the required maneuvers in the required order. The rider plays a more active role in guiding the horse.


Cutting: Judges score based on the horse’s agility, control, and how well it keeps the cow from returning to the herd.
Working Cow Horse: Scoring considers the precision of the reined work and the effectiveness of the cow work.

Duration and Pace:

Cutting: Typically a slower pace with bursts of quick moves.
Working Cow Horse: Often longer and credit is earned by maintaining control at a high speed while maintaining a balance of speed and finesse.

Why Riders Prefer One Event Over the Other

Personal Style: Some riders enjoy the adrenaline rush of working cow horse, while others prefer the strategic complexity of cutting.
Horse’s Ability: While both require similar cow sense, a horse’s natural aptitude may make it better suited for one event over the other.
Training Background: Riders with a background in dressage, reining, or pattern riding may gravitate towards working cow horse events, while those with a more instinctive, reactive style may prefer cutting.


Cutting and working cow horse events offer unique challenges and rewards. While they share some common ground, their differences in objectives, scoring, and pace cater to riders with diverse interests and abilities.

For those new to these disciplines, I recommend trying both to discover which resonates with you and your horse. Whether you’re drawn to the fast-paced excitement of working cow horse or the intricate dance of cutting, both events offer a thrilling and fulfilling experience in the world of equestrian sports.

Both of the events I talk about here require a person to show their horse in front of other people, which is a big hurdle for many people to overcome. If this is a challenge for you, then you should read my blog, The Power of Competition. In it, I talk about how competition helps a person strive to become a better rider and a better person in many ways. If you would like to watch the video of me showing a working cow horse run you can see that in the video, Tim and Hank cow horse run, on youtube. In that video, I am reviewing the run and pointing out positive and negative attributes of the run.

All of the valuable information I have learned through 25+ years of horse training and showing, I share with you to help you to improve your equestrian knowledge. Thank You.

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