Athletic horses show off this week

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Cutting horse competition to feature ranching tradition that is now a growing sport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – High quality cutting horses have been some of the most prized animals on North American ranches for decades.

It also is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, involving horse and rider separating a particular cow from a herd. The National Cutting Horse Association’s competition at the American Royal takes place all day beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7-Friday, Nov. 9.

The cutting horse competition at the American Royal takes place Wednesday-Friday at Hale Arena. (BORROWED PHOTO)
The cutting horse competition at the American Royal takes place Wednesday-Friday at Hale Arena. (BORROWED PHOTO)

The finale will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and will feature the top cutters in the open, non-pro, $10,000 novice and $15,000 novice horse non-pro. Each will battle for the prestigious American Royal title in each class.

“Cutting is interesting because it’s a traditional ranching activity, splitting an animal from the herd,” said Brant Laue, chairman of the American Royal. “As a horse show, it has become popular. You’re getting a lot of folks involved in it that have no other involvement in the horse show world.

“You will find corporate CEOs who will be in town for that event, and it’s become a competitive circuit. It’s a fairly new event at the American Royal; one of the people behind it is golfer Tom Watson, who has some cutting horses.”

Watson has been involved with cutting for several years. During a 2009 interview with, Watson explained that even though the family owned horses, he had just taken the opportunity to try his hand at the sport.

“I (had) never ridden one because my hip wouldn’t let me,” Watson said three years ago. “Now I’ve got a bionic hip and can spread my legs and get on a horse.”

The Watsons have owned cutting horses for about 10 years, but there are many celebrities involved in the sport.

“My goal, my hope and my dream is to one day have 500 acres, a horse farm, a breeding program and a proven stallion to enable me the opportunity to be a formidable contender in the horse business,” Nashville recording artist Chris Cagle told “By the time I’m 50, I want to be a world champion.”

That’s a high goal. Obviously, he’s been bitten by the bug, just like many other celebrities.

A cutter is trained to work on its own. As the cow is cut away from the herd, the horse must then anticipate every move the cow wants to make to block the cow from returning to the herd. It takes a great athlete to make that happen.

“My dad said, ‘You couldn’t just get a guitar and sing around the house; you had to be a star,’ ” Cagle told the website. “ ‘You can’t just get a horse and ride it; you have to get a reining horse or a cutting horse and go to the FEI World and Futurity.’ ”

If that’s the approach it takes to be successful, then maybe Cagle is the perfect fit for the world of cutting horses. The cutter has two and a half minutes to show off its talent, and its explosive maneuvers are part of the fascination with the sport. In fact, Watson has experienced that power himself, as he explained in the interview.

“He went one way and I went the other, and it was, ‘See ya,’ ” Watson said, noting he was unhurt in the exchange.

It’s more than athleticism in the horse, though. The equines have a certain knowledge and experience with the cows that help in competition. It all comes together well.

“It is another event that is a thrill to watch,” Laue said. “If you appreciate high quality horsemanship, the American Royal has a lot to offer in that.”


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