There aren't many opportunities in the UK to compete in cow classes, but it would be amiss not to include these classes in our 101 series. Here's our overview of Ranch Horse Cutting.


Ranch Horse cutting is unlike regular cutting in that the cattle are individually numbered, and the rider gets his cow by picking a number out of the judge's hat. Time will begin when the competitor crosses a line before entering the herd. The competitor must then quietly separate the allocated cow from the herd and keep it there, the turnbacks doing their work the same way as in a regular cutting contest.


Turnbacks are the horse and riders that keep the herd organised while the cutting works a single cow. The turnback rider needs to keep turning the cow toward the cutting horse and rider, so it challenges them and tries to return to the herd.


You've got three minutes, and as it's a judged rather than timed class, it's up to you how you make the best use of the time. A whistle will be blown at the 90-second point to let you know how things are progressing, and most people would say that if you haven't shown your horse's cutting skills by then, it's best to forget that and start working on penning the cow.


If you exceed the three-minute time limit without penning, it's a heavy penalty. So, work your cow against the two turnbacks until you feel your boy has done his best, and then tell the turnbacks you have done cutting and take the cow away up the arena, making sure it passes between a marker cone and the pen, and pen it. Just like that!


Where ranch cutting departs in a significant way from the regular cutting class is that you will not be penalised for reining your horse while working the cow. As you might expect, given the overall ranch horse ethos, your horse is being judged for its natural cattle working ability in the real world; you get the job done whether you need to rein your horse or not. That said, if your horse can do it all independently without the need for cues from his rider, he'll score higher than one that needs a bit of guidance.


The moral is that if your cow horse isn't quite finished for cutting work, he can still do well in a ranch cutting class where a lot of the quality decisions (such as which cow to pick to start with) are made for you.