— FORT WORTH – Area cutting horse professional Matt Gaines was a big winner during the 2013 Tunica Futurity when his American Quarter Horse Cat Mom Do, owned by Reata Cutting Horses LLC, scored a 225 in the 5/6-year-old Open Finals cutting horse event.
Gaines, of Weatherford, and Cat Mom Do won a total of $17,000 in prize money following the Jan. 31 event in Tunica, Miss.
A cutting horse is an athletic and willing animal possessing an innate “cow sense” and ability to respond quickly and turn sharply that is trained to keep a cow from returning to the herd. The horses involved are typically American Quarter Horses, although many other stock horse breeds are also used.
In the event, the horse and rider select and separate a cow out of a small group. As the cow tries to return to its herd, the rider loosens the reins (“puts his hand down” in the parlance) and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. A contestant has 2-½ minutes to show the horse; typically three cows are cut during a run, although working only two cows is acceptable. A judge awards points to the cutter based on a scale that ranges from 60 to 80, with 70 being considered average.
The Tunica Futurity and Classic is one among 800 limited-age events approved by the National Cutting Horse Association around the world. Limited age events are restricted to young horses in a particular age group. Typically, a futurity is for horses late in their 3-year-old or early in their 4-year-old year. A derby is for mid-to-late 4-year-olds, and a classic, or classic/challenge, is for 5- and 6-year-old horses. Aged events often feature large purses, and can pay out hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to contestants.
The National Cutting Horse Association approves approximately 1,600 events each year with purses totally more than $35 million throughout the sport. Cutting events take place throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, South American and Europe and are supported by such companies as Mercuria Energy, Ram Truck, Great American Insurance Group, the American Quarter Horse Association, John Deere Tractors and XTO Energy among many others.
Based in Fort Worth, NCHA is the world governing body for the sport of cutting with more than 16,000 members worldwide.