What is a Cutting Horse Saddle?

The western sport of cutting is where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate and keep separate a single cow from herd of cattle. The cutting horse must possess the innate ability for “cow sense”. They are highly athletic, can turn sharply, and can respond quickly. The sport of cutting is open to any breed of horse, but the American Quarter Horse is the most preferred. During a run when a cow is separated from the herd and tries to return to the herd, the rider will loosen the reins and allow the horse to keep the cow separated. As a cow turns, the horse will turn with it. The rider will mirror the cow with their shoulders in order to anticipate the animal’s next move. The run lasts 2 ½ minutes and typically the rider will cut three cows in a single run. However, working only two cows is accepted. The run is scored on a scale of 60 to 80, based on horse and rider performance. Factors that go into this scoring are eye appeal, herd work, courage, ability to control the cow, the degree of difficulty, time the cow remained separated, and how loose the reins were. The loose reins shows the natural “cow sense” of the horse. If you are looking to compete in cutting; a western saddle is a must.  Consider a saddle designed for the western sport of cutting.


The western Cutting Saddle is designed to aid horse and rider in their cutting runs. Contrary to popular belief the cutting saddle is not an overly secure saddle. It is up to the rider to use their balance during the ride. The saddle horn aids in this. The horn is tall and thin providing an easy handgrip for the rider, especially when allowing the horse to keep the cow separated. The swells are wide and straight. This allows for the rider to hold on during sharp turns. The saddle seat is flat and long. This provides the rider with maximum maneuverability, thus not the secure seat that many think.  The saddle jockeys and fenders are usually of the rough-leather. This does allow for better rider grip. The fenders are free-swinging allowing the rider to remain balanced.  The stirrups are smaller in order to help keep the rider’s boot in place. The saddle cantle is low, so that it will not hit the rider in the back during sharp changes of direction. 

Typically cutting riders use the double rigging, the front and back cinch. This helps in preventing the saddle from riding forward. Also used in conjunction with the double rigging is a breast collar to help prevent the saddle from slipping from side to side as the horse turns from side to side. The western cutting saddle is a very versatile saddle. Not only is it useful for cutters, but can be a good choice for trainers, team-penners, and in a pinch can also work for reining. These sports require a saddle that allows for a close contact with the horse. The design of the western cutting saddle is to be in close contact with your mount and allows the rider to stay out of the horse’s way. So if you are considering a career in cutting, team-penning, or training consider purchasing a western cutting saddle.