In the sport of cutting, each contestant and horse combination is allowed two and a half minutes to cut at least two cows from a herd. The rider must bring at least one cow out from deep inside the herd during his run (performance).
Once one cow is separated from the herd, the rider must loosen his grip on the reins and allow the horse to have its head. The cow instinctively tries to return to the herd, but the horse must defend the herd and hold the cow. Horses receive extra credit for their skill and style and the exertion used to keep the cow under control.
The rider may decide when to stop working a cow, but he will be penalized if he quits when a cow is moving toward the horse. The performance is scored with a 70 being the base score and can go higher or lower from there. Up to four additional horse/rider combinations are allowed to assist with holding the herd at the end of the arena. These individuals are referred to as the "herd help."
Discipline Association: National Cutting Horse Association
Information provided by NCHA